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Déjà Vu All Over Again

• Lowell Matthews

You probably noticed the great fanfare over Florida’s new Advanced Placement (AP) results this past week.

Wait…You didn’t hear anything about it?

So, you haven’t heard that Florida is third in the country in the percentage of 2014 high school graduates who scored a college level score on an AP exam?

And that this was despite a poverty rate of almost 58 percent in Florida public schools?

You didn’t hear that almost 6 in 10 Florida public school graduates in 2014 took an AP exam, the highest state participation rate in the country?

But I’m sure you heard from the teachers’ union about the great work of Florida’s AP teachers. No?

Did any media pundits or anti-testing groups tell you that last year Florida was one of only a few states that eliminated the achievement gap on AP between Hispanics and white students, and the only state to do so with a substantial Hispanic population?

The reason for the silence from the above is that the vast improvement in Florida’s public education system over the past 15 years does not fit their failed narrative of failed reforms. And so any and all mishaps or perceived wrongs with those reforms are trumpeted and the hard data showing they are working, such as the latest AP results, are ignored.

In the last two years, we have heard constant union complaints about the alleged “evils” of high-stakes, standardized testing in our schools.

It just so happens that AP exams are high-stakes, standardized tests. Yet there are no protests about AP exams being too hard. No one is calling for the end of AP because it is “one-size fits all.” You don’t hear about kids getting ill from the stress of taking AP exams. You don’t hear anything about the alleged evils of the high-stakes, standardized SAT or ACT either.

However, in the last two years, we have heard constant union complaints about the alleged “evils” of high-stakes, standardized testing in our schools.

Do you honestly believe that a high school diploma is high-stakes? Try getting a high-paying job now with only a high school diploma. Like it or not, a students’ performance on industry certification exams, AP exams, ACT and SAT tests can greatly influence their future scholarships, earning potential and even their future career choices. That, my friends, is real high-stakes testing.

So if you’re wondering why there a difference between the reaction to AP and the state tests, I have an idea. It boils down to expectations.

Union bosses don’t object to challenging high-performing students. But they balk at setting the same expectations for low-performing students. They are wrong, and the data prove it.

The union can’t argue the facts— improving Florida test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, rising graduation rates, more kids taking and scoring at a college level on an AP exam, more kids taking and earning industry certifications in high-demand fields, the tremendous reading gains made by low-income children, and so on.

It is precisely because we do have high expectations for all children that Florida stands out from the crowd in academic gains.

The union argues that we should return to the days when union leaders dominated public education policy, a time when our lowest-performing kids learned exactly what was expected of them – nothing.

It is déjà vu all over again, and so we know how it ends for our students – badly.

About the author

Lowell Matthews