Is a High-Stakes Testing Moratorium Possible in Florida?

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February 22, 2013

By: Bob Sikes – Scathing Purple Musings

For such an idea to be taken seriously, the voice had to belong to someone of significance. It does. Powerful Senate President Don Gaetz hasn’t been backing off his statement that there’s danger that Florida’s entire accountability system could implode. Now this is an interview with the editors of the Panama City News Herald:

Having Gaetz — who’s hardly a squish on education reform — on board should persuade the rest of Capitol to take a giant step back and re-evaluate.

Not only did the Niceville Republican express well-deserved skepticism of the teacher evaluations, he noted that Florida is phasing in national Common Core State Standards, a new test for assessing student performance. He called these changes are “all like rockets that have been shot in the air.”

“We need to quit shooting rockets into the air,” Gaetz said. “We need to give schools and school districts, teachers and parents time to institutionalize the reforms that have already been made. We need about a two-year cooling off period.”

A two-year cooling off period?

Looks as if the powers that be haven’t been able to get  Gaetz straightened out. What Geatz means by a “two-year cooling of period” is unclear. Just take the tests, but they don’t count? Or cut into Pearson’s business for two years?  Can’t wait to hear the howls of protests coming from the Florida’s educational industrial complex if that’s proposed.

While being no friend of teachers, Gaetz is a pragmatist – not an idealist. He wouldn’t be wandering off Jeb Bush’s reservation if he didn’t sense danger. You can be sure that he was aware of that two former superintendents – former colleagues – predicted last spring that Florida’s accountability system would collapse.

Gaetz will have partners in the Senate if he continues on this path. Democrat Bill Montford will certainly be on board. Republican Jeff Legg has surprisingly emerged  as being thoughtful on policy.  The House is another story. Speaker Will Weatherford has never demonstrated the least bit of independence from Bush. Key committee chairs Erik Fresen and Seth McKeel are far too close to charter school interests to be trusted.

The wild card is Governor Rick Scott. With three new appointees, he has wrested control of the State Board from Bush. Will it be here, with key republican support existing in the Senate, where he finally dares standing up to Bush?

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