Wow: Education Department Rolls Out New Website, Hotline
Amidst the confusion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or FCAT results, the Florida Department of Education launched a new website aimed at engaging parents and answering their questions. The site, has a blog and online forum through which questions can be submitted. There is also a hot line, where presumably experts field questions about FCAT 2.0.
The site, floridapathtosuccess.org, was rolled out one week after the State Board of Education moved to drop the passing score on FCAT Writing, due to the more than 60 percent failure rate statewide. But officials said it was in the works prior to the poor results being made public.
On the home page, Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson explains that, scores dropped this year because of the more demanding standards that were introduced in FCAT 2.0. Raising standards and measuring students’ progress is a critical part of the education process, he adds.
Robinson also touts the $1 billion added to the state budget for schools next year “to help students and teachers master our new higher standards.”
As if in anticipation, answers to some questions are already provided on the new site. This one caught our attention:
Q: Isn’t toughening the standards without giving kids more help and resources to meet them just setting them up to fail?
No. Florida would never pursue a system that would set its children up for failure. Florida education leaders, including our commissioner of education, school superintendents, school principals and school boards are committed to providing teachers and students the resources they need to be successful in the classroom. Struggling students have access to a host of help and support, summer Reading camps, longer school days, after school tutoring, and individualized education planning involving their parents and teachers.
There is a bit more to the answer about needing the raise the bar and the fact that Florida has not established new achievement levels in reading and mathematics for more than 10 years.
But the answer to this particular question could hardly be credible. While lawmakers did add $1 billion in additional funding toward public schools, these sums fall far short of what’s needed to restore the severe cuts to education over the recent past.
Whereas per student public schools funding was $7,143 in 2007-2008, that’s now $6,366 in 2012-2013. Moreover, according to the data, state education spending cuts in 2011-2012 alone caused a $575 per student reduction in school spending. The upcoming budget will restore only one-quarter of that loss.
Also in the new budget beginning in July, other educational, mentoring and tutoring programs were slashed or kept at the same level as the previous year, without any provision for growth. Higher education and student financial aid programs, such as Bright Futures Scholarships have been cut. Historically Black Private Colleges will also receive less funding in the new fiscal year. And public schools received $0 for fixed capital cost!
So yes, parents and all Floridians, should be more than a little bit concerned that, the introduction of tougher standards without proper funding to assist kids in meeting those higher standards, will more likely than not result in failure. Surely, this is not the way to compete with the rest of the nation and create a world class education system for the 21st Century.