Under the guise of stopping Common Core, the Lee County School Board voted last night to "opt out" of all state mandated testing. The decision was not only reckless, illegal and against School Board policy, it jeopardizes every child in Lee County that were entrusted into the care of this School Board. The 3-2 vote, was without any direction or plan on how to move the District forward and creates a huge disruption in our school system that directly impacts all our children in a negative way.
Contrary to the rumors, the vote did not stop Common Core. It didn't even properly address the problem of excessive testing in our local schools. Due to a lack of information and the complexity of the problem, the public is confusing "excessive testing," "high stakes testing," and "Common Core," and using them interchangeably. They are all related, and even intertwined, but are distinctly different.
The excessive testing problem that parents, teachers and administrators are rightfully complaining about are, to a large part, a local problem, that could have been fixed locally, without jeopardizing our students. Since a majority of the tests currently being administered are a result of local directives, the School Board could have addressed a majority of the "excessive testing" problem in a much more efficient and less disruptive manner than the action performed last night.
The Common Core issue, which is truly the systemic issue across the state and nation, needs to be fought at the local, state and federal level and will take a concerted effort to be effective. By working through the SW Florida Consortium of School Boards, the LCSB could have wielded greater power with less risk to our students. The SWFL Consortium is comprised of all coastal districts from Charlotte to West Palm (that constitutes 70 percent of the student population in the state), and many of the Boards whom are expressing the same concerns as Lee County. This group, acting in unison, would have forced the state into action without putting our students in harm's way by acting alone.
As for Common Core, a new law, put into effect this year, gave this School Board the authority to take complete control of the local curriculum. Even though this Board did nothing with this new law, this avenue should have been embraced and utilized to eradicate Common Core material from Lee County. Once that was accomplished, the alignment of an assessment that measures locally controlled curriculum could have been locally developed. Only then would an argument against the state testing standard be valid and appropriate. To simply stop using the state tests when we are still teaching the state standards ("Common Core") with Common Core filled state curriculum is ill-advised and without any rational basis or foundation.
As a result of last night's action, Lee County students now stand on the train track poised to be run over while the reckless "Band of 3" play politics at the behest of our children. Florida Statute states that "all actions of district school officials shall be consistent and in harmony with state laws and with rules and minimum standards of the state board." This blatant violation of state law jeopardizes our children in ways that, by their own admission, the three Board Members have not even contemplated. Writing letters to legislators and the Governor, demanding action after the die has been cast is foolish and irresponsible with the impact falling directly on our students.
The unintended and unknown consequences created by a public policy board making decisions based on emotions may result in irreversible damage to graduating seniors, loss of coveted academic programs (Cambridge, International Baccalaureate, Microsoft, etc.), and disastrous financial consequences. One of the Board Members was quoted that "it takes courage" to make support a decision like this one. It is not courage when it is not you that suffers the consequences of your actions.
In sum, the three Board Members voted last night for political gain and chose to gamble with my daughter's future and the future of everyone else's children without any plans on the next step in the saga. I am frustrated with this reckless behavior and pray for our teachers and our children.
Steven Teuber is a former school board member and current candidate for the Lee County School Board, District 4.