New Column on Florida’s Anti-Testing Nihlists

July 16, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I authored a column in response to anti-testing extremists in Florida. Here is a sample:

A recent problem with the FCAT writing test drew a great deal of attention from FCAT opponents. We should take care not to miss the forest for the trees. NAEP gave a writing exam in 1998 (just before Florida’s reforms) and again in 2007. Florida students achieved the largest gain of any state and more than three times larger than the national average during this period.

Sadly, leading the nation in writing gains on the highly respected NAEP exam seems to mean little to Florida’s testing opponents. One of the anti-testing groups seized upon the FCAT writing dispute to proclaim: “These abysmal FCAT Writes scores are proof that Tallahassee’s ‘education reforms’ are an unmitigated disaster.”

Against the highly credible NAEP score gains, testing opponents offer up a grab-bag of complaints and recently even a publicity stunt. A college-educated testing opponent recently claimed to have taken and failed a test similar to the 10th-grade FCAT. Whether this person actually took anything like the FCAT, or actually made any effort, is unknown but of little consequence. The vast majority of Florida 10th-graders did pass the FCAT on their first try last year.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan once stated that while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no one is entitled to their own facts. Here are some facts: Since the advent of testing and reform, the nation’s most highly respected measure of academic achievement shows strong gains in Florida. Standardized test scores and graduation rates have both improved substantially since the late 1990s, which means Florida’s residents and students are getting more of what they want, need and deserve from the public education system today.

Ed Schools Take the FCAT

November 25, 2009

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Good gravy! Never mind the debate on using test scores to evaluate teachers. Florida is actually using test scores to evaluate teacher colleges:

It determined what percentage of graduates from each program had 50 percent or more of their students make a year’s worth of progress [on the FCAT]. USF’s College of Education — a huge pipeline for teachers in the Tampa Bay area — had 76 percent of its graduates reach that bar, putting it ninth among the 10 state university programs. Florida International University in Miami topped the field at 85 percent. The University of West Florida in Pensacola was last at 70 percent.

The only problem I can see here is that this just compares education schools to one another. All education schools are part of the problem. Still, I can see a lot of value in knowing which ones are more a part of the problem or less – not least because if they start competing with one another on the basis of results, maybe someday one of them will actually produce a radical transformative revolutionary breakthrough and actually become a value-adding rather than value-subtracting part of the education system.

62% of a hat tip goes to Flypaper’s Andy Smarick. I’m penalizing Andy by withholding 38% of the hat tip because he claims, with no justification, that Arne Duncan must somehow deserve some credit for this move. First of all, as Andy sort of sheepishly admits, a move like this must have been in the works for a while before reaching fruition.

But more important is that Florida has been the nation’s leader in this field for a long time now. Florida doesn’t follow the USDOE on this issue, the USDOE follows Florida. The only effect the USDOE has ever had on Florida’s interest in using test scores for evaluation purposes is to prevent it from going further faster.