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Florida Moves Past No Child Left Behind, But Not Past High-Stakes Testing

| February 29, 2012

The grading system will change. The focus on testing won't.

The state Board of Education has approved a series of changes to Florida’s process for grading schools. The changes come after the federal government allowed the state to break free from the No Child Left Behind school accountability law.

The exemption means that Florida can use its own school accountability system, its A-through-F school grades, to rate the state’s public education system. But the waiver comes with strings attached, a requirement that children who are learning English and students with disabilities be included in the grading.

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents was one of several groups opposed to the new system that would include students not previously factored in, particularly the newest learners of English.

“While we agree with the need to include students with disabilities and more (English-language learners) in the performance components for reading and math, we are concerned that the proposed rule is contrary to research-based evidence that demonstrates one year is insufficient for a child to acquire native language proficiency,” the association wrote to Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson.

While approving the inclusion of new English speakers, they won’t be counted for their first year under the plan approved Tuesday. And, under an amendment to the rule by Board member Gary Chartrand, the state Department of Education will convene a task force to come up with recommendations on how to include students with disabilities into the accountability system.

The number of foreign children who may struggle in English will obviously affect some school districts more than others, raising the possibility of inequality in the measurement system.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Board of Education that in his school district alone, there are more than 63,000 students whose first language isn’t English.

“You would need to put 30-40 Districts together in the state of Florida to come up with that number comparable to Miami-Dade,” Carvalho said. ‘We know we have students in their second year of language instruction who only achieve a 1-2 in FCAT Reading. But they’re learning. You know how we know that? Because in math, they are getting three’s, four’s and five’s.”

Carvalho, who also speaks several languages, said it would be hard for him to pass the state’s test.

“The issue is reading proficiency. If I were asked to sit for an exam given entirely in Spanish and expected to perform as well as a native Spanish speaker, I would fail the exam. I speak it beautifully, but I would fail the exam.”

The panel also backed down from another rule change that would have granted automatic “F” grades to schools with fewer than 25-percent of students reading on grade level. That proposal was softened to say that says schools with a grade of “D” or higher must have at least a quarter of their students’ scoring at or above a Level 3 on FCAT reading test. Schools that don’t meet the 25-percent threshold could see their grade drop down a letter. The change also affects the lowest 25-percent of student performers.

That too, won’t account against schools in the first year.

The Board of Education also voted to remove high school science from the list of things calculated in a school’s grade. Science is being removed because the state eliminated its 11th grade Science FCAT test-and its replacement-the Biology end-course exam, hasn’t been fully implemented yet.

–News Service of Florida

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7 Responses for “Florida Moves Past No Child Left Behind, But Not Past High-Stakes Testing”

  1. PalmCoast says:

    Interesting article!. Before adding any comment here my main question would be, how many students make up the Miami-Dade school district? As I read the article it is my impression that only a “25-percent threshold” (one-quarter) of the students are needed for “scoring at or above a Level 3 on FCAT reading test” “could see their grade drop down a letter”. Out of the “63,000 students whose first language isn’t English” doesn’t tell me how many of those 63,000 student “are proficient” at English, even if English is not their first language.

  2. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    Send the ENTIRE Legislature (AND the Governor) back to high school DURING “testing” for ONE WEEK; I’ll wager there would be a MASS “epiphany”.

  3. roco says:

    We’re creating a bounce of robots. Teachers salaries are based on the FCAT results for their school. They don’t care if the child is educated or not as long as they get a raise on their paycheck..

    • Darren May says:


      The state establishes standards and benchmarks for different grades and subjects. These standards and benchmarks are what the FCAT and end of course exams measure. In reality if the teacher is doing what they are supposed to do under the established curriculum standards, the students should do well on the test. So, the teachers are not teaching to the test, but to the standards established by the State of Florida.

      Next, the assumption you make about teachers only wanting a raise is ludicrous. I have been teaching for 17 years in Hillsborough County and Flagler County. I have taught students from the inner city to the country, students from high income families and low income families, students with English as their second language, students with hearing impairments and other physical disabilities, and countless students with learning disabilities. I worked hard obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Social Studies Education with a minor in History. I continue my education with workshops and in-service opportunities to improve my skills as a teacher. My goal as a teacher is to provide this community with a productive citizen in the future.

      I for one did not begin teaching for the money, which I find acceptable and can live on and save some up for my own children and their post secondary educations. I teach because I like the smile on my students faces when they understand something for the first time. I teach to help students become better people. I teach to provide them with the knowledge they will need to succeed in the future. I teach because I love it, not in the hope of getting a raise. I am not looking for a pat on the back from anyone on this blog, but I am tired of people on this blog making teachers out to be bad people looking for the next way to cash-in.

  4. PalmCoast says:

    Darren May

    Kudos to you!! I surely wish I could say ALL teachers were like you!! You do sound like one of the best of the best! I think what people might be saying is that “not all” teachers are at their profession for a quality education of children. My feeling are when the job is to educate our children the placement needs to be filled with “quality” teachers. We who have children in the district have crossed paths with a teacher that does not meet that level to be called a quality teacher. With that in mind that child has lost at least a year of schooling. Children cannot afford that during their schooling years. BUT I also feel that a quality teacher, such as yourself needs to be rewarded, which can only be done with salary increases and surely SHOULD be done. I again whole heartily support evaluations of teachers to reward the best of the best and weed out the ones that are not productive.

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