End-of-Course Testing Next Likely Controversy

End-of-course exams are not on the agenda for Tuesday’s School Board meeting, but somehow I suspect they’ll be a topic of discussion, thanks to Parents ROCK.

Under Florida law, students’ grades on statewide standardized end-of-course tests (EOCs) are significant components of two important areas of educational assessment and accountability:

  1. a student’s final course grade, and
  2. a teacher’s or school-based administrator’s evaluation.

But a new law signed by Governor Scott last month changed the rules of the game.

Among many changes, the 65-page law Education Accountability bill (HB 7069) reduced the number of mandatory statewide EOCs to just six: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology I, U.S. History, and Civics.

It also eliminated the requirement that districts create districtwide EOCs for all courses, but retained the requirement that all standards taught in all courses must be assessed.

And whatever alternative measures of assessment are chosen, the use of EOCs for the purposes referred to above was also retained, including the requirement that the six remaining statewide EOCs count for 30 percent of a student’s final course grade.

Districts across Florida are approaching these changes in different ways.

In Collier County, the Superintendent decided to continue using districtwide EOCs because they enable the district to:

  • consistently assess student mastery of the standards for the course, regardless of the school or classroom in which the student takes the course, and
  • provide a consistently-assessed student growth metric for use in teacher/administrator evaluations.

On the other hand, according to the Naples Daily News (behind firewall):

In Miami-Dade, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the school district would dump over 300 district-created exams, and only keep a handful of exams. In Lee, Superintendent Nancy Graham gave teachers freedom to choose their own year-end tests, encouraging them to choose tests “that will most effectively assess student learning and inform classroom instruction.”

I support Superintendent Patton’s decision. While getting rid of districtwide tests may be popular with the local-control crowd, how can the district assess student learning and teacher effectiveness across the district without a uniform assessment tool? When asked how teacher evaluations would be calculated, Lee Superintendent Graham said teachers who choose their own tests, as opposed to the district’s exam, will be evaluated individually. Whatever that means!

Parents ROCK, the community group formed by School Board member Erika Donalds, had this to say in an April 30 Facebook post:

Collier County School Superintendent Kamela Patton says that the district will not drop any end of course assessments, even though the state now allows school districts to eliminate those EOC’s that were created by the district, tests that many counties have already eliminated. Is this a good decision? Is this a decision for the superintendent or should it be up to the school board?

My bet is that Board members Donalds and Kelly Lichter think it was not only the wrong decision, but that it was not the Superintendent’s decision to make.

According to a News-Press article shared by Parents ROCK in another Facebook post: the Lee County School Board took the Superintendent’s decision to eliminate districtwide EOCs even further, voting to NOT use the still-required statewide EOCs in determining student grades. In other words, they directed the Superintendent to violate state law. This act is reminiscent of the Lee Board’s vote last August to opt out of all state testing, a decision they subsequently reversed.

The Parents ROCK post asked, “Should Collier County do the same?”

My sympathies go out to Lee School Board attorney Keith Martin, “who advised that the motion appeared to be at odds with the state,” and Lee Superintendent Graham, who said, “I think we may be in the same conundrum as last August and the possible ramifications…. We are at risk as a district.”

No doubt Parents ROCK and its followers think the Lee County School Board has it right, and Superintendent Patton has it wrong.

Parents ROCK has invited its members to attend Tuesday’s School Board meeting. As of this writing, 19 have said they are going, including some of the usual frequent speakers, and one who posted:

A number of us will be meeting outside the admin building at 4:30pm to offer prayer for our board members, teachers/administrators and students. Come early and add your prayers to ours.

Based on these Parents ROCK Facebook posts, and what we’ve seen in the past, I expect these matters to be the subject of public speaker comments critical of Dr. Patton at the May 12 School Board meeting, and that Ms. Donalds and Ms. Lichter will want to follow the lead of the Lee County Board.

I am troubled by all of this, and I hope you are, too.

I am appalled by the Lee County School Board’s directive that the Superintendent break the law. I do not condone anyone taking the law into one’s own hands – especially not elected officials, who should serve as role models. What kind of example does this set for our young people?

And I am disturbed by the plan for their supporters to gather outside the District Administration Building to pray. Praying does not belong there. It is nothing more than a stunt to gain media attention.

If you share my concern, come to Tuesday’s School Board meeting and urge School Board members to support our Superintendent and not to take any action that violates the law and puts our District at risk.

Public comments start at 5:30PM and you MUST sign up beforehand. You can sign up on line 5 hours prior to at http://collierschools.net/Page/1152, or in person at the meeting.

What: Collier County School Board Meeting
When: Tuesday, May 12; business meeting begins at 5:30PM
Where: District Administration Building (get directions)

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