School Grades Are a Farce and Have Absolutely NO MERIT

by Deb Herbage

The FDOE released the school grades without warning or notification on Friday, 7/8/16.  They didn’t give the Superintendents the usual “heads up” that the grades were being released which caught a LOT of people off guard – including many parents.  A lot of the schools in Pasco County (where I live) dropped down a level going from A’s to B’s meaning they will not receive their much sought after incentive money.    The incentive money they look forward to each and every year.  Only “A” schools receive incentive money so dropping down from an “A” to a “B” not only knocks them out of the running for the money…..well it’s kind of embarrassing too.   Our kids, teachers, principals and administrators had one of the toughest years with the continued implementation of the much hyped and touted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which were supposed to “revolutionize education and the way children learn” which many parents are now finding to be just that….hype.  The school grading system was put in place by Jeb Bush and one of his MANY foundations in 1999 – the Foundation for Excellence in Education who lobbies heavily for policies and programs to benefit the many investors, corporations, ed-tech companies, corporations, non-profits and of course – themselves – who have all invested heavily in his “accountability” scam system and which has now been expanded nationwide.

The school grades are NOT indicative of the quality of the school nor are they indicative of the quality of teachers.  What the school grades DO show us is the disparity in socioeconomic status.  It shows us that our Title 1 schools (or low-income and free and reduced lunch) receive lower “school grades” (D’s & F’s) while their affluent counterparts receive higher school grades (A’s & B’s).  The Florida school grading system does NOT show parents the quality of the schools their children attend nor does it show the quality of the teaching staff at the school – they are not part of the formula.  The school grades are calculated based on the FSA test scores.  That’s it.  The quality of teachers are NOT factors in the school grading formula nor are the quality of the schools.  What is factored in is how well the entire school does on the FSA because that is used to determine the school’s “grade”.  Our schools focus so much on the test – the FSA – that everything else takes a backseat and with budget cuts and funding issues – our schools have become nothing more than test prep factories.  Test prep to prepare our kids for the yearly test because the schools who receive an “A” grade receives their incentive money.  Test prep which includes start of the year assessments, weekly assessments, benchmark assessments, pilot tests, quarterly assessments, practice tests, the real test (FSA) followed by more benchmark assessments and tests, EOC tests and end of year assessments.   All of that testing does not account for load testing, infrastructure testing and calibration testing – all of which our kids participate in as well.  Our kids are being tested to death – when do they have time to learn and what is all this testing doing for them?

Here is a chart from the FDOE showing the purpose of the FSA (test score):

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This chart is extremely eye-opening!  Look at all the empty slots for “Individual Student”.  The FSA is NOT used for grade level promotion, graduation eligibility or course grades (except for Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2).  The FSA IS used to evaluate our teachers, grade our schools, school improvement plans, district grades, “opportunity” scholarships and of course the state “accountability” system.  The FSA is not used to inform instruction, the FSA is not used to monitor academic progression nor is it used to inform parents – ALL of which were selling points and promised to parents in the executed $320 MILLION dollar contract with AIR (test vendor).  The FSA, according to this chart from the FDOE, is used for accountability purposes only.   Do you see “teacher quality” or “school quality” in that chart?  That is NOT part of the “accountability” system.  The school grades are strictly in place for accountability purposes and to assist all those companies who have invested heavily in the “accountability” scam system to continue to profit from our kids test scores.

Think about this chart the next time you are driving down the street and see a sign from a realtor or builder advertising their homes in an “A” rated school zone.  Think about this chart when school starts again and the stress and tears start all over again.  Think about this chart when they are cutting art, music, recess and other activities at your child’s school so they can get more test prep time in.  And think about this chart when your child’s teacher is not “invited” back to teach next year because little Johnny or little Susie had a bad day of testing and didn’t do so great on the FSA.  Our teachers and our schools are paying the price when kids have a bad day of testing.  And let’s be honest here, there are a LOT of factors that are outside the teacher’s control that affect the way a child can and will test on the big FSA day.  We have teachers who are bringing food in for kids to take home on Friday’s so they will have something to eat until they come back to school on Monday.  We have teachers who have clothing drives to collect and give clothing to kids who show up to school with ripped clothes and clothes that are obviously too big or too small for them.  We have teachers spending hundreds of dollars of their own money on things some kids need like books, pencils, pens and backpacks.  There are a lot of factors that can affect a child on testing day but they do not matter to the FDOE, the FL legislators or the FL senate.  They implemented Jeb Bush’s accountability system.   I think parents should be able to “rate” the FL DOE, FL legislators, the FL senators, school boards and superintendents ‘A-F’ like they do to our schools and districts after all, it is our tax dollars hard at work – shouldn’t we have some say in HOW our dollars are spent?  I would give the FL DOE and ‘F’ for wasting the taxpayer dollars ($320 MILLION of them) on a useless, invalid, unvetted test.

Last year was the debut year of the FSA.  A completely brand new test that was an utter disaster.   No one can verify with 100% certainty the FSA aligns to the standards – the Common Core State Standards – because no one is allowed to view the test.  No teachers, parents, administrators, or principals have ever seen the test and cannot verify the tests align to the standards.   In the Florida statutes – it states parents have the right to view tests and instructional material yet when you try to invoke that right – you are told NO.   In fact, Alpine Testing Solutions stated in their completed validity report the test did NOT align to the standards.  Here is the link to the completed validity study:   http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/5306/urlt/FSA-Exec-Summ_08312015.pdf  The validity study was ordered by the Florida senate after the disastrous testing that occurred last year.  HB 7069 was enacted and cost the taxpayers $600K.  This validity study should not have been mandated had the FDOE did their job and held AIR to the terms of the executed $320 MILLION dollar contract (14-652) and enforced the “must provide empirical evidence of psychometric validity and reliability” prior to implementing the never field-tested FSA.  Alpine Testing Solutions did NOT declare the FSA valid by any stretch of the means and in fact advised the FDOE NOT to use the scores for high-stakes, accountability decisions (grading our schools and rating our teachers and their performance pay).

Most experts recommend having at least two year’s worth of data to properly and effectively make accountability decisions that have a major impact on students such as promotion, retention and remediation decisions.  The FDOE not only used the scores for accountability purposes they completely ignored the dire warnings from each district of the horrendous testing our kids and teachers were experiencing.

The very fact that the standards and the test DO NOT align should be extremely concerning to parents.  Alpine advised the FDOE NOT to use the scores for high-stakes decisions but the FDOE went ahead and used them anyway.  They are retaining kids based on a test they have NO validity documents for, no reliability documents for and even worse – last year was the FIRST year for the FSA which equals – experimental. The FL legislators and FDOE mission statement is “develop, administer and validate test”…….so they are using our kids to develop and validate the FSA that doesn’t align with the FL standards.  Here are some very concerning issues with the FSA:

  • Our kids experienced massive computer and technical glitches both years of the FSA.
  • There has been no enforcement of the liquidated damages section of the AIR contract to recoup the thousands of hours of LOST instructional time experienced by our kids and teachers.
  • The “validity” of the test has NEVER been established – ever.
  • The FDOE claims the test will validly, fairly and accurately measure our kids achievement and learning gains completely disregarding the lack of validity.
  • The FSA is a measure of income not outcome.
  • The FSA “Technical Report” did not prove validity of the test and in fact raised more questions of the complete lack of validity.  There are some serious questions raised that have gone unanswered.
  • The FSA Technical Report had “validity studies” by companies that were paid to publish their “proof of validity”.

Our kids received last year’s test scores 5 days before they sat for the FSA THIS year.  The test vendor’s promises of “quick turnaround” and “instantaneous score reports” went unchallenged and ignored.

Our kids attend school for 180 days, put countless hours in doing homework and studying but none of that matters.  It all boils down to that one test on that one day for the sake of the “accountability” system.  For your child’s sake– let’s hope he or she is having a great day because their future, their teacher’s salary and their school’s grade are depending on him or her to ace the test.  If your child doesn’t do well on the test – there are massive consequences to be had.  They will be retained, remediated or denied a diploma because of this test.  Your child’s teacher’s job is dependent on them doing well on this test and the principal and the entire school are depending on your child to do well so they will receive the incentive money that comes with the “A” rating.  Think about how you would feel if your boss suddenly decided to fire you or let you go because someone on your team missed a deadline, called in sick with a migraine or left early to pick up their sick child from school.  All this pressure on our kids to perform and perform well has consequences and it is only getting worse – not better.   So think about the chart the next time you see the big sign by the entrance of a new housing development claiming the school is an “A rated school” and what that REALLY means…..and for WHO.  Let’s be honest again….whoever thought that “rating” the schools A-F and pitting teachers, administrators, principals, superintendents and schools against each other for the possibility of making extra money thought that was a good idea?  Apparently – Jeb Bush and the FL senate, legislators and FDOE did.

Quote from the Opt Out Manatee group:  “Education is not an institution of LEARNING…..it has become an industry of EARNING”.

 

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15 thoughts on “School Grades Are a Farce and Have Absolutely NO MERIT

    1. Don’t give up my friend!!! We NEED YOU!!!! But I have had the same thoughts but then when I think of the kids….the innocent kids that are caught up in this scam…..I can’t keep my mouth shut anymore. Their greed far outweighs their goddamn common sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. this is not suprising…the Florida Dept. of Edu. have always had no policing along with the Fl legislation, and senate. We vote them in thinking they will have our backs and then they stab us in those very same backs. Greedy asses, no accountability, and endless terms in office. When does it end? When the next big false flag is in Florida? Leave our children alone. Deviding us is one thing, but using our children for the elits’ agenda should not be tolerated by any person in pubic office

    Liked by 1 person

    1. EXACTLY Cindy!!! NO accountability WHATSOEVER! Guess what? More and more parents are now asking questions and questioning things. It’s going to be harder and harder for them to continue the lies, back room deals, giving contracts to their buddies and outright racketeering. “Accountability” – give me a break. The only ones being held “accountable” for ANYTHING in this state are our kids and teachers. Greedy asses is right. It’s shameful. We just need ONE person to stand up for our kids. ONE hero that will speak out and say “enough is enough” or “WHY would we do THAT – that doesn’t make sense!”. Still waiting for that hero…….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree Duane Swacker but the difference is – the “grading” system as we know it has been around for a long time. Using the A – F “grading” system to grade our schools and districts was the brainchild of Jeb Bush. ANYTHING that allows them to make money from – especially as it applies to education – is free game for him and ALL the companies who are profiting from it since it’s inception in 1999. Remember what Gates himself said – they were creating a “whole new market” and considering he funded Common Core, CBE and the “next generation assessments” he is also profiting heavily since Microsoft is a partner/sponsor for every company connected to this. After all education is now a $3 TRILLION dollar “industry” and there are an awful lot of companies, investors, corporations, non-profits, politicians, etc. with their fingers in that pie. Accountability? That doesn’t exist in Florida where racketeering is LEGAL and charter companies (thanks again to Jeb) are allowed to funnel tax dollars meant for public education into their bank accounts. The only people being held “accountable” are our teachers and kids. Where’s the outrage for that as well?

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    1. grades??? our school District doesn’t use the letter system anymore in elementary they use a pass or fail – X for meets standards and # needs improvement. Talk about a joke!!

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  3. One could not screw up that much by accident. Even one system could not screw up that much by accident. One can deduce from the results that it is what it was planned to be or at least listing heavily in that direction. Shame on those involved for it will come back to haunt you. You are charged with nurturing children, all children. Any other priority has to be back seat to that.

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    1. Thank you Bill Cooper! I couldn’t agree with you more on THAT logic – one does not “screw up” that much by accident! This is purposeful with an end goal of making ALL those who invested in this scam wealthy. Karma Bill…..I believe in Karama and I sure hope I’m right.

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    1. Too narrow of an opinion. Parenting is dependent upon various factors, which can be ,at times, out of the reach of a parent, and a test score does not need to be the only indicator for “good” or “bad” parenting.

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    1. Thanks PW!! Someone has to do the research and I am one of MANY concerned parents and advocates who are taking the time to read through their lies and scams. It’s insane how much damage has been done. We seriously need more parents questioning things. Silence is compliance.

      Liked by 1 person

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