Closing the Honesty Gap in the Sunshine State

On October 6, 2015, Karen Nussle, Executive Director of the Collaborative for Student Success, issued the following memo on Florida’s upcoming decision on honesty and transparency:

The Collaborative for Student Success yesterday weighed in on a contentious statewide debate brewing in Florida over how the state should define student proficiency.

At its core, the debate in Florida is not unlike the debates taking place in states across the country. Policymakers are divided over the degree to which states intend to be truthful with parents and students about the level of subject proficiency among students.

We believe parents and the public need to keep policymakers honest – not only in Florida, but in every state.

Governor Scott’s Decision

In the coming weeks, Florida education officials will adopt “cut scores” for the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), the state’s newly administered, Common Core-aligned achievement test.

Disagreement over exactly how high to set those cut scores is pitting members of the Florida Board of Education, who are calling for cut scores to be as high as possible, against groups representing teachers and school superintendents, who argue that high cut scores essentially perpetuate failure.

In the middle, is Gov. Rick Scott, whose appointees on the State Board of Education will make a decision by January.

The Honesty Gap Revisited

Earlier this year, the Collaborative launched The Honesty Gap campaign nationally. The initiative exposed the sometimes glaring rift between real student achievement rates as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), broadly considered the Gold Standard of student proficiency measures, and student achievement rates reported by the states.

For the 2013-14 school year, Florida showed a 22-point discrepancy between state reported proficiency scores and NAEP in fourth-grade reading, and a 16-point discrepancy in eighth-grade math.

Collaborative Ad

The Collaborative yesterday released a humorous 60-second online ad that illustrates the sad consequences of low expectations and a lack of integrity when it comes to reporting student outcomes. It urges Florida parents to tell Gov. Scott that “students and parents deserve honest information now, not later in life.”

“When I grow up, I want a dead-end, no-wage job,” says one of the children sarcastically in the ad, which will appear as a banner on newspaper and political websites statewide.

“In college, I want to pay for learning stuff that I should have learned in high school,” intones another.

“I want to drop out of college with debt and no degree so I can move into my parents’ basement,” echoes a third student.

Concludes the ad: “This is what happens when we aren’t honest about what a passing score is and we tell students they are ready when they actually aren’t.”

While these lines are meant to be sarcastic and humorous, they represent a stunning reality faced by many young people today when they complete high school. The promise of Common Core State Standards has always been predicated not only on high standards, but also on accurate measurements of progress under those standards. Florida’s decision to either close the Honesty Gap or, conversely, take the politically expedient route and continue on with business as usual will have implications for an entire generation of young children.

We believe this is an issue worth fighting for, and that is why we’ve entered the fray.

Click here to learn more about Florida’s Honesty Gap.