There’s a Train A Coming

This opinion piece was shared with us by PAA Florida Affiliate leader Lourdes Pérez Ramírez. She writes, “Here’s an opinion piece that Rick Roach, the only school board member who has had the guts to take a standardized test and failed, and who also has the guts to sternly oppose these high-stake tests, sent me.”

There’s a Train a Coming

By Rick Roach, Orange County (Florida) School Board Member District 3

I’ve always tried to heed what a wise man once said. “ When you bury your head in the sand, remember what you leave exposed.”

It’s been a valuable image for me as I’ve represented my Orange County School Board District 3 constituents. On Saturday, January 25, nearly 450 people gave up a gorgeous afternoon to watch an educational documentary called STANDARDIZED. I’d received the DVD a few days before, made arrangements for showing it at Howard Middle School, and watched it at least five times, trying to imagine how it would be viewed by people with differing perspectives about standardized testing. Would it rub people the wrong way? Offend? Encourage? Discourage?

As I introduced the film to the crowd, I moved to the back of the auditorium where I could get a better feel for reaction. There was no need to worry. Scene by scene the crowd laughed, applauded, ooohed, ahhed, nodded their heads in agreement. The applause at the end of the film went on and on, and the comments were all similar: “Great film!” “Inspirational!” “It’s about time!” And so on.

It’s now clear to me:

  • When people begin to realize they’re not crazy, and not alone in their misgivings about what ‘s happening in American education, they become stronger. A tipping point is near.
  • It’s about the kids. Parents are beginning to question not just what’s best for their child, but for all children. They’re realizing that non-stop test prep, testing, and re-testing aren’t educating.
  • Parents are learning that the tests are rigged. Officials have set the failure rate they want before the first kid picks up the first pencil.
  • Pass-fail cut scores are so rigid no allowance is made for inevitable test margins-of-error.
  • Notwithstanding, test manufacturer warnings about misuse are being ignored, the tests are being used to make life-changing decision for kids, teachers, administrators, and schools.
  • Experienced educators are simply checking out of education at an alarming rate, have become cynical, or disengaged. Nearly all fear retribution if they speak out about what they know is wrong.

This much is clear. The old, “ The state is making us do this” argument that I as an elected local official have used from time to time with the public is wearing thin. Members of the general public pointed fingers and said they expected local leaders to represent them, not Tallahassee or Washington, and they considered some of what was happening as nothing less than child abuse.

I was pleasantly surprised when two of our elected leaders—State Rep. Karen Castor-Dental, and State Senator Darren Soto—stepped up to the challenges and described specific actions they were taking in Tallahassee in support of kids, teachers, administrators, and schools. I also want to thank State Reps. Randy Bracy and Linda Stewart for their support, as well as fellow school board members from four Florida counties. Courage combined with knowledge is in short supply.

Here is what I intend to do from here:

  • I will continue to bring attention to this matter to local education groups, as well as local media opportunities. Thanks to WLOQ, Fox 35, Channel 13 and 6 for their continued support in making these issues a priority.
  • Thanks to the Florida School Boards Association for making multiple assessments vs. a single assessment a part of their legislative platform.
  • I will continue to visit Tallahassee during education committee weeks as well as when sessions begin in March.
  • On Feb. 5, in Tallahassee, I have been asked to stand and speak with State Senator Dwight Bullard when he does a press conference on assessments.
  • I have been asked to assist State Senator Darren Soto in his quest to bring more awareness and fairness to high stakes testing.
  • I am working on a sample 10th grade FCAT reading and math exercise for the public to experience with a local TV station. This will give them an idea of the format and rigor of an older, released FCAT test.

I’m asking all of you to join me in finding  ways you can help to stop high stakes testing and bring back back fair assessments to education through awareness opportunities with legislators and parents.

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Misc

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