Report Cards are Meaningless? What?

It goes without saying that most, if not all, parents want to know how their children are performing in school. Teachers want to know as well, as do school officials, district leaders and of course our state government (or so we thought).

We all want to know, but the question is how. Having been used for decades, report cards are the most common way for teachers to let parents know where their children are doing well and areas in which they need to improve. Most parents find these tools to be adequate and useful.  After all, isn’t that what gauged how most of us – including the Florida Department of Education (DOE) staff, our legislators and other education leaders -graduated?

The FL DOE disagrees.

A recent lawsuit was filed by Florida parents in seven school districts. The lawsuit involves 14 third grade students who minimally participated in the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) to the extent the law allows, and therefore did not receive a test score. These students showed proficiency in reading based on their report cards. However, their school districts decided to retain them in third grade simply because they do not have an FSA score.  According to the lawyer who spoke for the FL DOE on Friday, August 12, report cards are meaningless.

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The FSA was created by American Institutes for Research (AIR), a behavior and social science research firm. The state’s stance is that this single test (that was not created by educators) is a better measurement of student progress than a teacher who has spent 180 days in a classroom with a student. During those 180 days, the teacher gives the students many assessments (both classroom-based and district-mandated) to determine proficiency. Teachers also receive training on how to assess students.

According to the FL DOE, that isn’t sufficient.

Call to Action

No one test should be used to determine student promotion as stated in Florida Statute 1008.25.

“… the statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment is not the sole determiner of promotion and that additional evaluations, portfolio reviews, and assessments are available to the child to assist parents and the school district in knowing when a child is reading at or above grade level and ready for grade promotion.”

Educators should be trusted to do the jobs they were hired to do, which includes assessing students.

Contact the lawyer for the Department of Education, Matthew Mears (matthewmears@fldoe.org) and Pam Stewart, Commissioner of Education (commissioner@fldoe.org). Ask them if their official position is that report cards are meaningless, and that only a standardized test can determine whether a student is proficient in reading. Tell them you trust teachers more than one test score, and ask them to start trusting them too.

Or, better yet, ask them the question former educator and blogger Peter Green asked in a recent blog:

“Does the state’s disavowal of report cards mean that teachers no longer have to spend the time to record grades at all– because that could free up all sorts of time, and allow districts to dump all that costly grade-recording software.”

Tweet about it to the FL DOE: @EducationFL
#180dayscount
#LetThemTeach

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