Jackie Pons, Superintendent
Leon County Schools
Dear Superintendent Pons,
As parents, we are supporting our fourth grader in opting out of testing associated with the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). We love the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), and our son’s fourth grade teacher is wonderful, but the focus on the FSA is having a detrimental impact on our child’s love of learning. During the summer between second and third grade, he came to me crying one day because he missed school. He is one of those children who took to school easily, was eager to please his teachers, loved all his subjects, and did well on tests. Now, he gets depressed every Sunday afternoon because school is looming before him. We believe this is because the classroom has become focused on the requirements of the FSA and that he and the rest of the children are being pushed unnecessarily and beyond what they are capable of as a result.
We are not wholly opposed to the Common Core. We want our son to work hard, practice skills that are complex, and be exposed to a wide range of subjects and opinions. What we are opposed to is the hyper focus on testing; weakening teachers’ autonomy in the classroom and tying measures of their performance to testing; using our children to make huge profits for testing companies; and creating circumstances where teachers have to spend too much class time drilling children to perform on tests that are ill-conceived and developmentally inappropriate.
Inspiring children to love learning is a sacred duty of parents, teachers and schools. Homework time used to be fun in our house for everyone. It was a special time for us as parents to be really engaged in what our son was learning at school. Sometimes it was challenging, but we could help him and watch him take on that challenge. Now, homework is deeply frustrating for all of us. We all dread it. Sometimes, as parents who’ve had success with tests like the GRE and LSAT, we don’t understand what the test preparation assignments are asking. Parents talk, and we know this is true throughout our neighborhood, and we believe Florida’s focus on the FSA is responsible.
Now, we are helping our son learn how to take a stand when something is wrong. The FSA is unacceptable, and we are supporting him to refuse to take tests associated with it. All three of us prefer to follow the rules, so we don’t take this step lightly or comfortably, but because we believe it is the right thing to do.