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Brevard Superintendent: Florida Testing System In Need Of Reform

Photo: Lindsey Kilbride
Photo: Lindsey Kilbride

Central Florida students will soon be sharpening their pencils to take high stakes tests. Students aren’t the only ones affected by their outcomes. A new Orange County report shows little evidence Florida’s teacher merit-pay law is raising student achievement. The state legislature adopted the law in 2011. It ties teacher pay and promotions to how students perform on standardized tests.

Brevard Superintendent Desmond Blackburn joined us in-studio to talk more about the law that some call a failure and standardized testing.

Chavez: First, what are your thoughts about how Florida evaluates and pays teachers?

Blackburn: I think Florida is at a crossroads and we can certainly do some reflecting on what has worked in the past and look at our modern-day concerns to seek some reform in the area of how we pay our teachers.

Chavez: What impact have you seen this law have in Brevard County?

Blackburn: Well, I think not only in Brevard, it's been a mixed bag. We have an accountability system, we have an assessment in the state of Florida that has caused a great deal of angst among its citizens, its staff, and its children. The whole bag of it, from how many assessments we give our children to the use of our assessments, to tying our teacher salary to those assessment scores combines for matters that we need to study a bit more.

Chavez: Some teachers say the system isn’t fair in part because a majority of them don’t teach a subject covered by state exams. What do you say to those teachers?

Blackburn: Well, I agree in that our current system is in need of reform. I believe over the last decade here in Florida we’ve tweaked away at it enough and now it’s time for us to really take a hard, long look at not only the types of assessments we give our children, the frequency of those assessments, but the way we use those test scores.

Out of all of the many tasks and responsibilities that our classroom teachers have, if we see ‘test score’ as the financial incentive among all of the different tasks, we really have to ask ourselves, is that the most important thing we want from our teachers? And that is preparing our children for scores on an assessment quite frankly, that have limited value to them in the world.

Listen to the entire interview with Superintendent Blackburn by clicking on the audio player at the top of this post.

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