Last month, a group of Republican legislators led by Senator and President Pro Tem Anitere Flores and House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Manny Diaz were joined by Foundation for Excellence in Education CEO Patricia Levesque in declaring their support for the status quo in Florida’s statewide testing policy (as represented in SB 926 and HB 773). Well, that wouldn’t quite be accurate – they wanted the whole testing program compressed into the last three weeks of the school year. It now occupies several months because many of the tests are online and the number of available computers limits the rate at which students can take the tests.
At about the same time, Democratic Senator Bill Montford – who is also CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents – filed a bill (SB 964) that would make significant and wide-ranging changes to the state’s accountability system. Among many other changes, the Geometry and Algebra 2 end-of-course exams would be eliminated, and the bill would likely allow districts to substitute the SAT or ACT for the 10th grade FSA language arts exam.
But opposing the Foundation? It seemed at the time like a quixotic quest. However, Montford has assembled a group of Republican Senators – and one Republican House member – to go to battle against the Foundation’s coalition. It’s an impressive group of Senators, including former Senate President Tom Lee and Education Committee Vice Chair Debbie Mayfield. According to Tampa Bay Times reporter Jeff Solochek, Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair David Simmons also supports the Montford bill.
At the very, very last minute, Republican Representative Halsey Beshears of Monticello filed a companion bill in the House (HB 1249). But it’s not at all clear that Beshears will have much Republican help in the House. And that’s where the Montford proposal will probably face its toughest challenge.
But at least Montford and his fellow warriors are going to take the fight to the Foundation. We’ll be cheering them on because as the state’s struggles in secondary math and science show, the present system isn’t working.