Lee County Schools Become First In Florida To Opt Out Of Statewide Testing

Aug 28, 2014

Lee County School Board members
Credit leeschools.net

Story Update: Just days after voting to opt out of statewide testing, the Lee County School board rescinded its vote.

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Lee County made history Wednesday night when school board members voted to opt out of statewide testing effective immediately.

After hearing from dozens of impassioned local activists and parents, Lee County School Board members voted to end state testing in the county’s schools. Supporters, like opt-out sponsor Tom Scott,  say it’s an effort to curb excessive standardized testing.

"I move the board opt out of state-mandated testing effective immediately for the benefits of teachers, administrators and most importantly students, whose education growth has not been enhanced by such testing," he said in his motion.

There had been a discussion to possibly postpone opting out until a plan was in place. But, efforts—which were supported by board members Jeanne Dozier and Cathleen Morgan-- failed. Superintendent Nancy Graham warned board members that opting out without a plan could have serious consequences.

"I am very concerned that this will hurt children," she said. "Teachers will have no idea where to go because if we opt-out are we opting out of the standards? Or, are we just opting out of the assessments? Are we going to pick and choose? Are we no longer going to do advanced placement? Do we just close our ace programs and our IB programs? You are talking about a lot of elements that no one has had the time to think about?"

Earlier in the week, school board attorney Keith Martin also warned members that opting out could mean Lee County students won’t be awarded standard high-school diplomas. There were also concerns the county could lose state funding for its schools. But, board members Tom Scott, Don Armstrong and Mary Fischer voted in favor of opting out immediately. Armstrong told members NOT moving forward with their plan would hurt students more.

"Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward. While we must explore consequences, we cannot allow fear—keyword fear—to hold us back."

Palm Beach County’s school board – as well as other county officials across the state—have recently expressed interest in similar action.  It is unclear what state or federal action will take place as a result of Lee County’s decision.