Accountability Bush Education Industry Florida Jeb Standardized Testing

Billy Townsend: Is the Era of High-Stakes Standardized Testing Coming to an End?

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Billy Townsend of Florida writes here about an emerging development: the end of high-stakes testing. As a candidate, Biden promised to end it, but didn’t. Now Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis says its day is done. Even his state commissioner loves testing but turned on a dime to support the Governor. The vaunted “Florida model” of test-punish-choice is dead, writes Townsend.

No state has been more devoted to standardized testing than Florida, so the fact that its leaders are adopting anti-testing rhetoric suggests that the wind is shifting.

Townsend begins:

Last month, Ron DeSantis turned heretic. Without any warning, the 2024 GOP presidential hopeful publicly trashed the Republican education policy scripture Jeb Bush wrote 25 years ago.

He joined U.S. president Joe Biden in publicly rejecting the cornerstone of America’s dying “education reform” movement: the big money, high-stakes, end-of-year, badly designed, standardized test.

Bipartisan/institutional American power has used these tests to label and punish American children, teachers, parents, schools, and communities for a generation, with no measurable or perceivable life benefit.

In Florida, we call this test the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA).

Ironically, in killing the FSA, DeSantis and his pro-test Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran used the language teacher unions and Opt-Out activists and public school advocates have used for years and years. – “I want more learning and less test prep,” DeSantis said.

“From April to May, we basically shut down schools for testing,” said Corcoran, who also called the Florida test he championed for years “archaic.” For Corcoran particularly, this is the equivalent of a Wall Street investment banker publicly repudiating capital as “archaic.”

In theory, the massive testing period near the end of the year will be replaced by three “progress monitoring” windows during the school year. Everyone in the state will use an as-yet unbuilt state-owned, state-run assessment platform.

But the policy detail is actually much less important than the political rhetoric this time.

With Joe Biden rejecting the current use of high stakes testing during his campaign; and DeSantis rejecting “test prep” and the experience of testing in Florida, the autopilot awfulness of American test-based “reform education” has lost all organized political support. It has enormous unelected money to sustain the inertia for a while. But, I believe, it is doomed.

“Absolutely central”

To understand what an earthquake this announcement was for the Florida Model of education, which has set the toxic American “education reform” template for a generation, you shouldn’t look to me.

Listen to a smart champion of “reform” and the Florida Model instead.

Travis Pillow long worked as a top editor — and by far the smartest voice — for ReDefined, the Florida-based “choice” PR/media shop. ReDefined is funded by Step Up for Students, the massive “charity” that doles out Florida’s various vouchers. Now he writes for an “education reform” site called the “Center on Reinventing Public Education.” Here’s what Travis tweeted after the DeSantis announcement. It’s completely accurate:

“The biggest piece I think non-Floridians (and some Floridians) are missing in this news is how absolutely central A-F school grades are to so many facets of our state’s education policy and how critical it will be to make sure test data can still be relied upon for them.”

As Travis understands, wiping out the FSA wipes out the functional totality of the elementary school grade formula. And it wipes out huge chunks of the middle, high school, and overall district grades. It requires Florida to completely rebuild the grade system, almost from scratch. This includes the basic legal definition of words like “growth” and “achievement” in a way that the “data” from an as-yet unbuilt state progress monitoring platform can feed.

The FSA is also the basis of Florida’s cruel and educationally unsound 3rd grade retention policies, for which there is no supportive research, and which exists only to pump student scores on another big national test, the 4th grade NAEP.

Indeed, Florida’s school grades have been entirely political tools and destructive fraudssince the day they were introduced after Jeb’s election in 1998. They have been used to advance the privatization agenda by driving public school children into un-FSA-tested, ungraded voucher schools.

Please keep reading. Open the link.

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