BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Heads are spinning within the Lee County School District, as the school board voted 3-2 to opt the district out of standardized testing. The decision was made on Wednesday, Aug. 27, and it made history.
Lee County is now the first county in Florida to opt out of the tests. What that means to supporters of the school board’s decision is that students will no longer be in dread of being held back because they failed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and that they will be graded on their schoolwork … not on their FCAT scores.
What that means to opponents of the school board’s decision is a strong possibility of less funding, less accountability on students’ permanent records and an uncertainty as to how the state will track student progress without the familiar FCAT mastery marker.
So how will this decision affect The Island School, as a Lee County charter school?
Head-of-School Jean Thompson isn’t exactly sure yet. She is looking at all the possibilities now, about how the Lee County school board’s decision will effect The Island School.
What Thompson is certain of, though, is that Island School students will have their educational needs met, no matter what.
“Ihad heard rumbles about this out of Lee County,” she said. “I know some of the Lee County School Board members wanted a plan in place for dealing with all the impacts that would come with that decision, prior to voting. Even if they don’t do state testing, and I still don’t know what that means for us if they don’t, we’re looking at all available options. We don’t even know yet how Tallahassee will respond to this. The kids that this will have immediate impact on is our third grade students, and we can’t sit back and not have a plan in place. No matter what Lee County does.”
Third grade is when students start taking the FCATs. If third graders don’t pass the state assessment, they don’t pass third grade. And if the tests that the state recognizes are not an option within the Lee County school districts, how will this school year’s third graders show they are ready to progress to the next grade?
Thompson also said that she wouldn’t be surprised if other school districts were to follow suit soon.
“I think this is the just the beginning,” she said. “Ithink other districts will start to go that way, too. There’s a lot of parent uproar about the testing. But, as I said, this school will make sure we do what’s right by our kids. We will have everything covered.”
Of the five Lee County School Board members voting last Wednesday, two board members, Don Armstrong and Tom Scott, were strongly in favor of the district opting out of the standardized tests. Jeanne Dozier and Cathleen Morgan voted against opting out of the tests, based primarily on the fact that the Lee County School District had no other plan in place, and had not done its homework as to what affects the district would feel from the decision.
Board member Mary Fischer broke the tie after hesitating, but finally joining Armstrong and Scott in opposition of standardized testing.