Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The view from Florida

More testing madness

I've been in Florida all week, trying to get a handle on Gov. Scott's train wreck of a school reform. The latest fiasco has to do with the state's testing madness and a new law that forces schools to evaluate and pay teachers on the basis of students' FCAT scores. The last time the legislature passed such a bill, it had to be repealed when the state ran out of money and couldn't afford "merit " pay.

The latest problem is that, for the second year in a row, the state can't get test scores back in time to enter student grades, allow seniors to graduate or figure teachers' pay into their budgets. What a mess!

Florida law requires test results be available within a week, but the state says it won't have them ready until after schools have closed for the summer in many districts. Last spring's late FCAT scores forced the Lee district to recall staff from summer vacations to process the data.

This year they're not blaming vendor, Minnesota-based NCS Pearson. Pearson was fined $14.7 million by the state for last spring's six-week delay in releasing Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. Instead they say, the tests are just tied up in bureaucracy.
Among the repercussions for "merit pay" -- how is a teacher supposed to budget and plan things when they may not learn a student's peformance until June?

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