Candidates mouthed the words “education” a lot in 2014, but it was not a decisive election issue. Still, against the odds, 2015 might be the year the Florida Department of Education makes a sincere effort to make its testing policies reasonable.
There has been legitimate concern that Rick Scott, safe in his second term and no longer facing a re-election battle, would revert from moderation to his old ways. That would mean new attacks on public education and teachers or, at best, indifference. But Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is following through on Gov. Scott’s campaign promise to thoroughly review high-stakes testing in the state. There are two reasons to hope this won’t result only in a straight-to-the-shelf study: The timing is right, and Pam Stewart is better situated than her politicized predecessors to oversee a competent job.
First, the timing. Anger over highstakes testing has been building. Parents and students say the unrelenting testing puts too much stress on students and eats up valuable instructional time. Educators say the state has used the tests to punish them. That rising anger coincides with rising suspicion about the Common Core State Standards that Florida is adopting.