Putting Education Reform To The Test

What To Watch At This Week’s Education Summit

Gov. Rick Scott has called a three-day education summit in Clearwater, starting today. Will Scott stake out new positions on Common Core, testing, school grades or teacher evaluations?

Staff / Reuters/Landov

Gov. Rick Scott has called a three-day education summit in Clearwater, starting today. Will Scott stake out new positions on Common Core, testing, school grades or teacher evaluations?

Gov. Rick Scott has called state education leaders together for a three-day summit in Clearwater starting today.

Scott has put four items on the agenda: State education standards known as Common Core; the test which will assess those standards and (mostly) replace the FCAT; how Florida should revise its A-through-F school grading formula; and teacher evaluations, which state law requires are based in part on student test scores.

The governor, State Board of Education and Republican legislative leaders have supported all four ideas for years. But cracks have started to form on some issues.

State Board of Education members have criticized the school grading formula’s complexity. Lawmakers had to adjust the teacher evaluation law to eliminate teachers being evaluated on students who were never in their classroom. And Common Core has riled education activists on the political right and left who worry about a once-size-fits-all education system, loss of local control, more testing and more.

And Scott is running for reelection. He’s struggled to boost his poll numbers since taking office in 2011. He’s taken more of an interest in education issues recently, calling for more school funding after initially calling for cuts and pushing for teacher raises.

Here’s what we’re watching at the summit this week:

Common Core — For the most part, the state’s political leadership supports the standards fully adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Common Core is supposed to ask more of students and ensure they are ready for college level work or a job that could support a family after high school graduation.

But legislative Democrats have started to question the standards. Some Republicans have too.

Will Common Core critics get a dose of tough love this week, or will more cracks in support start to form?

Florida’s next standardized test — Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford want Florida to withdraw from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two multi-state consortia designing tests tied to Common Core standards. Weatherford and Gaetz want the Department of Education to develop a “Florida plan,” but haven’t publicly said what their preference is.

The common test is important because it guarantees that Florida can compare test results to other states — a major goal of the move to Common Core.

Will this be the week that Florida leaves PARCC for good, or will its supporters make the case that Florida shouldn’t abandon the test?

School grading — Probably the most interesting item on the agenda. Everyone agrees the school grading system needs to change, but no one is saying how yet.

Superintendents and at least one member of State Board of Education have criticized recent changes to the formula.

Education officials have said the switch to Common Core will require the state to rewrite its school grading officials. Experts say Common Core will require the state to rewrite its expectations, but not necessarily the school grading formula.

Keep an eye on whether state leaders want emphasize growth — how much students improve on tests from one year to the next — more when discussing the school grading formula.

Academics note that school in wealthier ares tend to outperform schools in poorer areas. That’s because Florida’s formula gives already high-performing schools credit for student growth if those schools maintain their test scores.

Teacher evaluations — Florida is one nearly two dozen states which require annual teacher evaluations. Eventually, half of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on student test scores.

But the Florida Education Association, the state teacher’s union, is challenging the law in court. And lawmakers had to correct the law this year to prevent teachers from being evaluated based on students they had not taught.

This is another issue where Republican leadership has so far kept a united front. Will that change?


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