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Friday, August 26, 2011

Florida puts tests ahead of children

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

Jada Bryant-Roland – the Fort Meyers teenager whose FCAT score was invalidated because it couldn’t be proved she didn’t cheat – gained an ally in her home town paper. The Fort Meyers News-Press editors write:

Bryant-Roland, a 17-year-old honor student at South Fort Myers High School, learned last week that the state is upholding its invalidation of her FCAT because of possible cheating.

Possible? What kind of standard of proof and fairness is that to stand for, and to hold up as an example to young people working hard to succeed? A lousy one.

The stakes for her and for the 50 other accused students in Lee County, 7,500 statewide, are enormous. Bryant-Roland cannot graduate and her educational future is in jeopardy; she hopes to become a pediatrician. Her reputation has also been smeared.

The state is using a forensic testing company for the first time this spring to check the 4 million tests taken.

Bryant-Roland said she was told her test was similar to the incorrect answers – not the correct answers – on another student’s test. She says that student was seated several rows away from her. The test was supervised by roving monitors, so cheating seems unlikely.

A system is needed that does not punish the student when the state fails to actually prove they cheated.

“I will not stop, until I prove her innocence, even though she has never been found guilty,” Bryant-Roland’s stepfather, Alan Reinmiller, wrote to a school district official. “I have at least 20 good years of life left to be a squeaky wheel.”

He deserves some help. Our new education commissioner, Gerard Robinson, should review this system, and if he doesn’t act, our legislators should advocate for a fairer way of rooting out cheaters

This episode couldn’t be a more dangerous moment for the test-base education reform movement. Is this what they meant by empowering parents? Or making schools accountable? What’s happened to Byant-Roland is a clear demonstration that tests now are the only things that matter – and to a level of absurdity that no one could have foreseen.

Even if Robinson acts, this is a wound that will leave a permanent scar. Why some adult didn’t use good judgement before this became public is reason enough to question the motives and judgement of those making and enforcing policy.

Arne Duncan’s been running around the country saying that those involved in cheating scandals to be morally bankrupt. An entire movement presumes that they alone are putting students first. This sordid affair makes crystal clear that it is the tests which come first. Now who’s morally bankrupt?

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