Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Governor Scott left at the station and misses the testing and accountability train.

UPDATE ON DR. ROBINSON: Truth in American Education reported that Teresa Sweet of the Florida DOE responded to the concerns of Dr. Robinson of the Trinity Christian School in Deltona repeating the regulations and adding some detail.  Blogger Vander Hart concludes the following (bold added):
The only guidance that this provides is that principals can determine what to do with incoming transfers so this perhaps gives Dr. Robinson some latitude with which to deal with incoming students who have taken Algebra I, but failed the EOC assessment.  Since private schools don’t participate he could probably grant the credit.  Currently there is no way any of his or other private school’s students transferring out can receive credit for Algebra I and Biology unless they take the state’s EOC assessment.  Theoretically, the only way for a student to be prepared to take that assessment is for that private school to adopt the same standards as the public schools (read Common Core State Standards) at the moment.  As Sweet mentioned, there is a provision in the Florida Statutes for the Commissioner of Education to approve an alternative exam, but the current Education Commissioner, Gerard Robinson, has resigned effective August 31st.  So who knows when or if that’ll happen.
Yesterday, Florida Governor Scott promised changes to the testing system, but had no specifics other than no more teaching to the test. Today, the Florida Department of Education and the State School Board sent Superintendents a 12-page memo on testing and accountability rules starting this school year, rules that cement just the opposite on Florida's testing system.

In the meantime, Dr. Robinson of the Trinity Christian School in Deltona, Fl still has received no reply from the Governor regarding the impact of the end-of-course exams on students leaving private school for public school and reported here. In fact, in an interview today reported on the Truth in American Education website, Robinson elaborated that the unnecessary disruption and uncertainty affecting students and their families both leaving and coming to private school under the current testing system. Robinson cites an "influx of students transferring into his school from area public schools who took Algebra I, but failed the end of course assessment."  This situation "places his school in a conundrum because their transcript says they took a math class, but they don’t have credit for Algebra I so they’re not sure what to do with those students.  “Do we just put them back into Algebra I again?”

How are other states managing this? At least Oklahoma was forward thinking and established alternative ways for students with "special circumstances" to demonstrate their proficiency in 2011 including 11 alternatives for Algebra 1 alone.
From OK State Dept. website:
Students with Other Special Circumstances
Some students may have other special circumstances related to meeting the ACE Testing Requirements. Some examples of students with special circumstances include, but are not limited to, students who used proficiency based promotion to earn credit in one of the required courses, students who transferred to a public school from a private school or home school, or students with medical conditions that make testing difficult.  Students with special circumstances may be able to meet the ACE Testing Requirements through alternate tests or End-of-Course Projects instead of taking the EOI exams.  More information about students with special circumstances is available in the ACE Implementation Guide.
On the other hand, Texas school districts struggle with figuring out how to calculate the results of test results as they affect GPA. They consider whether greater points should go to a student who passes the first time and less to a student who has to take the exam more than once.

After the FCAT writing fiasco and a 40% failure rate in the new Algebra 1 end-of-course exam, Florida parents might have thought private school was a way to escape an out of control accountability system that does not serve the best interest of students and families.  Unfortunately, parent choice has no meaning under these conditions.  Governor Scott may have a new message, but the train has left him behind at the station/

And what of the students?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Florida Testing and Accountability System Creates Havoc in Private Schools

The smooth system of transferring credits from private schools to public schools has apparently been eliminated. According to an email sent to Governor Scott, the Volusia County Director of Assessment informed the Trinity Christian Academy in Deltona that credit will not be given to private school students who transfer to public school for courses, such as Algebra and Biology, because the standardized end-of-course tests are not available to them. If this information is correct, the Florida legislature, Commissioner of Education, and State School Board, by an act of incompetence or by design, have removed all alternative testing measures available to students in a private school that would serve in lieu of end-of-course-exams, leaving students unable to graduate from a public high school.

One Florida private school has raised this issue with Governor Scott in an August 10, 2012 email requesting a remedy to this surprising turn of events. Thanks to Sunburst, the open government email system, the public caught a ray of an additional lapse of serious magnitude in the state's accountability system that redefines parental choice.

“… these families bear the cost of education that our government would have had to carry. Private school students should not be penalized for choosing to go to Florida's private schools.”

Is this lapse a way to insert Florida's controversial testing and accountability system into private schools and exert control over religious schools? Will the standardized end-of-course requirement ultimately be required of all schools, public and private? Does the requirement apply to homeschoolers who transfer back to public school?

State education authorities have some explaining to do and an unambiguous remedy to develop. The public deserves a clear plan on how they intend to clean up yet another mess they have made with the state accountability system. In the meanwhile, parent choice has just been thrown under the bus.