Vote Against Florida Senate Bill 6

Oppose increased standardized testing, massive teacher pay cuts, and growing state intervention in education.  Preserve local control of schools.  Protect students and teachers from arbitrary state and district abuse.

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Dear legislators:

We the undersigned ask you to vote against Florida Senate Bill 6. Oppose excessive standardized testing and increased state intervention in children's education. Preserve local control of Florida schools. Protect students and teachers from arbitrary state and district abuse.

SB 6 would take further control of the schools away from local communities, especially with regard to what is taught and learned, and the pay and firing of teachers. The bill aims to multiply the number of state-mandated, standardized tests by instituting end of course exams, and aims to base teacher pay and the firing of teachers on student standardized test scores. Authorizing more state intervention in schools would only make our schools worse. We do not need more state control of education, we need less.

Increased state power in education has hurt more than it has helped. The state has trumpeted that 4th graders have improved their reading performance, but what they won't tell you is that the reading ability of 10th graders has actually declined (see Pasco: Test scores fall as pupils rise). Young people are being adversely affected by testing mania over the course of their schooling. The reason why is very simple: standardization is low quality.

Parents and students alike agree that excessive emphasis is being placed on testing in the schools. For example, exam insanity increased the number of tests taken by 9th graders in Miami-Dade County Public Schools first by 25% several years ago and another 30% this year, to a total of at least 16 standardized tests this year.

Which parents and students have been consulted about this measure? None. One parent recently expressed concern that her daughter was undergoing "FCAT indoctrination". A 10th grade student said that she was testing more than learning. Focusing on test scores will only further warp education. Serve your constituents better than was done with the Florida Lottery, where a bait and switch allowed Lottery revenues to replace, not supplement, education dollars, making the Lottery basically a tax on the poor citizens of your district who primarily line up to buy those tickets.

We%u2019ve increased standardized testing in this country an estimated 10 to 20 times since the 1950%u2019s. Wouldn%u2019t it be great if learning had increased that amount? But it has not. However, the test companies and their political allies have certainly benefited.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is also dividing students into haves and have-nots, taking away opportunities from some and not others, and the same would happen with their teachers. As Professor Brian Peterson of Florida International University has succinctly pointed out, Hispanic and African-American students are less likely to do well on standardized tests, and the increased emphasis on testing in SB 6 will unduly affect minority students and the predominantly minority teachers who teach them. Students with low scores on exams are punished with remedial classes which do not work, and eliminate their class choices by up to 33%, 2 out of 6 classes in middle and high school.

These students need more options like internships, apprenticeships, and bilingual education, not more testing. Our country was built on the Constitutional guarantee of educational freedom, and these encroachments on the minds of young people using unconstitutional funding from the federal government raise deep concerns.

Pressure is already on teachers to standardize their instruction, as if one size fits all, and this will worsen under SB 6. State control of teacher raises and firings would only exacerbate the common practice of rewarding teachers with higher level classes in exchange for obedience to curriculum dictates from above. Placing dollar amounts to test scores will only further devalue education.

With regard to managing teachers, W. E. Deming, an American, taught the Japanese to outperform us in performance quality by asking their employees for input on improvements, and valuing their employees through the elimination of employee evaluations. He went to Japan after many American companies would not listen to him. Instead, bills like SB6 would accomplish what Scott Adams comically described about poor organizations in his book, Dilbert, the Way of the Weasel: %u201CYou%u2019ll never be held accountable for things that you can control, such as your effort and your dedication to the job. You will be accountable for the outcome of your efforts. And outcomes depend mostly on the screwups of others.%u201D The people causing the screwups intend to point fingers at us.

This bill has been reported to be on a %u201Cfast track%u201D in a time when Floridians are overwhelmed with concerns about their livelihoods. Why the hurry? A politician recently stated regarding education and other %u201Creform%u201D matters, %u201CNever let a good crisis go to waste%u201D. Please do not allow legislators to impose upon people who are struggling.

Whether SB6 is well-intentioned but wrong, selfish, or malignant, it is clear that we do not need state government, working in conjunction with federal government which got us into our current economic situation in the first place, telling us how to run our schools.

We need fewer tests, less state control, and more freedom and responsibility at our schools. Vote no to Senate Bill 6.
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