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One Florida County Votes “No More Standardized Testing”

One Florida County Votes “No More Standardized Testing”

As standardized testing increasingly entrenches itself in our public schools, one county is daring to fight back against the status quo. Florida’s Lee County school district has voted to stop all of the bureaucratic testing.

At more than 85,000 students, Lee County is the 37th largest school district in America. Hundreds of parents showed up at the most recent school board meeting to call for an end to the state mandated standardized tests. By the end of the meeting, the majority of the board’s five members agreed that its schools should stop participating in the tests.

Is the decision legal? Will it hold? At this point, it’s hard to say what the consequences of ignoring all tests required by the state of Florida will be. However, it will definitely be interesting to watch how things pan out for a district that goes rogue.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward,” said Don Armstrong, a school board member who voted to approve the ban. “We cannot allow the fear to hold us back.”

Although fellow member Mary Fischer was skeptical of the change, she ultimately cast the deciding vote in the 3-2 decision, perhaps motivated in part by the overwhelming community support. “If this is our window of opportunity, I hope we make the best of it,” she said.

Kathleen Morgan and Jeanne Dozier, the dissenting school board members, said that they would prefer to devise a more thought-out plan to oppose standardized testing rather than banning it outright. Surely, there’s also an argument that can be made that a certain smaller amount of standardized testing is reasonable in order to demonstrate accountability.

County Superintendent Nancy Graham also voiced her opposition to the ban, continuing to do so even after the vote. She worries about the potential repercussions of skipping testing because of how many things are connected to the scores. Along with the school district’s lawyer, she outlined some of the likely negative outcomes, including:

  • Schools could lose their accreditation
  • Graduating students may not receive their diplomas
  • Classes students take that normally require testing might no longer count
  • Schools would not receive the usual state funds determined by test scores
  • Teachers might not receive raises since evaluations are based 50% on test performance

Some also wondered whether Governor Rick Scott might even remove the Lee County school board members from office. Armstrong, for one, did not seem frightened by the prospect. “I’m a plumber, I deal with worse things every day,” he quipped.

On the one hand, it might be irresponsible to allow Lee County students and teachers to become the potential victims of this act of civil disobedience. On the other hand, someone has to stand up against incessant testing, so this may be a risk worth taking.

The state of Florida will have to act next. Given how education policy makers have latched on to an all-testing-all-the-time approach, Lee County would be wise to expect a fight. As a growing number of studies suggest standardized tests are pretty meaningless, the government may finally be forced to prove why all this testing is necessary in the first place.

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71 comments

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10:20AM PDT on Sep 6, 2014

Re comment for Deborah W.: Reading it wrong, I mean.

10:20AM PDT on Sep 6, 2014

You weren't, Deborah W.

10:19AM PDT on Sep 6, 2014

Standardized testing just takes away time that coukd be better spent in ACTUAL teaching/learning!

11:42AM PDT on Sep 4, 2014

Am I reading this wrong or, rather than citing the beneficial pluses for students, the detremental negatives for teachers and schools took over the article?

1:41AM PDT on Sep 3, 2014

noted

6:01PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

My daughter was a Long Island high school teacher who went for her masters in teaching and found the methods taught to be very good. However she was required to "teach to the test" which meant to get the students to memorize what would be on the tests. She was an excellent teacher but had no opportunity to teach. She resigned when she got her letter of tenure and went to join the circus.

3:30PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

Can't they pass the tests?

2:09PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

I don't know what I think of this? I remember doing these tests as a child and never really knew what all the fuss is about. I guess it shows where the teachers are at with what their students are learning. What concerns me more than this is home schoolers! I've known many home schoolers and frankly, the mothers can't even conjugate verbs, let alone teaching others. One mother has a 20 year old son who is working and hasn't completed Grade 12. Maybe these tests would be beneficial in a home schooling situation.

2:08PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

good! I have math anxiety. When it was time for "testing" my brain raced, I can't think straight, numbers started to swim and change shape and it is all I could do to remain in my seat. Thank God I am a geezer and don't have to put up with that crap. I really sucked at math....straight d's even in college. Everything else I was good at, but being a math "loser" really hurt my self esteem, and I saw myself as a flawed person. I still have nightmares of school!

8:38AM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

The truth is that NCLB came from pressure placed on the education sector and government by the business community that education needed more accountability. The absolute worst method of determining the success or failure of a school or school district, let alone each individual student, is the standardized test. This is a complete misuse of the standardized exam.

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