Wednesday, March 12, 2014

why you should care about Rick Roach

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Long-standing Orange County School Board member Rick Roach has decided not to run for a 5th term.  This may surprise people, as he has been a passionate and vocal member of this board for 16 years.  He came to the fore when he took and failed the FCAT in 2011, becoming an outspoken critic of the drive for testing that currently consumes the state.  He has decided to run for Commissioner of Education in Florida and is considered an unlikely candidate given his opposition to the FCAT's use for student and teacher evaluations.  I post his open letter here from the Washington Post in the hopes that someone, somewhere in Tallahassee might actually listen to teachers and consider a new path to educational excellence. 

I won’t seek a 5th term on the Orange County School Board
My many years as an Orange County’ School Board member representing District 3 have been rewarding beyond description. What I’ve learned, my friendships with students, teachers, administrators, constituents, members of civic and business organizations and fellow board members, the satisfactions of problems solved—even wrestling with problems that have no good solution—have unquestionably changed me for the better.
But I’m leaving in November, and I want to say why. I’m not leaving because I feel I can no longer make a difference in Orange County, but because I want to make a bigger difference than my role allows.
First, after 42 years as an educator and 16 as a school board member, I no longer recognize my profession. People who have never taught, or have been out of the classroom too long to remember teaching’s complexity, now control the institution. Education policy makers, who wouldn’t dream of telling surgeons how to wield a scalpel or telling pilots how to land an airliner, seem perfectly comfortable dictating rigid guidelines for teachers.
Second, the push to standardize has gotten out of control. As the world’s problems grow increasingly complex, we don’t need standardized minds but fresh thinking. We’ve long led the world in creativity and ingenuity, but those now running  the education show in Washington and Tallahassee have steadily taken away the trust, freedom and respect  that once allowed teachers to use their strengths effectively. I want to use my knowledge and experience to help solve these problems.
Finally, it’s the drive to test, test, and re-test that leads me to conclude that it’s time for me to do more to change this agenda.  That a score on a single, machine-scored, multiple-choice test can erase 180 days of work and override teacher judgment is insulting. Test manufacturers say, in print, that no single measure is accurate enough to base life-changing decisions on it, but their warnings are ignored, as is the fact that failure rates are set even before the tests are administered.
We’re so caught up in the testing frenzy, we even insist on testing kids with severe brain impairments, or who have little or no brain at all.  Immigrant children who arrive in America speaking no English are tested after only one year, when research clearly says it takes at least four or five years to become proficient in a new language. Pass-fail cut scores ignore margins-of-error, forcing kids to repeat a class for a full year because they missed the cut by a point or two. This has to end.
It has been my pleasure to serve you for the past 16 years and I want to continue to be your voice and search for common sense solutions, always putting our students first. My passion for real education tells me to get closer to the battlefield where decisions are being made. There are better ways to educate than we’re using and I want to find and promote them.
Yours in Education,
Judge “Rick”Roach

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