• Home »
  • News »
  • Our op-ed in today's Orlando Sentinel

Our op-ed in today's Orlando Sentinel

In a new op-ed published in today's Orlando Sentinel, Jacksonville Public Education Fund President Trey Csar outlines the case for what Florida needs in a modern school accountability system.

What elements do you think we need in a modern school grading system? Share in the comments below.

-- Deirdre


Orlando Sentinel, Thursday, September 19, 2013

Modernize state's school accountability

By Trey Csar

Florida needs to change its school-accountability system to meet the needs of the 21st century. The recent education summit in Clearwater was an important first step, but more work remains.

Our school-grading system was created to provide citizens a way to gauge public-school performance, while creating the expectation that all students could learn at a high level. But Florida's system is now one of the oldest in the nation. We need a new accountability system to ensure that Florida students are prepared for the future. Here's how:

  • Ensure full implementation of Common Core State Standards. These standards are not a curriculum. Instead, they outline what skills a student at each grade level should be expected to master, so that when they graduate from high school, they are ready for college and the work force. The standards give teachers more freedom, not less, because they are designed to build critical-thinking skills and go deeper into fewer topics, so kids master the material instead of memorizing.
  • Participate in a multistate assessment based on those standards so we'll know how well Florida schools and students are performing compared with their peers across the nation.
  • Modernize the school-grading system and plan for changes. The system must be transparent and easy to understand. It should be based not only on proficiency, but also significantly on student growth. And it should rely on more than just scores. Most important, it should include review and revision cycles every four to five years. This would allow for changes but ensure the system remains stable during off-cycle years. When changes are made, the state should consider suspending school grades for one year to prevent improper year-to-year comparisons.
  • Ensure the teacher-evaluation system moves in tandem with the rest of these changes. Components of a teacher's evaluation should include multiple unannounced principal visits, student surveys and value-added student-growth scores to provide a true assessment of a teacher's skill. Growth in teacher compensation should be linked to these multimetric teacher evaluations.

The state should convene a diverse commission to work on building a robust, stable and multidimensional school-accountability system that will provide meaningful and easy-to-understand information. Students and schools are depending on it.

Trey Csar is the president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, a nonprofit organization committed to increasing demand for high-quality public schools.