In 1999 the Florida Legislature and then-Gov. Jeb Bush enacted a law that said the state willassign valid grades to every public school. In 2001 Congress and President George W. Bush enacted a law that said every public school student in the United States will perform on grade level by 2014. In 2011 the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott enacted a law that said the state will give every public school teacher a fair evaluation that takes all factors, such as student learning readiness, into account.
While they’re at it, why don’t these politicians decree that every student will be 7 feet tall, will have a mean jump shot and will be a terrific free-throw shooter?
If the Legislature did pass such a law, Billy Donovan would not suddenly lack for centers. And he’d know it, too. The University of Florida basketball coach possesses an actual, accurate measuring tool.
That’s what educators haven’t had. In Florida, they started out using the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test for school grades and to gauge compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind. And for years, they even pretended that the FCAT was valid for those purposes.
Lately, though, a little reality has crept in. The FCAT is being phased out. The feds admit that the goal of universal academic competence was a pipe dream. Waivers are the new compliance.
You can’t make something so just by declaring that it will be so — even if you are a lawmaker, governor or president.
Apparently, Gov. Scott, the Legislature and the state Department of Education think reality should apply only to laws at least a decade old. They insist that the state knows how to fairly evaluate each and every teacher.
The contention is absurd. The teachers union has provided numerous examples of the evolving system’s flaws. The examples include evaluating teachers based on the grades of students they did not teach, and a system that — when it grinds through a complicated statistical model and hits a dead end — gives the teacher a default rating of “effective.”
We won’t enumerate all the flaws the union uncovered; they are too numerous. And, yes, the union is not truly gung-ho on evaluations. But the union was specific in its criticism. In response, Gov. Scott and the Department of Education fell back on two main answers: 1) On his listening tour, Gov. Scott heard that “stakeholders” want teachers to be evaluated, and 2) Like it or lump it.
So as the state did with with the FCAT, Florida will make believe that it can create a valid evaluation system just by saying it will be so. Which will not be true.