June 21, 2006
Governor Jeb Bush is breaking out the fricasseed alligator tail to celebrate the recent announcement that a record 75 percent of Florida schools received As or Bs under the state's "A+" accountability system. Hold on, say the feds-NCLB data show that nearly three-quarters of Sunshine State schools didn't make AYP, including 1,233 that earned As or Bs according to the state's rating system. The mixed signals result from varying definitions of school quality. Florida focuses on growth over time while NCLB frets about achievement gaps. Jeb's not worried, though. "With no disrespect to anyone in Washington, D.C.," he said, "I believe our system is the most comprehensive...by far." Not really, says Democratic state representative Dan Gelber, who complains that the A+ system bases school grades on math and reading test scores alone (NCLB, of course, does the same thing). It's a fair point, though one that unfortunately applies to almost every state in the country. Here's a suggestion: combine the growth-model aspect of Jeb's plan, the achievement-gap focus of W's law, and the breadth of testing envisioned by Gelber. Now that would be a tasty dish to set before schoolchildren.
"Progress on FCAT has federal caveat," by Ron Matus, St. Petersburg Times, June 15, 2006
"Just hitting minimums won't cut it," by Dan Gelber, St. Petersburg Times, June 15, 2006