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Confusion in wake of school board testing vote

By Staff | May 1, 2015

A decision the School Board of Lee County made Tuesday night has caused some concern among teachers employed in the district.

Teachers Association of Lee County President Mark Castellano said teachers are experiencing a lot of confusion and stress since the School Board of Lee County unanimously voted to eliminate the 30 percent weight the End of Course exams (EOC) have on a student’s final grade.

“Noone is saying they are wrong,” he said, although the teachers have shared that there are a lot of things that board did not take into account or were made aware of before the vote was made.

Student participation in End of Course exams will continue for those enrolled in algebra I, algebra II, geometry, U.S. history, biology and middle school civics for assessment purposes. Although the students will take the exams, the result of the assessment will not have an impact on the student’s final grade.

A few days before the board voted, Superintendent Nancy Graham empowered principals to eliminate hundreds of end of year Common Course exams that were previously required by the state in nearly every subject. The exams were used in calculating a teacher’s VAM score, which is required for the statewide teacher performance system.

Board member Steve Teuber said the teachers need to figure out how to build the third component. He said they are going to have to document it, substantiate it and say this is what we did.

Teuber said he believes it is a well articulated plan that is laid out well.

“It puts the control back into the classroom,” he said.

Because the district has not received a system that works, he said the teachers have to do extra work to provide a system to fill the gap.

“It’s extra work for the district, but it’s what’s right for the kids,” Teuber said. “We are not throwing a temper tantrum. It’s just we have to be able to do our job and have a system that works, is verifiable and doesn’t disrupt or impede the education in Lee County.”

The largest benefit from the board’s decision is taking stress away from the students.

“The kids don’t have to stress about never seeing this test,” Teuber said. “There is historical proof that the testing system is flawed.”

He said the test has failed several times already and by having the students take it they are putting them in harm’s way by having them take a test that is not validated.

The kids, Teuber said are still getting an education and being held accountable.

Castellano said the board’s decision has a large impact on teachers. He said 30 percent of the student score will have an impact on the 33 percent that is still required for teacher evaluations.

The big question, Castellano said is by eliminating that 30 percent, what does it do to the teachers’ evaluation score.

“It left everyone in limbo and that is an alarm,” he said of the decision. “They created a black hole.”

Castellano said if a student realizes the test is not going to count, what stops a number of them from saying “Hey it doesn’t matter and I’m going to Christmas tree this.” He said the teachers are afraid that thought process will be more students doing this approach than not.

“All these things the board didn’t take into account,” Castellano said. “There is already enough tension and stress with testing every year. To do this, the impact of this, has elevated everyone’s stress level.”

For eight months out of the school year, teachers have been teaching to particular standards and expectations of a test that the teachers were preparing the students to take.

“To say in the last hour while the testing is taking place, you can change this and do this other thing instead,” he said raises concerns. “It changes things. It creates added stress.”

Castellano said it’s not that it cannot be done, but it creates more confusion to an already messed up testing scenario in the state of Florida.

Beginning last week, teachers were given the flexibility to choose the final exam for subjects that does not require statewide assessments.

Castellano said the CCE, Common Core Exams, are now optional.

“If the teacher chooses not to give the CCE, they can either use an EOC or they can create their own exam or final exam to give,” he said.

Castellano said the EOC, which replaced FCAT testing, are tests developed by testing companies. He said the CCE are locally created district tests that had to be approved by the state.

“Those end up being kind of like a final exam type of test,” Castellano said.

The CCE and EOC, which are state mandated tests since 2011, he said, have escalated the already crazy testing for Florida.

“Instead of simplifying it, they keep adding monkey wrenches to it,” Castellano said.

Teuber said their job as a board is to finish a school year and move onto the next year.

Currently, he said, the district will not receive testing data back until November or December.

“We have to hold open a third of our kid’s performance,” he said. “We need to finish out our year and have our kids move on and move to the next grade.”