Gov. Rick Scott has been taking it on the chin a lot lately.
Remember the bill he supported to fine or yank the licenses of pediatricians who dared to ask patients’ parents whether they had a gun in their home? It died.
Remember Scott’s cockamamie scheme to drug-test ALL welfare recipients, even though studies show they use illegal drugs at far lower rates than the general population? (They’re poor; duh, they can’t afford dope). He wanted to test 80,000 state workers, too.
Remember how he had his staff ghost write letters to the editor of Florida newspapers, just in case his supporters were too dumb to write half-decent ones of their own?
Now (gasp!) it seems that most of Florida’s schoolchildren have suddenly grown a lot dumber since Scott became governor. All of a sudden, they’re miserably failing standardized reading and writing tests by alarming percentages (like 67 percent).
So what do they do in Florida when this happens? Easy peasy: They simply lower the minimum passing score.
The Board of Education decided in an emergency meeting Tuesday to lower the passing grade on the writing portion of Florida’s standardized test after preliminary results showed a drastic drop in student passing scores.
The results indicated only about a third of students would pass this year’s tougher Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exam, compared with a passing rate of 80 percent or more last year.
Not that Scott is accepting any of the blame for this. From the same story:
“Our students must know how to read and write, and our education system must be able to measure and benchmark their progress so we can set clear education goals,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a statement Monday. “The significant contrast in this year’s writing scores is an obvious indication that the Department of Education needs to review the issue and recommend an action plan so that our schools, parents, teachers and students have a clear understanding of the results.”
Here is the clincher: Those test scores are used to grade schools, and to shut down the poorest-performing ones. This actually lowers the real estate values of homes in the areas with poor-performing schools. Some areas in Florida, which already has been killed by the popping of the real-estate bubble, may be seeing further home-value declines.
More from the same story:
“This incident again demonstrates that Florida school grades reflect profoundly political decisions, not objective measures of teaching and learning,” said [a] spokesman for FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing in Jamaica Plain, Mass., Bob Schaeffer, in an email. “How can a measure which fluctuates from 81 percent to 27 percent ‘proficient’ in just one year even meet the laugh test?”
There’s the nut. How can it pass the “laugh test?” is a great question. It can’t.
To take just a bit off the sting off Scott, it should be noted that the minimum passing grades were raised significantly this year.But even when they drop them back to the old levels, by reducing the minimum, a startlingly greater number of kids are failing.
Nobody should be surprised by this, however. That’s because disgraced ex-CEO Scott has made it one of his aims as governor to thwart public education at every opportunity. There are myriad reasons for this.
One is, public school teachers are a conservative bugaboo. They organize (whether they’re in unions or not) and that makes them an evil demon in temples of the right wing.
Two, to borrow a page from Harry F. Byrd, the noted Virginia conservative: You don’t want to give kids too much schooling or they get uppity. Better off to keep to them stupid. That way, they’ll work for lower pay and they’ll shut up. Byrd actually believed that.
Three: Rick Scott has a grand master plan with regard to public schools. He wants to replace them, with privatized, at-home online education provided by companies that paid a lot in campaign donations to make sure he got elected governor.
And now that 67 percent of students in the state are failing standardized reading and writing exams, he might get his way.