Rosanne Wood: A brief stand against testing
When the Lee County School Board voted last week to ban state-required high-stakes testing in its schools, shockwaves were felt in every corner of the state. The earth especially shook at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Jeb Bush’s mouthpiece and lobbying group that has shoved 15 years of high-stakes tests down the throats of every Florida school child. Imagine having the chutzpah to just say, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
The pressure to comply is enormous. One member on the school board already changed her mind, as the board rescinded its vote. Her first instinct was right — but it’s hard to stand and fight the tsunami of political and financial interests that have gotten our schools and children into this mess. The immediate response from the foundation’s Patricia Levesque: “We are deeply disappointed by the Lee County School Board’s vote to abandon Florida’s academic tests. The Lee County School Board is neglecting its duty to ensure a meaningful education for their students and uphold state law.”
Hold up! Meaningful education is exactly what has been sacrificed at the altar of bubble-sheet mania. Taxpayer dollars and teaching time have been squandered in the pursuit of school grades in Florida’s overrated accountability system. Statistics can be produced to show the so-called marvelous results of this system; what can’t be measured so easily is who has been hurt and what has been lost.
There is a growing parental movement to boycott the tests, which has all kinds of ramifications. But, when things get as out of hand as they are now, when students and teachers spend more of their time worrying about standardized tests and less teaching and learning real content, someone has to say “No more!” At least for a moment, the Lee County School Board did that.
My hope is that common sense will prevail and the Legislature will bring things back into balance. Standardized tests, used appropriately, can provide important feedback to parents and schools. But it’s gone too far. When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It doesn’t take a standardized test to tell me if the drama teacher is doing a good job; I just need to go to the school play. Kindergartners don’t need to take seven high-stakes tests to prove that their teacher is doing a good job. That’s the primary responsibility of the principal, who then answers to the superintendent and school board. We have a well-established, democratic and local method of accountability that requires no tests — it’s called an election.
Educators have come a long way in understanding how different students learn. Let teachers and principals do what they’re trained to do — help develop the skills and talents of each of our very individual children.
Quit wasting so much money on these big testing companies and divert the resources back into the classroom, where they’re really needed. As Lee County School Board member Don Armstrong said, “We cannot let fear hold us back. Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward.” Right on, Brother.
Rosanne Wood is a retired Leon County Schools principal. Contact her at email@example.com.