Board gives Smith earful about testing

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By Mike Wright

INVERNESS — School district officials who see the angst standardized testing brings to students and teachers brought their frustration Tuesday to state Rep. Jimmie T. Smith.

The school board, which met with Smith and representatives of U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, said testing requirements are unfair to struggling students and create an unrealistic expectation for students and educators.

Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam” Himmel and board member Pat Deutschman said a system requiring students to pass a single a test to move to the next grade or graduate dooms students who do well in class but struggle on tests.

Himmel said legislators and the state Board of Education   believe through its laws and policies all students should attend college — whether or not they have that desire or ability.

Educators point to a test that all high school juniors must pass to attend college, even if they don’t want to attend college. If juniors fail the test, they must take a remediation class their senior year.

Himmel said that makes no sense.

“The desire is being taken away from our kids,” she said. “We are ready for a train wreck.”

Smith, R-Inverness, said he supports vocational options for high school seniors, and changing the testing system to accommodate those students.

Deutschman, who is leading Citrus County’s effort against the one-test-fits-all standard for students, said the state should have a tiered testing system so that students in all levels are helped.

She said testing and preparing for tests takes the equivalent of an entire year of instruction away from students during their 12-year school career.

“Somebody is always in disruption,” she said.

Board members also said the state should have the same testing requirements in charter schools that receive state funding as it does with public schools.

“I don’t see why a charter school would be given a pass,” board member Linda Powers said.

Board member Thomas Kennedy added: “The rules are skewed to allow them to succeed. There’s got to be an equalizer there.”

Smith said he believes the state should reduce requirements for successful districts, such as Citrus County’s.

And he said others have opposite opinions on the testing issue.

“There is an alternate side,” he said, “to every argument you’re making.”