Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran and Governor DeSantis are facing a high stakes COVID-19 test of their very own. Their performance will tell us whether they value the health and well-being of three million public school students, teachers and staff members more than the spring testing season and the data it produces. Without this data, Florida loses the tool it depends on to punish children, teachers and districts.
NO parent thinks any high stakes test is a red-hot priority, especially now. It’s concerning that Commissioner Corcoran thinks that closing schools for a week after spring break is going to make it safe to send students back into teeming high schools filled with 3,600 students and a large staff.
In fact, the only folks who think it’s smart to hurry back to school by April 1st to begin FSA testing is Commissioner Corcoran and the Board of Education. Let’s get real. We have left “normal” far behind. Even the USDOE has issued guidance to states that they can apply for a one-year waiver on testing due to the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis. As parents, what do we want for our children in this new reality?
In a triage situation, Doctors decide the order of treatment by determining degrees of urgency when treating large numbers of casualties. In that case, Florida’s high school seniors should be Florida’s very first in line. They need a clear path to graduation based on the new reality COVID-19 looks a lot more like 8 weeks of staying at home as recently advised by Centers for Disease Control.
Please consider the humanity of these children. Seniors and families are already grieving the fact that they are probably going to lose milestone memories we all take for granted such prom, senior sports nights, choir and theater performances, even graduation.
Governor DeSantis, Commissioner Corcoran and all school districts must put every resource into making sure these seniors receive their high school diplomas so they can transition into their next step in the fall whether its university, college or technical degrees.
Parents and teachers should be asking Governor DeSantis, Commissioner Corcoran and the Board of Education for the following:
- Declare the 2019-20 testing season a loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Apply to the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary DeVos, for a one-year state-wide waiver on testing due to the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis
- Governor DeSantis: Issue an executive order to waive the required 180 school days for the 2019-20 school year for all students as Connecticut Governor Lamont did on 3.12.20
- Governor DeSantis: Support district efforts to get food to students in need, share Federal COVID-19 dollars to make this happen
- High School Seniors: Provide path to graduation based on three quarters, not four
- Allow a directed individual study such as a research paper or project to mitigate the missing 4th quarter
- Waive required End of Course Exams, FSA and other state or district mandated exams
- Make AP exams optional
- Make district mandated SAT and ACT tests optional
- Remove all high stakes from on-line learning for students, teachers and districts. Recognize that this crisis-driven “solution” is being delivered by opportunistic vendors of unknown quality, with teachers offered an insulting $200 from the Florida Department of Education to convert their classes.
The greatest test we all face right now is beating the spread of COVID-19. We’ve all read that the most important COVID-19 containment practice is “social distancing” with the goal to “flatten the curve.” This means staying home, limiting exposure to reduce new cases as much as possible so the number of new cases doesn’t overwhelm our medical system. This is what China did and new cases are finally on the decline. When this doesn’t happen, a situation like what Italy is experiencing will result where doctors are forced to decide who gets a ventilator and who does not. Who lives or who dies.
If that doesn’t put things into perspective about the low priority Florida’s high stakes test machine deserves , what will?
From writer Mattia Ferraresi, Italian newspaper Il Foglio via the Boston Globe, “A Coronovirus cautionary tale from Italy: Don’t do what we did“
“According to several data scientists, Italy is about 10 days ahead of Spain, Germany, and France in the epidemic progression, and 13 to 16 days ahead of the United Kingdom and the United States. That means those countries have the opportunity to take measures that today may look excessive and disproportionate, yet from the future, where I am now, are perfectly rational in order to avoid a health care system collapse. The United States has some 45,000 ICU beds, and even in a moderate outbreak scenario, some 200,000 Americans will need intensive care.
I put myself in their shoes, and realized that everything should be done in order to avoid those ethically devastating choices: How do we decide who gets an ICU bed and who doesn’t? Age? Life expectancy? How many kids they have? Their special abilities? Is the patient’s profession a relevant factor? Is it right to save a middle-aged doctor who will save more lives if he survives as opposed to a younger person who’s been unemployed for the last 12 months? These are the kind of theoretical questions you are asked to weigh in leadership classes at business school. But this is not a personality test. It’s real lives.
The way to avoid or mitigate all this in the United States and elsewhere is to do something similar to what Italy, Denmark, and Finland are doing now, but without wasting the few, messy weeks in which we thought a few local lock-downs, canceling public gatherings, and warmly encouraging working from home would be enough stop the spread of the virus. We now know that wasn’t nearly enough.”
The way we handle this COVID-19 pandemic is our defining moment. As parents and teachers we must not assist the state, led by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, use his allegiance to Florida’s arbitrary high stakes testing schedule place undue stress on our children. We have to let Governor DeSantis, Commissioner Corcoran and Board of Education Chair Andy Tuck know that they must make our children a priority and waive high stakes testing for 2019-20. Anything short of that earns these public servants a solid “F.”
Governor Ron DeSantis
Twitter: @GovRonDeSantis | Phone: Gov. DeSantis: 850.488.7146
Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran
Phone: 850-245-0505 | Twitter: @RichardCorcoran
Andy Tuck, Chair Florida Board of Education
Email: Andy.Tuck@fldoe.org | Twitter: @nutrequik
Check daily updated COVID-19 stats here.
From the U.S.D.O.E., Guidance paper here.
On Thursday, the Education Department announced that it would relieve school systems of some of their responsibilities under federal law. It will consider one-year waivers for state-administered tests or requirements that districts test 95 percent of their students. It would also allow waivers for certain measures of a school’s effectiveness ratings, such as chronic absenteeism, as required under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
USDOE However, due to the unique circumstances that may arise as a result of COVID-19, such as a school closing during the entire testing window, it may not be feasible for a State to administer some or all of its assessments, in which case the Department would consider a targeted one-year waiver of the assessment requirements for those schools impacted by the extraordinary circumstances.
Flattening the curve is critical to making sure as many people as possible survive.