Manatee County Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene releases statement on third-grade retention

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The following is a statement released on May 31, 2016 by Dr. 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

Cc: Lyons, Hershel ; Hebda, Kathy ; Mears, Matthew

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 pol- icy 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 op- tion approved by the State Board of Education includes: Rule 6A1.094221 (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 b e 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 on May 31, 2016, 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.

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