Local

Manatee Superintendent Diana Greene to allow all third-grade students use of good-cause promotions

Parents, district differ on third-grade promotion requirements

Bradenton Herald education reporter Meghin Delaney discusses the newest issue arising out of the opt out movement, with parents and districts struggling over how to promote students to fourth grade without a state-mandated test score.
Up Next
Bradenton Herald education reporter Meghin Delaney discusses the newest issue arising out of the opt out movement, with parents and districts struggling over how to promote students to fourth grade without a state-mandated test score.

While expressing frustration, anger and disappointment with state education officials, Manatee County School District Superintendent Diana Greene announced all third-grade students can use good-cause promotion options — including a portfolio — to move to fourth grade.

That’s in stark contrast to a hardline position the district held for the last week, saying the state required students to have a test score on the Florida Standards Assessments to be eligible for other methods of promotion.

“The School District of Manatee County’s stance on third-grade retention was not a decision or a conclusion developed in a vacuum,” Greene wrote in a lengthy statement released Tuesday evening.

Greene said multiple conversations with state officials in the previous week led her and other district officials to believe Manatee County was using the correct, legal and supported way of promoting students.

On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Education came out with language implying districts across the state had much more control over the methods available to promote students.

“Local school districts are responsible for student progression,” said Meghan Collins, a Florida Department of Education spokeswoman. “There are requirements in the law that districts must follow (see s. 1008.25, F.S. and Rule 6A-1.094221, F.A.C.), and decisions of whether individual students should be promoted or retained are made at the district level based on these requirements.”

To say that I am angry, frustrated and disappointed in the FLDOE’s lack of leadership on this extremely important issue is a massive understatement. To pass this difficult decision off to 67 different school districts is a gross abdication of responsibility.

Diana Greene, Manatee County superintendent

In response to the state, Greene said her faith in the FSA had once again been compromised. She went on to say all students in Manatee County would be able to use the good-cause promotion options, which include taking the state-approved equivalent test, the SAT 10. That also includes the more popular option of a portfolio, which Greene said is a “collection of evidence of mastery of the state standards.”

“I want all parents in Manatee County to know that it does not benefit the school district to retain a single student who can clearly demonstrate a mastery of state standards,” Greene said. “To the contrary, we work every single day to ensure students progress to the next grade level. The intent of the school district as described above was simply an effort to follow the law, as instructed.”

For the past week, Manatee County School District officials and other districts across the state have been telling students and families a test score is a mandatory state requirement before students can take advantage of other ways to be promoted to the fourth grade.

School officials have misunderstood the district’s own power in the decision-making process, state officials said Tuesday.

Manatee County third-grade students who failed or refused to take state-mandated exams can still take the state-equivalent test Wednesday, if they choose. Greene’s announcement now means the students can opt to have a portfolio created to show the students understand the state standards.

The crux of the issue between the parents and the district was a different interpretations of state law, with school officials saying students must have a test score — either on the Florida Standards Assessment or the SAT 10 — to have a portfolio to show the student can be promoted to fourth grade and parents who had their children opt out, saying the portfolio promotion option is available even without a test score.

The SAT 10 test is still scheduled for the students who earned a level 1 on the FSA exam and for the 31 Manatee County students who have no score on the exam, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Cynthia Saunders confirmed Tuesday. Some of those 31 students were sick or absent on the day of the test, but some opted out and refused to take the test.

The opt-out movement in Florida is challenging the validity of state testing and the Florida accountability system, said Amy Lee, an administrator of the Opt Out Manatee group, a local group part of 34 similar groups across the state that make up the Opt Out Florida Network. The network fights for public education, according to officials.

Lee and others in the Opt Out Manatee page expressed relief and joy with the news on Tuesday evening, although Lee added it was unfortunate Manatee wasn’t on the right side of the issue from the beginning.

“The bravery of these third-grade parents to stand strong in their conviction is a fight of heroic proportion for children everywhere,” Lee said. “Together, our district and parents can move forward for the good of the all children. That is all that ultimately matters. When you stand for what is in the best interest of a child, you will never be on the wrong side.”

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney

Sounding off

The full release sent out by Manatee County School District Superintendent Diana Greene:

First of all, let me clearly state that the School District of Manatee County’s stance on third-grade retention was not a decision or a conclusion developed in a vacuum. Last week, I reached out to the Florida Department of Education for guidance on this issue. I spoke on the phone with FLDOE Chancellor Hershel Lyons, FLDOE Vice Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen and attorneys affiliated with the FLDOE to make sure our school district was interpreting state statutes correctly.

I specifically asked for clarification regarding the requirement that a student must take some form of standardized assessment in order to qualify for a Good Cause Exemption. I carefully walked them through our school district’s interpretation of the statutes to ensure that we were following Florida law.

The essence of the questions I posed on the phone and the FLDOE’s response was summarized in an email (see below) I received from Vice Chancellor Tappen last Friday.

From: Tappen, Mary [mailto:Mary.Tappen@fldoe.org]

Sent: Friday, May 27, 2016 10:49 AM

To: Diana Greene <greened@manateeschools.net>

Cc: Lyons, Hershel <Hershel.Lyons@fldoe.org>; Hebda, Kathy <Kathy.Hebda@fldoe.org>; Mears, Matthew <Matthew.Mears@fldoe.org>

Subject: text from the Superintendent call - hope this is helpful

(My Questions):

Can a 3rd grade student be promoted if the student does not have a documented reading deficiency, has not taken the FSA, has not taken a state approved alternative standardized assessment, has not engaged in a Portfolio assessment, and does not qualify for other Good Cause exemptions?

(Vice Chancellor Tappen’s Response):

Florida law, Section 1008.22 (3)…..Participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all school districts and all students attending public schools,…”

Again, we suggest policy defined in the student progression plan that defines actions that are taken for any student who does not follow this law.

Promotion requirements for third grade students:

1– The requirement in Section 1008.25(5)(b) To be promoted to grade 4, a students must score a Level 2 or higher on the statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment required under s. 1008.22.

2. An additional option approved by the State Board of Education includes: Rule 6A-1.094221 (a) Scores at or above the 45th percentile on the Reading SAT-10.

Section 1008.25 (6)(b) The district school board may only exempt students from mandatory retention , as provided in paragraph (5)(b), for good cause.

(6)(b)3. Students who demonstrate an acceptable level of performance on an alternative standardized reading or English Language Arts assessment approved by the State Board of Education.

A student can participate in reading camp – and be promoted through evidence in a portfolio developed during reading camp or a defined score on an alternate assessment.

Or the student can be given the alternate assessment now or upon entry into third grade again next year and be promoted to 4th within next year’s school year if a defined score on an alternate assessment is met.

There are no other options approved in state law or rule for this student.

Mary Jane Tappen

Vice Chancellor

Division of Public Schools

Florida Department of Education

850-245-0818

Based on my conversation with FLDOE officials, and the email above, it was my understanding that our district’s interpretation of the statutes regarding third-grade retention was affirmed and supported by the FLDOE.

Late today, without any advance notice from the FLDOE, I received word that a newspaper article in the Tampa Bay Times indicated FLDOE Director of Communications Meghan Collins stated that interpretation of the laws regarding third-grade retention were strictly up to individual school districts. In regards to whether or not a standardized test score was necessary to qualify for a Good Cause Exemption, the story quoted Ms. Collins as saying, “That wouldn’t be something we (the FLDOE) would intervene in.”

To say that I am angry, frustrated and disappointed in the FLDOE’s lack of leadership on this extremely important issue is a massive understatement. To pass this difficult decision off to 67 different school districts is a gross abdication of responsibility.

I want to remind our parents and citizens that I was not a proponent of the Florida Standards Assessment a year ago, because of the haphazard way in which it was rushed out and implemented. However, as Superintendent of the School District of Manatee County, I felt it was my duty this year to fully accept its status as our state’s primary public education accountability assessment, and therefore I felt compelled to not only encourage participation, but to support its requirements.

Today, based on the lack of direction and decisiveness from the FLDOE, I feel like trust in the FSA has once again been compromised.

Starting tomorrow, all third-grade students in Manatee County who did not have a Level 2 score or above on the FSA-ELA, as well as those students who had no score, will have access to the use of all six Good Cause Exemptions to attain promotion to the fourth grade (including the Stanford Achievement-10 assessment and/or a student portfolio that demonstrates mastery of State Standards).

I want all parents in Manatee County to know that it does not benefit the school district to retain a single student who can clearly demonstrate a mastery of State Standards. To the contrary, we work every single day to ensure students progress to the next grade level. The intent of the school district as described above was simply an effort to follow the law, as instructed.

Dr. Diana Greene

Superintendent

  Comments