Shame on Governor Fallin!
Towards the end of my weekend post in which I called upon Governor Fallin to sign HB 2625 into law, I asked the following question:
What does a combined vote of 132-7 from the state legislature mean, if not that the will of the people is clear?
Those are the numbers: 89-6 in the House, and 43-1 in the Senate.
This afternoon, Mary Fallin announced that she had vetoed HB 2625. She claimed it would “gut” the Reading Sufficiency Act. The opposite is true. Everything in the RSA would remain. Added to the fold would be a committee that includes the child’s teacher and a parent. The committee would have to be unanimous in recommending promotion for a third-grade student who did not pass the test or meet one of the six “good cause” exemptions. In quite a few cases, the student would still have been retained.
She threw around the usual trite nonsense at her press conference. Remediation. Prison. Poverty. She said the law protects special education students and English Language Learners. She’s either a really good liar, or she’s spent even less time in schools than I thought.
Starting early this afternoon, those following the legislation were anticipating on Twitter what Fallin might do.
After she announced the veto, reaction was swift and fierce.
One other thing is important to remember. Fallin is the current chair of the National Governor’s Association, which actually has written about how states should approach third grade retention policies (p. 38).
In the case of Florida, the retention policy is part of a multi-pronged strategy that reformed teacher preparation and certification requirements, professional development, intervention strategies, and education funding policies. For example, over the last decade, Florida retrained elementary school teachers on evidence-based strategies to teach reading and further reinforced the training through reading coaches in low performing schools. During a five-year period, with support from federal funds, the state provided professional development workshops based on the recommendations of the National Reading Panel to all 35,000 K-3 teachers. In 2005, the state legislature established a research-based reading instruction allocation as a permanent categorical aid in the state’s school funding formula. These funds are allocated to districts each year to support development and implementation of districts’ research-based reading plans and to pay for reading coaches, particularly for low performing schools.
State leaders considering a retention policy should use caution in selecting assessment instruments to ensure they are valid and reliable for the purpose of such decisions. Policymakers should also weigh the costs and benefits: While retention may reduce the costs of remediation later on, the policy incurs the immediate cost of an extra year of schooling for retained students. Finally, looking down the road, both the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are developing K-12 assessments that are aligned to the CCSS and have higher cut scores for reading proficiency. The implementation of these assessments, scheduled to begin in the fall of 2014, is likely to dramatically increase the number of third-graders deemed reading below grade level, and state policymakers should consider – and prepare for – the ramifications of a retention policy under these new assessments.
Did we tie substantial funding to the retention law? No. Did we make professional development available? More of late, but the coverage is sparse. Did we use caution in selecting reliable and valid instruments. No. Did we consider the impact of the impending switch to next generation assessments? Not at all.
Fallin simply followed the ALEC-approved, Jeb Bush-certified playbook. She provided political coverage for Janet Barresi. She refused to listen to the parents and teachers who know the impact of this decision to a far greater extent than she. Rob Miller aptly identifies what’s happening here as hubris.
There is one hope left. The legislature has to override the veto. Call your representative and senator. Hell, call them all. Email them. Do whatever you can. There are 7,970 children depending on you.