Life Under Florida’s 3rd Grade Mandatory Retention Regime. Tell your stories!


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In spite of decades of reliable research that mandatory third grade retention borders on education malpractice, Florida remains one of just 14 states still practicing mandatory third grade retention as a consequence of failing a single test, even for proficient readers. Your help is needed to get this bad law off the books so that schools can more effectively meet children’s real educational needs.

At 4:00PM on Tuesday, March 21, Florida’s Senate Education Committee will workshop a series of proposed bills. Among them will be SB1280. This bill is proposed by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriquez (companion HB131, Rep. John Cortes) and would remove mandatory 3rd grade retention from Florida statutes. You can read the full text of SB1280/HB131 here.


“Mandatory Retention; Removing the requirement for mandatory retention of a third grade student based on his or her performance on the English Language Arts assessment, etc.”

Laura Jimenez, Legislative Assistant to Sen. Rodriquez is asking for input from families on how current law has impacted their children in the third grade. It is imperative that they hear from families who have been affected by mandatory third grade retention. Please share your personal stories and why you would support SB1280 to remove this punitive practice. Please send the facts of your 8-yr old children’s experience in school, under the year-long threat of mandatory retention.

We hope that educators will also share their professional input with legislators as to how this law has affected their students.

REALITY-CHECK: Parents must proactively un-stack the deck!
In the COMMITTEE MEETING EXPANDED AGENDA, there are 17 separate bills being discussed and SB1280 is the last agenda item. We anticipate that few may be allowed to give public comments. Therefore, it is IMPERATIVE that you email your personal stories to the committee this weekend. It will be interesting to see who is allowed to comment.

This is a critical request for action. It’s not just the children who face retention who are affected by this law. Mandatory 3rd Grade Retention is the muscle behind the Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan. ALL children in school today are affected by it. Do all parents understand that? 

If your child is now past the third grade, this is your opportunity to share your children’s stories of public shaming, humiliation, unnecessary retention and remediation, bullying and intimidation and most importantly, education malpractice as a result of this poor law, which does little to genuinely help children and punishes them for failing a single test.

Action must be taken by noon, Monday March 20th to give staff time to compile them to use as an introduction to SB1280 when it comes up for discussion. Plaintiffs from the Third Grade Retention Lawsuit are working on a statement to be read on their behalf, and public participation here is crucial.

Please attach any study (see links below) disputing the benefit of grade retention, such as the recently published longitudinal study conducted by Dr. Kathleen Jasper which tracked 23,000 students from 2003/4 to 2013/14 in a single school district in Florida.

Key points from Dr. Jasper’s study:
In a single school district over a 10 yr period COST: $587 Million
93% Remained Below Proficiency On The Grade 10 Reading FCAT
67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT.
41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.

Send your e-mail to Laura Jimenez and the Senate Education Committee today and ALSO give the committee a call on Monday.

Subject line:
SB1280: 3RD Grade Retention Story

Chairman Sen. Dorothy Hukill ( R )
(850) 487-5014
Vice-Chairman Sen. Debbie Mayfield ( R )
(850) 487-5017
Sen. Gary Farmer ( D )
(850) 487-5034
Sen. Bill Galvano ( R )
(850) 487-5021
Sen. Tom Lee ( R )
(850) 487-5020
Sen. David Simmons ( R )
(850) 487-5009
Sen. Wilton Simpson ( R )
(850) 487-5010
Sen. Linda Stewart ( D )
(850) 487-5013
Sen. Perry Thurston ( D )
(850) 487-5033

Please check for updates next week at The Opt Out Florida Network. We will post the link to the Florida Channel‘s Live-Streaming of this workshop and will host live discussion.

To help our elected officials to better understand the damaging effects of grade retention, below are links to notable research on the practice of third grade retention that you can share with them. You should be able to copy/paste them directly into your e-mail.

Dr. Shane Jimerson, of the University of California – Santa Barbara is one of the most recognized experts on grade retention. He has published numerous scholarly articles related to grade retention.

Additional research and information regarding grade retention, social promotion, and effective alternatives:

Researchers, scholars, educational professionals, policymakers, and families may benefit from the research available below, recommended by Dr. Jimerson.

The following PDF files are available for you to view by clicking on the name listed below:

Synthesis of Retention Research – CSP 2001
Meta Analysis of Retention Research – SPR 2001
Characteristics & Consequences – JSP 1997
Dropout & Retention – PITS 2002
On the Failure of Failure – JSP 1999
Retention and Dropout – CSP 2002
Exploring Successful Failures – PITS 2001
Beyond Grade Retention and Social Promotion – PITS 2006

Additional reading for parents



2016-2017 Opt Out Guides are here!


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They’re here, folks!

Complete Opt Out Guide for 2016-2017

Steps to Opt Out

Refusing a Paper Based Test
Refusing a Computer Based Test
What do we know about NR2 and NT codes?
Emails from FLDOE RE: NR2/NT scores

Alternative Assessment
Third Grade Resources
Test Questions Every Parent Needs To Ask
State of Florida Testing Calendar
Schedule to Transition to Computer Based Testing

Pocket Opt Out Guide for 2016-2017 – the print-and-share version of the complete guide.

Read it. Find your local group, connect with your opt out community and let’s grow this movement.

It’s hard to believe, but there are still parents out there who don’t know that they can opt out of the tests.

Knowledge is power. The more parents are informed, the more powerful we ALL can be!
Would you print just five or ten copies of this Pocket Opt Out Guide and share in your travels?

Please FOLLOW and keep checking back on this site for more info to help your kids to opt out successfully and to keep you going strong. Thank you for joining us in this fight for kids and our public schools.

All of this information may be wonderful for you, but it’s POWERFUL when it’s shared!

IMPORTANT RESOURCES to keep you informed. SHARE.
* Comprehensive 2016-2017 Opt Out Guide:
* Pocket Opt Out Guide 2016-2017:
* Opt Out Third Grade 101:
* Navigating Gr 3 Retention Threat:
* VIDEO How To Opt Out of Computer Test:
* What Does This Bully Letter Really Mean?:
* It’s going to be Oh-Kaaayyy. Really:
* Special Opt Out group for Third Grade here:
* Find your local Opt Out group:
* 8 Yr Old Talks Test Prep:

Remember… if this was easy, it wouldn’t be called a struggle.

Kathleen Jasper, EdD: Why we should IMMEDIATELY stop retaining 3rd graders


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by Sandy Stenoff

This week, Educator Kathleen Jasper, Ed.D. published her doctoral dissertation for Florida Gulf Coast University, “THE EFFECTS OF MANDATED THIRD GRADE RETENTION ON STANDARD DIPLOMA ACQUISITION AND STUDENT OUTCOMES: A POLICY ANALYSIS OF FLORIDA’S A+ PLAN” adding credibility to what many experts have stated for decades – that third grade retention does not work, is harmful to children and is a financial burden, both on the victims of Florida’s failed accountability system, as well as on this state.

Jasper’s dissertation is an indictment of Jeb Bush’s hallmark education legislation, “Florida’s A+ Plan”, which has become the fulcrum about which Florida’s convoluted accountability system pivots. The Big Daddy of high stakes – school grades – rests on the state’s authority to retain third grade children in order to artificially bolster test scores in the 4th grade. Even if retained children, in the short-term, are shown to perform better on testing in the 4th grade, the data show that the benefits diminish over the long-term. By the numbers – this research shows that children retained in the third grade ultimately fare worse throughout their education and even later on in life.

School grades holds sway over teachers’ livelihoods and professional ethics. They hold public education hostage by the state’s preferred tools of educational torture for teachers and children alike – rigid pacing guides, scripted curricula (test prep) and the almighty test. Under the state’s thumb of school grades, the districts’ moral duty to the real education of young children may be crushed. Collateral damage.

In the protection racket called “school grades”, the heaviest weapon in the reformsters’ arsenal is the reality that is Third Grade Retention.

The FLDOE consistently cites one study (Green and Winters, 2006). Kathleen Jasper’s study shows that the Greene and Winters study did not go far enough, and that in the end, Greene inflated the success of the A+ Plan.

Following last week’s celebrated rhetoric in Tallahassee, if legislators really want meaningful accountability and value their reputations and credibility,  they CANNOT ignore these important findings. They must acknowledge the implications of their decisions on the lives of children as we proceed through the current legislative session.

These research findings should be shared with every parent, public school teacher, policy-maker and legislator in Florida and beyond.

Kathleen Jasper’s executive summary is shared here with permission:

3rd Grade Retentions
In 2003-2004, across Florida, over 23,000 3rd grade students were retained in accordance with the retention mandate in Florida’s A+ Plan. In some Miami—Dade Public Schools, 50% of third graders were retained.

Did students catch up?
In a study of third graders in Southwest Florida, 93% of the retained group in the study remained below a level 3 on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. In addition, 67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. Further, 41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.

What did it cost?
Between 2003-2013, it cost Florida tax payers approximately $587 million FTE funding for the retained students.

Standard Diploma Acquisition
The non-retained group were 14.7% more likely to graduate with a standard diploma than the retained group.

Retention Demographics
Approximately 6% of white students were retained while 20% of nonwhite students were retained. Of the students retained in 2003-2004, 69.8% were on free or reduced price lunch.

There was a statistically significant difference between retained students and non- retained students regarding Grade 10 Reading FCAT mean scale scores (.000). There was also a statistically significant difference between ethnicity and Grade 10 Reading FCAT scores (.003).


1. How did state-mandated third grade retention policies, under the A+ Plan, impact standard diploma acquisition in retained students as compared to academically similar non-retained students?

✦ Students who were not retained were 14.7% more likely to receive a standard high school diploma. How did the retained group compare to the similar non-retained group on the Grade 10 FCAT Reading?

2. How did the retained group compare to the similar non-retained group on the Grade 10 FCAT Reading?
✦ Both groups had difficulty catching up. In the retained group, 93% remained below proficient into their 10th grade year. In the non-retained group, 85.8% remained below proficient.

3.How did socioeconomic status and ethnicity impact retention rates of certain groups?
✦ Students of color and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to be retained than white students and students who were not from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

4. Based on the data, what was extrapolated, in terms of economic outcomes, when evaluating consequences of students who were unable to acquire a standard high school diploma as a result of the A+ Plan?
✦ The district spent $587 million on FTE for retentions between 2003-2013.
✦ The total difference in combined loss in earnings was approximately $141 million per year.

Summary of the Research
In a study of first, third, and sixth graders, researchers asked students to rate a list of 20 stressful life events based on level. Researchers found students, across grade levels, rated the top three stressful life events in this order: losing a parent, going blind, and being retained in school (Anderson, Jimerson, and Whipple 2005; Andrew, 2014). Sixth grade students rated grade retention as the most stressful life event, rating retention more stressful than losing a parent or going blind. (Anderson, Jimerson, and Whipple 2005).

Researchers in other studies found students who were retained faced difficulty in catching up to their peers, achieving academically, and obtaining a high school diploma (Anderson, Jimerson, & Whipple, 2005; Andrew, 2014; Fine & Davis, 2003; Jimerson, 1999; Moser, West & Hughes, 2012; Nagaoka, 2005; and Ou & Reynolds, 2010).

However, in 2003-2004 approximately 23,000 third graders were retained in Florida under the third grade retention mandate outlined in the A+ Plan. This was an effort to increase student achievement by increasing the use of accountability measures.

The current study includes an examination of educational outcomes of students retained in a large southwest Florida school district under the A+ Plan in 2003-2004. Researchers used a match control group, consisting of similarly non-retained students, who scored at level one on the Grade 3 Reading FCAT. The control group was compared to the retained group. Also compared were student achievement levels on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT of the retained and non-retained group. This provided longitudinal data to examine whether or not students who were retained increased their reading achievement over time.

Longitudinal data was evaluated for both the retained and non- retained students. Researchers found 93% of the retained students continued to score below proficiency (below a level 3) seven years after retention on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT as compared with the 85.8% of the non-retained students. See chart below.

Grade 10 Reading FCAT Scores: 7 Years after Retention

Economic Outcomes
Economic outcomes were extrapolated using the data from this study and the data from previous economic studies. If the averages used in this study were applied to the 23,348 retained students in 2003-2004, 41% of the 23,348, did not graduate with a standard diploma; approximately 13,730 did not receive a standard high school diploma. These students’ failure to receive a standard diploma resulted in loss of wages. After evaluating the 13,730 who did not receive a standard diploma and using the 2010 U.S. Census employment by education level data, researchers found Florida students earned 33% less than they would have if they had obtained a high school diploma. The total difference in total combined loss in earnings was approximately $141 million per year.



If you would like to read the executive summary or the full study, click the titles below:

Executive summary (Short Version) 


Kathleen Jasper, Ed.D. has been an educator for over 10 years. Starting as a high school classroom teacher (Biology, Reading and English), she later became a curriculum specialist, working on academic plans, professional development and assessment. In 2011, she became an assistant principal at Estero High School in Lee County. She began her doctoral work at that time and resigned from the district to do research and work on policy-making in order to effect greater change in the public school system. Currently, she is an adjunct professor in the College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is also the founder and CEO of NavaED, an education consulting company. 

Kathleen’s Certifications: Elementary Eduction, Biology 6-12, English 6-12, Reading, ESOL, Educational Leadership

Kathleen Jasper Ed.D. | CEO – NavaED
@KathleenJasper | 

1/7/17 UPDATE – 3rd Grade Lawsuit


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In a Dec 28 update from Andrea Mogensen, Attorney for the plaintiffs:

“Oral argument has been granted. It is scheduled for February 7th at 9 a.m. in the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee. Not every case that’s up on appeal is granted oral argument. This case, I am sure, was granted an argument because of its importance.

This is good news, because the case is being giving the weight it deserves.

Most appeals are decided just on the briefs that are submitted. Oral argument is where the attorneys appear and are questioned by Justices of the District Court of Appeals. Judges don’t necessarily ask questions but each party will be given 30 mins to present their argument.

The court will not make its decision at the hearing. It will make its decision in writing sometime thereafter, and there is no way to tell how long it will take after the oral argument is heard for the high court to rule. However, for oral argument this is being set rather quickly.

These court proceedings will be open to the public and will be streamed live on the Florida Channel.”

It will also be streamed live at The First District Court of Appeal’s website.



With the exception of Andrea Mogensen, who represents the plaintiffs, the rest of the names on the list above represent the THIRTY-ONE (yes, 31) attorneys for the FLDOE and the five school districts defending this lawsuit – Hernando, Pasco, Orange, Osceola and Seminole.

Everyone should be asking – What is the cost to taxpayers for the state and districts to fight a judge’s lawful court order?

Things have been quiet as we have all waited for the suit to proceed. We remain especially grateful to the plaintiff families and their attorneys still embroiled in this lawsuit, fighting mandatory retention in Hernando, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Pasco Counties.

In this Florida Channel video – 12/7/16 House “Legislator University” Training: An Overview of School Accountability at about the 25:30 mark, Florida House Rep. Wengay Newton asks for confirmation that all the children retained had been promoted. The correct answer, Sir, is NO, they have not. Since Judge Gievers’ ruling on September 26, only the children from Sarasota and Broward Counties were promoted when their families agreed to withdraw from the suit.

So where are the children?

From August through November, one child from Seminole County, gifted and documented as reading above the 7th grade level LAST YEAR, was forced to repeat the 3rd grade in Seminole County. She is now enrolled in a private school. So that they would not be subjected to the psychological and emotional harm of having to repeat a year of 3rd grade work unnecessarily, the rest of the children are now all being either homeschooled, or enrolled in private schools at considerable expense.

We eagerly await the ruling of the Appellate Court so that the lawsuit can proceed in earnest. We remain hopeful for systemic change.

In the meantime, please continue to support the effort to make #180DaysCount with your generous donation to the legal fund:

Recommended reading: 
Tampa Bay Times – 12/29/16:
Florida lawmaker files bill to clarify third-grade retention rules

Previous updates:

In Peace and Solidarity, with Gratitude


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Festive Christmas Card With Chalkboard, Red Gifts Or Presents, Christmas Balls, Snowflakes And Candles. Christmas Decoration With Rustic, Vintage Brown Wooden Background. English Text Thank You

The holiday season is a time for giving, for sharing and for reflection.

Please join us in acknowledging the MANY volunteers – parents AND teachers – who give of themselves all year long, sacrificing precious time with their families in order to help the public to understand the truth about their rights and options regarding testing in Florida.

The Opt Out Florida Network is ALL of these people – from 35 local Opt Out groups all over this state – who stay up night after night after their kids (and significant others) are fast asleep, or after grading papers and planning lessons – reading emails and messages from parents, researching local and national news articles, DOE documents, and state statutes, even reviewing videos of the state legislature and so much more – in order to provide the factual, documented and verifiable information needed to stand up to poor enforcement of policies in OUR public schools.

Group administrators lead the way in their communities by moderating discussions in local opt out groups, by sharing information both to and from the district, and by showing up and speaking at Florida Board of Education meetings and local school board meetings. They work with their local teachers’ unions to support teachers by  demystifying school district propaganda to teachers about the opt out movement. In other words, they help others to find their voice so that they, too, may speak truth to power.

We are parents, students, teachers and former teachers, who share many different perspectives – from different backgrounds, different religions, different customs, different beliefs, and different political persuasions – but we all fight for the same thing – to return our public schools to places of real teaching and learning, where classrooms can be filled with wonder and curiosity and amazing questions – instead of training children how to succeed on a test.

So what do we have to be grateful for?

The most important growth and change that anyone can experience usually comes out of our most challenging times. It’s easy to be angry and resentful of any harm to our children as a result of poorly implemented policies. It’s harder to keep the bigger picture in mind when we want immediate relief for our children and it isn’t forthcoming. But many of us would admit that were it not for a particular misfortune that befell our children, we would still be blissfully ignorant, even accepting – of testing, of test prep that has taken over our children’s school experience, of poor placement, of promotions denied, and on and on.

Being informed can be hard… It’s not easy being “woke.” But it’s far better to be informed, or else we could not call out the monsters by name.  We can be grateful that our eyes have been opened to the truth, as distasteful as it is, so that we can fight it. We can be grateful that there are others like us, here and across this country who have joined their voices with ours to fight to stop the testing monster. And we can be grateful for a community of activists, who gather to share experiences and information with the hope that no child will continue to suffer the same.

Although things have been quiet, we remain especially grateful to the plaintiff families and their attorneys still embroiled in the 3rd Grade lawsuit, fighting mandatory retention in Hernando, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Pasco Counties. The FLDOE and the various districts have an army of 25+ attorneys to defend this lawsuit. It bears repeating that as of last September, only the families who agreed to withdraw from the suit have had their children promoted – contrary to what a FLBOE member recently said in a public meeting.

We eagerly await the ruling of the Appellate Court so that the lawsuit can continue in earnest. We remain hopeful for systemic change.

In peace and solidarity, with gratitude to each of you, who ARE The Opt Out Florida Network.

Courage Is Not Required for Seminole Board To Do The Right Thing


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by Sandy Stenoff

At the last Seminole County School Board meeting, parents and teachers provided input about the Third Grade lawsuit, involving Seminole County students. After Jodi Parham read for Rhonda Nickerson (at 58:00), the board stated (at 1:01:35) that they would typically not accept public comments about pending litigation. The attorney for SCPS provided a brief update on the lawsuit to the board (at 1:02:05).

My speech was cut short (Video from 1:04:15 to 1:06:58).

The next day, I sent my complete address, with references, to the board to be entered into the record:

Dear Drs. Calderone and Griffin, 
Thank you for the opportunity to address you yesterday evening.  Had I been permitted to complete my statement, this is what I would have shared with you. While I do understand that the district may not be able to comment publicly on pending litigation, I would put forth, respectfully, that the public certainly has the right to provide comment – of course, with no expectation that the board would respond publicly. I sincerely hope that you will give this serious consideration. Other districts have successfully worked with parents in the lawsuit. 

I appreciate that this will be added to the record of yesterday’s meeting. Thank you for your consideration.

Sandy Stenoff


I’m here today, because of two proficient children from Seminole in the lawsuit, who are still officially retained in the third grade simply because they have no test score, against the Judge’s order and against Florida education statutes.

The parents requested early in the school year to have a portfolio compiled, as the law allows. The state statute as well as numerous publications from the DOE state:

“A parent of a student in grade 3 who is identified anytime during the school year as being at risk of retention may request that the school immediately begin collecting evidence for the portfolio.”

They were denied.

I believe there must be a disconnect in the district’s understanding of what a portfolio is. State statute, FLDOE TAP reports and Just Read Florida state that “Portfolio Evidence is to include multiple choice items.”

Nowhere does it say that a portfolio must be made up exclusively of multiple choice test items.  A real portfolio, which meets the state guidelines, as Sarina Nickerson’s portfolio does, is without question, a more through and rigorous measure of her teacher’s and this district’s accountability than any single test.  It should be held up as an example for all. Instead, it is dismissed, as was this student’s educational rights.

Currently, Sarina must be homeschooled for her own protection from the actions of this district.  Fortunately for her, her family is able to do this. Camryn Weaver is not so lucky. She is gifted, and reads above the 6th grade level. She is in 4th grade math, but 3rd grade for everything else. The law dictates strict parameters for how a retained student must be remediated. If that were happening for Camryn Weaver, she would not be repeating third grade work right now. That she is in 4th grade math tells me that the district has the authority to be flexible. It was also the district’s legal option to place her in a 4th grade class, pending a mid year promotion, but that is not happening either (See References – Attached is an e-mail excerpt from the FLDOE to Senator Darren Soto attesting that this is an acceptable course of action). 

Her mother tells me that Camryn now says things like, “I’m just stupid.” (I did not state this at the meeting, as Camryn was in the audience, but it is what she now says, where she never did before.)What have we become when children need protection from public education?

I have watched every minute of the 9-hour evidentiary hearing and I have read Judge Gievers’ 53-page ruling numerous times.  In a nutshell, the judge’s ruling overwhelmingly found for the plaintiffs – the main points being:

– That they had the right to request a teacher-compiled portfolio over one based on tests – Page 19 Item 32 *

– Promotion is not to be based solely on a test or tests. Page 13, Item 18 **

– Districts are ordered to stop refusing to allow a portfolio Page 14, Item 19 ***

And finally, regarding the automatic stay as a result of the district appealing the venue, from the Tampa Bay Times – Sept 13:

Judge Gievers:

“To the extent that the evidence and law warranted the provision of injunctive relief as to the State Education Defendants and the School Board of Hernando County, the automatic stay of the order as to the challenged injunctive relief *does not authorize the Defendants to ignore the mandatory provisions of the statutes in question*.”

Research consistently shows that students are better off being promoted and provided the intervention and support they need. The short term gains in improved test scores in the 4th grade, are outstripped by the long-term harm of retention. I ask you to consider this for each child as you go forward. By law, retention decisions are never supposed to be made on the sole basis of a test score, but that is exactly what has happened to these children. Parents are supposed to be included in these decisions. If the children are simply collateral damage, please ask yourselves, To what end?

I have met with some of you personally and I believe you when you say that, as a district, you put children and teachers first. You have said that your hands were tied because you were obligated to follow the law. The Judge’s court order has untied them now.  Just a year and a half ago, when the law about minimal participation was unclear, you led the way with your courageous decisions to treat children ethically and with respect (here and here). Districts across the state followed your lead. The law is clear now. Courage is not required, only the will to do right by these children.

Please restore our trust that this district puts children first.

It isn’t part of the educator’s creed to “First do no harm”, but it should be.

I will leave you with this quote from over 2,400 years ago by Aristotle:
“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”


10/22/16 – Ft Lauderdale Sun Times
Broward promotes twins who opted out of state test
08/11/16 Sarsota Herald Tribune
Sarasota School District relents, advances 3rd grade student

Judge Gievers’ 53-page ruling from Aug 26 2016:

* Page 19, Item 32 The Plaintiff may pursue administrative proceedings regarding her preference for a teacher-compiled portfolio based on school work completed in the year to one based on standards assessment testing, if she wishes.

** Page 13, Item 18 The School Board and State Education Defendants had no right to ignore the legislatively adopted portfolio option. No statute limits promotion to grade 4 solely to tests; the Legislature has made clear that the portfolio option is an alternate option that is still available to all of Florida’s children. Section 1008.25(5}, Florida Statutes.

*** Page 14, Item 19 Accordingly, the Hernando County School Board is ORDERED to immediately refrain from further actions contrary to the availability of the portfolio option, and is ORDERED to immediately provide the portfolio option, at minimum, to any parent who has requested one or who requests one going forward.

Pages 5-6:


B-1. Why would a teacher use a student portfolio?
Section 1008.25(6)(b)4., F.S., states that a student who scores a Level 1 on the grade 3 statewide FSA-ELA may be promoted to fourth grade if the student demonstrates through a student portfolio that the student is performing at least at Level 2 on the statewide standardized assessment.

B-2. When should the teacher and students begin the third-grade student portfolio?
A parent of a student in grade 3 who is identified anytime during the school year as being at risk of retention may request that the school immediately begin collecting evidence for the portfolio.

B-3.  Are there guidelines provided by the state for the third-grade student portfolio?
Yes. As provided in the updated Rule 6A-1.094221, F.A.C., to be accepted as meeting the portfolio option for demonstrating mastery of the required reading skills, the student portfolio must:

•Be selected by the student’s teacher;
•Be an accurate picture of the student’s ability and only include student work that has been independently produced in the classroom;
•Include evidence that the standards assessed by the grade 3 statewide English Language Arts assessment have been met. Evidence is to include multiple choice items and passages that are approximately 60 percent literary text and 40 percent information text that are between 100-700 words with an average of 500 words. Such evidence could include chapter or unit tests from the district’s/school’s adopted core reading curriculum that are aligned with the Language Arts Florida Standards or teacher-prepared assessments;
•Be an organized collection of evidence of the student’s mastery of the Language Arts Florida Standards that are assessed by the grade 3 statewide English Language Arts assessment. For each standard, there must be at least three examples of mastery as demonstrated by a grade of 70 percent or above on each example; and
•Be signed by the teacher and the principal as an accurate assessment of the required reading skills. Additionally, note that the Just Read, Florida! Office has begun creating an updated Third- Grade State Portfolio.

B-4.  Do the same portfolio guidelines apply to ESE students?
Yes. The state portfolio guidelines apply to all students, including ESE students.

B-5.  Is the student portfolio the only tool used for good cause exemption and/or promoting a third-grade student to fourth grade in the middle of the year?
No. The student portfolio and an alternative assessment are the two state-approved options for good cause exemption and mid-year promotion. The student must be offered both options. However, the student must only demonstrate proficiency on one of the options in order to receive a good cause exemption or be promoted midyear.

B-6.  If a teacher is monitoring the progress of a student, is a portfolio needed?
Yes. A portfolio provides ongoing information on how a student is performing on tested benchmarks. There are specific requirements of necessary elements that must be included in a portfolio used for promotion (please refer to question B-3 of this document for the requirements). If a teacher chooses to follow the rigor of the state portfolio requirements, a portfolio may be used for progress monitoring as well as promotion.


Excerpt of e-mail from Suzan Shaw at FLDOE to Senator Darren Soto – July 12, 2016
asserting that 4th grade placement with mid-year promotion is an allowable option.

Page 10:

E-3.  Can a third-grade student, potentially eligible for mid-year promotion, be placed in a fourth-grade classroom and then promoted after demonstrating proficiency on the portfolio or an alternative assessment?
Districts need to meet the individual needs of students. This can be achieved through implementing creative multi-age grouping or a transitional-classroom setting.

E-4.  Why would a decision be made about a student’s placement during the first semester of the academic year?
Students should be promoted midyear or as soon as possible so they receive essential fourth- grade instruction. For example, if a student has attended a Summer Reading Camp and demonstrated mastery of all benchmarks but one, the student could show proficiency in the deficit benchmark and then be promoted to fourth grade. Any student meeting specified state requirements may be promoted midyear.

E-5.  How many samples of proficiency are required for each benchmark in order for a student to be promoted midyear?
In any given school year, a student must have three examples of each benchmark successfully completed on the third-grade level, with a score of 70 percent or above on each example, in order to be promoted midyear. Rule 6A-1.094222, F.A.C. 

Failing to implement a mid-year promotion, will the district adhere to the letter of the law here (below), as it pertains to students retained without any documented reading deficiency? And – Is this happening for ALL students who have been retained?

F.S. 1008.25(7)

(a) Students retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) must be provided intensive interventions in reading to ameliorate the student’s specific reading deficiency, as identified by a valid and reliable diagnostic assessment. This intensive intervention must include effective instructional strategies, participation in the school district’s summer reading camp, and appropriate teaching methodologies necessary to assist those students in becoming successful readers, able to read at or above grade level, and ready for promotion to the next grade. (Camryn Weaver has no reading deficiency. Wekiva Elementary has already demonstarted that she reads at near 7th grade level)

(b) Each school district shall:

1. Provide third grade students who are retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) with intensive instructional services and supports to remediate the identified areas of reading deficiency, including participation in the school district’s summer reading camp as required under paragraph (a) and a minimum of 90 minutes of daily, uninterrupted, scientifically research-based reading instruction which includes phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension and other strategies prescribed by the school district, which may include, but are not limited to:
a. Integration of science and social studies content within the 90-minute block.
b. Small group instruction.
c. Reduced teacher-student ratios.
d. More frequent progress monitoring.
e. Tutoring or mentoring.
f. Transition classes containing 3rd and 4th grade students.
g. Extended school day, week, or year.

2. Provide written notification to the parent of a student who is retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) that his or her child has not met the proficiency level required for promotion and the reasons the child is not eligible for a good cause exemption as provided in paragraph (6)(b). The notification must comply with the provisions of s. 1002.20(15) and must include a description of proposed interventions and supports that will be provided to the child to remediate the identified areas of reading deficiency.

3. Implement a policy for the midyear promotion of a student retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) who can demonstrate that he or she is a successful and independent reader and performing at or above grade level in reading or, upon implementation of English Language Arts assessments, performing at or above grade level in English Language Arts. Tools that school districts may use in reevaluating a student retained may include subsequent assessments, alternative assessments, and portfolio reviews, in accordance with rules of the State Board of Education. Students promoted during the school year after November 1 must demonstrate proficiency levels in reading equivalent to the level necessary for the beginning of grade 4. The rules adopted by the State Board of Education must include standards that provide a reasonable expectation that the student’s progress is sufficient to master appropriate grade 4 level reading skills.

4. Provide students who are retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) with a highly effective teacher as determined by the teacher’s performance evaluation under s. 1012.34.

5. Establish at each school, when applicable, an Intensive Acceleration Class for retained grade 3 students who subsequently score Level 1 on the required statewide, standardized assessment identified in s. 1008.22. The focus of the Intensive Acceleration Class shall be to increase a child’s reading and English Language Arts skill level at least two grade levels in 1 school year. (In order to be in compliance, the district would have to expect Camryn Weaver to achieve reading at the 8th grade level by year end.)

The Intensive Acceleration Class shall:

a. Be provided to a student in grade 3 who scores Level 1 on the statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment and who was retained in grade 3 the prior year because of scoring Level 1.
b. Have a reduced teacher-student ratio.
c. Provide uninterrupted reading instruction for the majority of student contact time each day and incorporate opportunities to master the grade 4 Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in other core subject areas.
d. Use a reading program that is scientifically research-based and has proven results in accelerating student reading achievement within the same school year.
e. Provide intensive language and vocabulary instruction using a scientifically research-based program, including use of a speech-language therapist.

SCPS FSA Q & A 022515 (2014-2015)
State portfolio guidelines are clearly outlined here as well.

Teachers’ Perspectives on 3rd Grade Retention in Seminole


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On Tuesday, Oct 18, two teachers chose to address the Seminole County School Board  the subject of Third Grade Retention.

Alexis Rapp is a former teacher from Orange County and a parent in Seminole County.

Dr. Griffin,

Please excuse my absence. I am taking care of my children. And, not only am I physically ‘not here’, I am also not here to discuss my grievances with you and your board for the actions that you have taken which have affected my reading-above-grade-level, nothing-less-than-above-average-on-his-report-card, minimally-participating-in-last-year’s-FSA, then-third-grade-son, whom you retained.

You have assured us, both in public forums and in private meetings with me and my colleagues, that you would “love to explore alternatives to testing that are within the context of the law.” And I truly believed that you would. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, despite my colleagues’ warnings. I trusted you, but I digress.

It has been ruled that students who minimally participated in the FSA, are “in accordance with the law” and can be promoted based on their report card.

Upon learning this news, I was honestly so excited for you!! And so hopeful. You’d finally have the chance to do what you have always said you’d like to do: what is best for children AND remain in accordance with the law.

And you didn’t.

And you won’t.

And I can’t tell you my disappointment in you and the board.

I am a Marzano rated “highly qualified” teacher (which seems to be very important to you…Marzano), I hold my Master’s in Education and graduated with honors. I am certified in the state of Florida until 2019 to instruct students in grades 1-5, ESOL, Art, and hold my Reading Endorsement. I have worked at the district level, using Lesson Study as a vehicle to encourage myself, students, and teachers to grow. I have been an Educational Consultant and have worked around the country.

One might say that I am able to perform the requirements of teaching and learning.

After conducting an independent portfolio review of Sarina Nickerson’s complete body of third grade work, in accordance with STATE guidelines, you should understand that it would be a completely inappropriate use of Sarina’s time and an abhorrent waste of taxpayer’s money to force her to repeat the third grade.

She’s already done it.

And she’s more than passed.

I am here to appeal to your common sense; to remind you of the promises that you have made to all of us. Please put your “money where your mouth is” and “do the right thing”. Follow the law. Promote Sarina and students like her. End this ridiculous power struggle. Be the leader you claim that you would like to be.

Thank you.

Parent Jodi Parham read the statement written by a former Seminole Teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Imagine you’re in 3rd grade. You’ve been working hard all year and have A’s and B’s on your report card. Now imagine it’s “testing week,” and the months of hard work leading up to this week could be for naught if you do not “pass” the FSA. A few days of testing will determine whether or not you will be retained or go on to 4th grade. Imagine the stress on a young child.

What message are we sending to these students? Work hard all year, but bear in mind all your hard work could be a complete waste of time if you don’t perform what has been deemed “adequately” by the state DOE. This is only the beginning for these students. They will undergo this stressful experience throughout grade school, middle school, and high school.

Now, imagine you’re a child with a learning disability. School is already more challenging for you, but the powers that be have determined we need to engage you in high stakes tests that may determine whether or not you advance to 4th grade.

Studies have shown that children who are retained are less likely to complete high school, and students who are retained twice have a greater than 50% chance of failing to graduate. Isn’t there a better way to determine if a child is learning and acquiring the necessary skills at each grade level?

The amount of instructional time taken by “practice testing” and actual testing is costly to the development of all students. It robs them of valuable time in the classroom and devalues the hard work they do each day. It is time to reevaluate these tests and go back to valuing the time students have each day to learn and grow at their own pace. It is time for a change.

Last year was my tenth and final year teaching. I still substitute but the environment in which I worked was so stressful, I could no longer continue. I was retaliated against for calling HR about issues. These issues were never addressed. I was reprimanded for telling parents their students made progress, because those students did not pass the FSA and were being retained. Every Sunday night, I broke out in hives thinking about going to work. It saddens me what is happening to our educational system. I hope we can remember to look at the whole child and the whole school year. I truly hope things change.

Thank you for listening.”

To FEA: Challenge the Validity of VAM


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Florida Education Association (FEA) leadership and Florida Teachers are convened in Orlando this weekend.

One of the most important actions that FEA could take, to promote and protect the professional autonomy of teachers, is to mount a legal challenge to the validity of VAM. FEA’s previous attempts to discredit VAM legally in Florida have been unsuccessful. Going after the validity has been proven in a court of law and is winnable – here – and now.

VAM scores are coming in for teachers across the state and it is not pretty.

“Highly Effective” teachers with lousy VAM scores.

Teachers with the highest VAM scores being rated “Effective” and “Ineffective.”

To the Florida Education Association (FEA):

NOW is the time to take up a challenge to the validity of VAM, as Sheri Lederman successfully challenged in a New York court – and won.  There is legal precedent and mountains of evidence documented against VAM now.

It could be a big win for teachers and for children!

From Teacher Lucy Oeming Malacos in Manatee County:

“It’s very interesting that last year, based on my vice-principal’s opinion, I barely received an “effective”, after 25 years of “highly effective” at my previous teaching position. Yet, today, I received my VAM score and received the highest possible points (4), which deemed me “highly effective.”

I was observed for total of 2 hours (1 hour sessions twice) by administrators, yet for an entire year of working, my students made extraordinary gains! Yet, other teachers received “highly effective” status by administration, yet their VAM scores indicate “needs improvement” for them!!!!! My initial “walk through” (20 minutes) this year, I was, once again, deemed “needs improvement”…..

With all that said, I have now resigned from teaching. I can no longer deal with the hypocrisy.”

Public education cannot afford to lose one more valuable and highly qualified teacher to this insanity.

Watch this video where current FEA Secretary-Treasurer, Luke Flynt explains the ridiculousness of VAM to the Indian River County School Board:


Relevant articles about the lederman case:
May 12, 2016: New York court decision throws out use of ‘VAM’ for teacher evaluations…

Daniel Katz on the Meaning of Sheri Lederman’s Victory in Court Against VAM

Mom in 3rd Grade Lawsuit Addresses Seminole School Board

This week, Rhonda Nickerson addressed the Seminole County School Board. Her address was read for her by parent, Jodi Parham.

You, the Board and Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools have stated numerous times that you don’t like the reliance and significance placed on standardized testing. However, at the first opportunity to demonstrate that beliefyou chosotherwise.

You could have stood with us in putting our students first, putting actions behind the districts apparently empty words.  Instead, you each chose to support the very costly move to fight the judge’s ruling. You certainly are NOT REQUIRED to do so. Please don’t say, “It’s the lawyers.” The lawyers answer to  this board.  You made your choice to send a message about where you really stand and it‘s clearly not on the side of our children. Not only did you not stand with us, you’re using our own tax dollars to fight against our children. If this doesn’t turn your stomach, I don’t understand.

This year, Seminole has added more testing.  More dependency on a test score, instead of more trust in our teachers. How can that be interpreted by parents and teachers as anything other than hypocrisy?

At the very least, this district could have acted according to the Judge’s order and promoted proficient third graders. You didn’t, and instead continue to act against our students’ best interestsYou have doomed them to an entire year spent bowing to the testing god with each and every mind-numbing repeated lesson. Violating those same statutes you pretend to serve with blind obedience, as no alternative curriculum is being used.  Another 180 days of knowing, in their little 9 year old hearts, that they are valued less than their test scores. Lessons we parents will spend a lifetime trying to undo.

You are sadly mistaken  if you believe that every child doesn’t know the importance placed on TEST scores. They feel it in their tummies with stomachs pains and heads with headaches. They show it in how they treat those around them, acting out at school or at home. Some go so far as to taunt other children about their test scores.

You could do the right thing and promote those kids stuck in 3rd grade again. Especially Gabi’s daughter and those like her. Every day that that sweet, brilliant girl sits in 3rd grade takes a chip out of her self-worth. We all know she doesn’t belong there and yet Superintendent Griffin and this Board are stubbornly stuck on a score to prove it. 

Ask yourselves:

Why is a gifted child with a near 7th grade reading level still in the 3rd grade?

Where is your proof that she belongs there? Not having a test score is not proof of a reading deficiency. The law and judge clearly stated so several times. Your willingness to damage these children each and every day is a horrible, ugly stain on this county and on EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU.

My family is just one of many harmed by this district’s practices. Throughout Sarina’s 3rd grade year, I repeatedly asked for a true portfolio to be done. I was denied, despite the law and a judge’s order. Only more testing was offered. However, a state certified teacher has certified Sarina’s portfolio as proficient for promotion to 4th grade. No test score needed. Imagine that.

Placing so much importance on these numbers is destroying public education…perhaps we should really call it what it is…

Public Testing of the many, for the Profit of a Few.

Sarina Nickerson’s Third Grade Report Card

Parent to Broward School Board: “I will not go quietly into the night…”


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Brandy Paternoster is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to make #180DaysCount in school.  Her compelling address at the Broward County Public Schools’ Board meeting yesterday, is an indictment of the district’s position and their appeal of Judge Karen Giever’s Court ruling on August 26.

Watch as she holds the Broward County School Board accountable for their failure to do what is right for students (beginning at 0:50):


Retired educator and Opt Out Broward administrator, Dr. Trudy Jermanovich strengthened Brandy’s position with her own address. Watch, as she schools Broward School Board on an authentic portfolio for third grade promotion:

“This board must learn to start trusting teachers. Give them guidelines and set them free to teach. You have the ability to stop playing games with children’s lives. I urge you to stop supporting the DOE in its endless attempts at stalling the Third Grade lawsuit.”


Here is a transcript of Brandy’ Paternoster’s address:

“Good afternoon. My name is Brandy Paternoster and these are my 4th grade twins, Dylan and Jadyn. They have attended Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston since the first grade. They passed the 3rd grade last year …according to their teachers and according to their report cards, but the district says they must be retained.

My children met test participation requirement by signing the FSA test booklet and breaking the seal. At no time was I ever notified that either child has a reading deficiency. Two days before school ended, the principal advised us that without a test score, both children did not meet criteria to be promoted to 4th grade. I requested that a portfolio of their school work be compiled to prove proficiency as outlined in state Administrative Code and was told that such a thing does not exist. I demanded that my children be promoted based on their report cards per Florida Statute 1008.25 (6)(b)7.c)1. which clearly states:

“Requests for good cause exemptions for students from the mandatory retention requirement… …shall consist only of the existing PMP, IEP, report card, or student portfolio.”

I was ignored. The principal stated that it was coming down from the district and that without a test score, her hands were tied.

“Let’s get them to 4th grade” she said. “That’s where they should be! Just have them take the SAT-10 test and this can all be resolved!”

I refused any additional testing because test participation requirement had already been met and our children are more than a test score!

As part of the school board’s case against us in the “3rd Grade Retention Lawsuit” the principal filed an affidavit. Here is a quote:

“18. Based on the above information and my numerous years as an educator, I do not believe either student has the reading ability to complete 4th grade material.”
-Heather Hedman-DeVaughn, Principal – Manatee Bay Elementary

This is a direct quote from the principal’s sworn statement. Let that sink in. Back in June, all they needed was a test score to promote. Now, all of a sudden, they are not even proficient? You see, in addition to providing the facts and dates and emails and documents as required of her in her affidavit, this “educator” made a choice. Her statement could have read, “Because they did not meet the state requirement…” or “Because they don’t have a test score…” and though I don’t agree with either statement, they would still have supported the districts stance without crossing any lines. But she didn’t. She made a choice. For a test score.

“I do not believe either student has the reading ability to complete 4th grade material.”

She chose to lie. I don’t know if her statement was influenced by her supervisors (I suspect that it was) or if she chose those words all by herself. We may never know, but make no mistake, she made a choice.

Mrs. DeVaughn made a choice to NOT stand up for children who were present in the classroom for 180 days of work, who do not have a reading deficiency and who clearly are on grade level. She chose not to support her teachers, whom she hired, or their ability to teach and grade students effectively and accurately. She chose not to trust in their teaching certificates or their degrees or their most basic moral character. She chose not to back her own school or the systems she has put in place to ensure her wards navigate the education system successfully.

Mrs. DeVaughn chose to support a testing system that is broken and in doing so betrayed it all. Her statement says that her school failed to catch, not one, but two students who supposedly can’t keep up but passed all subjects. It says that her hiring practices failed. It says that two good teachers are incompetent liars. It says that two amazing children are failures.

For a test score.

Mrs. DeVaughn chose to sacrifice 2 children to the gods of “The Test” presumably to garner some unimaginable favor. She chose wrong. And you, as school board members, chose wrong when you decided to appeal Judge Gievers’ ruling. Her ruling untied your hands and gave you the opportunity to say, “Ya know what, we screwed up, but we’re gonna fix it now,” but you didn’t.

I leave you with one final thought.

My tax dollars, your tax dollars are paying for lawyers to fight against children who are clearly proficient, as defined by the letter of the law – to punish me for standing up and saying “NO” to a flawed testing system. Our tax dollars are being used to appeal the judge’s ruling, that was in our favor, that said, “Yes, the FDOE and the Broward County School Board did indeed act unlawfully”; to make an example of us for daring to have a voice and to ensure that no one else will ever be brave enough to do the same.

Let me be clear. I will not go quietly into the night.”

I stand here for our teachers.

I stand here for our children.

They are more than a test score!

Thank you.”

Sincere thanks to the members of the Broward Teachers Union for supporting Brandy and Trudy by yielding their time so that they could properly address these issues with the Broward Board.
The plaintiff families are fighting to hold the FLDOE and school districts accountable to the PUBLIC.  They are fighting for all children in Florida public schools.

You can support their efforts by donating to

To learn more about the lawsuit to fight mandatory third grade retention, follow the hashtag #180DaysCount on Facebook and Twitter.

A complete copy of Judge Gievers’ ruling and Court Order can be found here.

9/04 UPDATE – 3rd Grade Lawsuit
A WIN For Education in Florida Today!
Fighting for the Soul of Education in Florida – Day 1

– Why we do this:
– THIRD GRADE OPT OUT GROUP for help and support:
– For statewide information and suggested reading: Website
– For the most current news on education/testing: The Opt Out Florida Network