Thousands of educators from across the state of Florida rallied at the state Capitol late last week to protest high-stakes testing, for-profit charter schools, and other education policies they say are bringing harm to students and perpetuating the undervaluing of teachers.
Chants of "Enough is enough!" filled the rally, organized by the Florida Education Association, the largest teachers union in the state. Those in attendance met in between the old and new Capitol buildings in order to be sure that lawmakers could hear the goings on, which included speeches made by educators who argued that change was long overdue.
Arguments over education have been increasing in volume across the state as parents, educators and those who stand opposed to the use of standardized tests to measure school accountability continue their fight. In September, a statement was issued by Florida's association of district school superintendents saying members had "lost confidence" in the system, but an editorial in the Sun-Sentinel claimed it may come to an end due to its own problems, writes Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post.
Superintendents in Florida are pushing for the system to be suspended for a year as well as a full, comprehensive review. If that were to happen, the previous administration of the Florida Standards Assessment test from last spring would not be used for evaluations.
"In this high stakes environment, students, teachers and schools should not be impacted by a rushed and flawed administration of new, untried assessments. While direct negative consequences were avoided for students, the results of a flawed assessment will impact teacher evaluations (VAM) and be used to judge the quality of school," said the statement.
The test was created after the governor refused to link an exam to Common Core standards. However, since its rollout last year it has seen a number of administration and scoring problems. Teachers argue that not only are there a number of issues with the test, but they must spend too much classroom time preparing students for the test.
Meanwhile, Governor Scott continues to back the use of the exam, saying it is necessary in order to properly measure whether teachers are doing their jobs and students are learning as they should be, reports Jeff Allen for Bay News 9.
Protesters also called for lawmakers to create accountability standards for voucher programs and for-profit charter schools in an effort to have the schools be evaluated on an equal level to traditional public schools.
Other reasons for the protest included putting an end to the "Best and Brightest" teacher bonus program, increasing wages for teachers and classroom professionals, and providing teachers with more freedom in their classrooms rather than asking them to teach to the test, writes Kristen Clark for The Miami Herald.
While no lawmakers actually spoke at the rally, a few were seen in the audience, including teacher and Sen. Dwight Bullard.