A Slow Clap Tribute to Florida’s Superintendents

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Clap… Clap… Clap… Clap… Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap! Clap! Clap!

On September 25, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) released a statement that, in short, recommended that the severely flawed FSA administration from the previous school year not impact students, teachers, and schools. You can read their message for details, but acknowledging that the accountability system school districts adopted is flawed and has fostered a loss of trust amongst the public is a refreshing admission.

And thus, a tribute to Florida’s superintendents:

If I may take issue with one point made in the FADSS statement (and it is my blog, so I may), the assertion that, “direct negative consequences were avoided for the students,” is dubious, especially for those of us on school campuses leading into and during the FSAs. My own two eyes saw children needing to be pulled from classes for medical assistance and counseling with heart palpitations and other anxiety-induced symptoms on test days.

Hours of potential instructional time were lost due to not only the time needed to take the mountains of state tests, but by countless wasted minutes walking children to computer labs for testing only to find that the technology had failed. We’ll wait until things are up and running in a couple of hours. Those of you already sweating and stressed? Just put your heads between your legs and breathe if you feel nauseous. Sorry to drag this out.

And let’s not forget that for months leading up to the test, the unlucky souls recruited to play the arduous role of “school testing coordinator,” usually a dean, counselor, reading coach, or assistant principal, didn’t get to do their actual jobs for the students. The dean will not be available until after the FSA, so we ask that all naughtiness be kept at a minimum. If the testing coordinator was fortunate enough to have some helping hands, it was usually school support staff who suspended their primary responsibilities which included everything from helping overloaded teachers with materials and copies to tutoring struggling learners. Sorry kids. No small groups with Ms. Bliss until the end of April.

So with all due respect, there were plenty of direct negative consequences for students. But I digress.

All in all, the superintendents really do deserve applause. One must have courage and integrity to take heed and change direction when you realize you’ve gotten yourself (and our teachers, school administrators, and especially our poor, poor kiddos) into a bad spot. The statement from the FADSS follows encouraging and brave steps taken last spring by several Florida school districts such as Orange County to scrap the most nonsensical end of year exams the state had pushed because, well, it’s silly to give 6 year olds final exams on any and everything including art and P.E.

Parents and educators alike want more bold moves from decision makers to amend other poorly thought out policies (I’ll personally wash the cars of any superintendents who eliminate the insane practice of mandatory retention. Seriously. Wax too.). Positive change does not come all at once. The recent actions of Florida’s superintendents give hope that perhaps this is a wave building, ready to crest and then break onto the shore. If that is indeed the case, they are worthy of our most sincere acclamation.

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