I know it is impolite to use harsh language and teachers often discourage students from resorting to cliches, but I am hard-pressed to find anything better suited to my concern about education policy in Florida (and Mississippi, and South Carolina, along with another 10+ states) than reminding political leaders and the public in your state: Mean people suck.
And as disturbing as it is when adults are mean to adults, there simply is no way to justify adults being mean to children—or in the case of misguided and uninformed education policy in Florida (and Mississippi, and South Carolina), adults being mean to some children (mostly black, brown, and poor).
I take this opportunity to reach out to you, Florida, because there is a way out of this mean streak: Fewer 3rd-graders could be held back this year.
First, let me note that the avenue to a kind and equitable education system is not examining whether or not your (yet again) new high-stakes tests are valid, but recognizing that grade retention is discredited by a large body of research and grade retention is not a credible form of literacy policy.
Notably, the National Council of Teachers of English, the largest organization of English teachers in the U.S., has a clear position statement against grade retention based on high-stakes testing:
Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English strongly oppose legislation mandating that children, in any grade level, who do not meet criteria in reading be retained.
And be it further resolved that NCTE strongly oppose the use of high-stakes test performance in reading as the criterion for student retention.
As well, education policies such as grade retention linked to high-stakes testing disproportionately and negatively impact black, brown, and poor children.
Simply put, grade retention as a policy must be acknowledged as punishing children for the sake of punishing children.
None the less, Florida has become a flawed model for educational accountability across the U.S.
So, as a life-long educator in SC, where that model is now turning my home state into yet another place where mean people suck, I ask that Florida end grade retention and use your ill-got influence to start a new trend in education reform—one that rejects punitive education policy and chooses instead to treat all children with dignity, to provide all children an equitable opportunity to learn.