Is This an Example of an Educational Emergency or More Accountabaloney?

This is the blog where we dispel the myth that all children in D or F schools are doomed to failure. Some students are wildly successful in these schools; shouldn’t their choices be supported? School Grades do not fully reflect the education in our public schools; they are the main ingredient in Accountabaloney.

Claire graduated from high school last weekend. She was her class valedictorian and has been accepted into the University of Florida’s Honors program where she will study Chemistry in the fall.  She had straight As since 6th grade and completed her school’s IB program. She is a remarkable young woman who spent hours as the executive chair of her school’s first ever Dance Marathon, raising an astounding amount of money for local hospitals.

At her public school, she was in good company. The Top Ten of her graduating class includes students who will be attending MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Rice, Georgia Tech, Florida State and University of Florida (3). This is an impressive list for any school. The list is even more impressive when you understand this is Rickards High, in Tallahassee, a Title 1 school that received a “D” grade last year.

Rickards has an impressive graduation rate of 91%, well above the state rate of 77.9%; it graduates many successful students that do amazing things.  It has wonderful teachers who inspire. It is not surprising that parents want their children to attend there. It is also a D school.

If the Governor signs HB7069 into law, “Schools of Hope” language would require Leon County to declare Rickards an “educational emergency” (line 4279-4292 HB7069). Should Rickards High warrant the declaration of an “educational emergency” in Leon County?

In comparison to Rickards, my daughter will enter high school this fall in Monroe County.  Our local high school is “A” rated, yet, still, a third of the students fail the state Math and Reading assessments. Our high school offers AP courses but no IB program (the closest IB program is more than an hour away, in Miami-Dade). Our high school’s graduation rate is slightly above the state average: 79%. When compared to the “D” school Rickards, which is the better choice? Does the school grade tell the entire story?

HB7069, in addition to declaring an “educational emergency” if a school grade falls below a “C”, includes language designed to close chronically low performing schools and convert them to become part of a select charter school network, referred to as “Schools of Hope.” Requirements for Schools of Hope operators have been careful crafted to entice out-of-state charter corporations to Florida. Children in the targeted public schools, called “failure factories” by HB7069 proponents, were referred to as “innocent victims” and proponents claimed there was a “moral imperative” to help these children escape their failing schools. But what about the students at these schools, like Claire, who are succeeding? Who will fight for their rights to remain in the schools they have chosen?

Is Rickards a failing school or an example of a failed accountability system, which over emphasizes scores on a few standardized tests and has refused to even question the validity of the school grades system? I encourage parents and educators to question the effectiveness of high stakes testing, ask about alternative accountability systems and keep asking until the conversation occurs, so that the best solutions can be achieved for Florida’s children. Mandated school closures or declarations of emergencies should not be done until such an evaluation is complete.

In the meantime, instead of declaring an “educational emergency”, you can celebrate Claire’s success, and that of her classmates, by calling Governor Rick Scott and requesting a veto of Schools of Hope and HB7069.


  1. Kim Williams

    School grades the state and local governments tack on these schools are extremely biased. All of my children graduated from this school. One with Claire this year and he has had a stellar four years at Rickards High School. These students have some of the higher success rates in the state, when in college. The students graduate on time 4-5 years; many students from this so called D school are working in very competitive jobs. Neurologist, Urologists, Pharmacists, University Professors, Government Managers, Retailers, Lawmakers, the list goes on. Rickards is one of the most highly effective D schools I have ever witnessed as parent who is and was very active in the many activities this school has to offer its students. The teachers and administrators are extremely committed to educating the students that come through its doors. This is why I feel school grades are biased based socioeconomic incomes which is a horrible thing to do to our public schools and educational system.
    Kim Williams proud parent of three Rickards High School graduates.

    1. Sue Kingery Woltanski

      Thank you. It is great to hear about the good things going on in these so-called “failing schools.” School Grades measure income, not outcome. They are the essence of accountabaloney.

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