My good friend, Rita Solnet, is is a Florida co-founder of Parent Across America, has given me permission to cross-post a piece she just did. I strongly recommend you read her story.
Everything below this point is Rita's words. Please read and pass on to others. Thanks
Statistically Speaking, Florida -- I Don't Believe Them
Florida's education statistics were front and center all week. As I prepare for my son's college graduation, I can't help but wonder how different his future would be had we lived by statistics.
A '08 graduate of an outstanding public high school in Boca Raton, Jeff attended twelve years of Florida's public schools. He gained admission to some of the finest universities in our nation thanks to a village of supportive teachers, staff, guidance counselors and a host of interesting AP and college courses at his disposal.
Today Florida's education reform decisions are based on failed reforms touted by third parties with vested interests. Worse still -- those decisions are then supported with illogically skewed or fatally flawed statistics vs. real-world, in-the-trenches input.
Last week we learned that children could not write any better than martians arriving on planet earth yet later in the week the news trumpeted that Florida's reading scores improved across the state. Both tests crafted and scored from the same company. They can't write but they can read and comprehend very well. Does that make sense to anyone? Flawed results based on flawed tests, forgotten instructions to schools, and flawed scoring methods were inflicted upon children. But one Conference call and presto, the passing grade drops under a recommendation by Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future which receives funds from Pearson.
The test manufacturer, Pearson, is a one-stop shop. They own the FCATs, the pre-tests, the scorers, the cheating detection company, the test prep materials, the remedial materials for when students are told they fail, the FL Virtual Learning modules, even the E-Tutoring company, and, of course, Pearson owns charter schools, too. One must ask how reliable are these scores or these tests?
Since Pearson has a troubled history of testing errors and scoring scandals, I wouldn't bet the ranch on the validity of their statistics. Yet Florida bets children's futures on it.
Florida lives and breathes by these statistics. Low scores inevitably result in justifying another quick fix - another test, more rigor, new untested standards to inflict upon children mid year while schools haven't finished processing the previous reform tossed at them. Miami Superintendent Alberto Carvalho who counted 18 changes to testing standards this year alone found the scores to be incomprehensible.
Children are reduced to statistics in Florida. They are Levels 1, 2, 3. They are their grades, scores, predicted categories of scores, etc. Their scores impact teacher's paychecks and determine their school's grade and their District grade. Their scores determine who advances to the next level, what course they're permitted to take or which school will be on the auction block.
Statistics are all that 'counts' (pun intended) to those have overtaken education with market-driven reforms. A skewed, cherry-picked statistic is touted by a kingpin charter lobbyist or by a test company lobbyist who testifies during Senate Hearings on the latest ed reform plan. A plan which is given a euphemistically enticing name, like "Student Success Act," or "Parent Engagement Bill."
Children should not be pigeon-holed by statistics. A personal perspective why:
A child born with a dislocated left hip years ago had a less than 30% chance of walking normally. The chance of ice-skating or playing sports were less than that. After four years, I walked, I ran, and I danced. I never stopped. You see, my working class parents never believed in statistics. They made a long drive weekly to a Home for Crippled Children until that statistic no longer existed.
When first married, I was given a ten percent chance of conceiving and carrying a child due to previous surgeries and partial organs. I found a doctor who didn't believe in those statistics. After five years, some miscarriages, my miracle arrived. He was conceived and delivered naturally. Another statistic bit the dust..
A man's average life expectancy in 1997 was about 76 years old. Sadly, that statistic proved unreliable when my husband was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease and passed away at a young age. Jeff was 7 years old and just entered the second grade, Jeff didn't do very well on tests that year.
-- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
-- Twice as many students with two parents outperform those who only have one.
-- Twice as many fatherless boys are likely to end up in jail.
Statistics of college:
-- In 2008, 7% of 28K applicants would gain admission to Harvard.
-- The odds of admission dropped lower for public school applicants.
-- The odds dropped even lower for non-Valedictorian applicants.
-- Only 41% of college students graduate in four years.
Statistically speaking, my public school-educated, fatherless son should not even be alive. He certainly should not be attending Harvard, nor graduating college in four years time. But he is. I thank God that no one ever pigeon-holed him.
To the Florida Board of Education, Commissioner Robinson, and Mr. Pearson's team of statisticians, I don't believe one standardized test score should measure a child's potential, what courses they can take, nor should they measure a child's worth. That is precisely the system you've established. We must collectively use our intellects, our hearts, and our common sense to provide an enriched, quality education which supports and nurtures children's desire for learning.
My way of giving back for our blessings is to fight to ensure every child has the opportunities my child had in top quality public schools. The over-reliance and intense dependency on standardized tests is harming our children. It must come to an end.