Whither the Parents??

David Bolduc, President, Parents Rights of Choice for Kids, Inc. (“Parents ROCK”)

January 8, 2017

In a Daily News article regarding Collier County’s high school graduation rate increase, Superintendent Kamela Patton stated, “We appreciate the efforts of our dedicated teachers, staff and our strong community partners.” Which begs the question, what happened to parents? Do they no longer exist? Apparently, according to Superintendent Patton’s statement, they have been replaced by her community partners.

Superintendent Kamela Patton stated, “We appreciate the efforts of our dedicated teachers, staff and our strong community partners.” Which begs the question, what happened to parents? Do they no longer exist?

With this in mind, and since we are in NFL Playoff season, Parents ROCK, the parent advocacy group which encourages more transparency and accountability at the Collier County School District, would like to throw a red challenge flag on a recent guest editorial by one of Patton’s community partners, Maria Jimenez-Lara, CEO of the Naples Children and Education Foundation.

Specifically, Parents ROCK feels that Ms. Jimenez-Lara’s claim of Collier’s increasing graduation rate is indicative of superior classroom performance, should go under the hood for further review from different angles where student achievement can be compared across District and State lines.

Perhaps no nationally normed achievement test does a better job of measuring the effectiveness of a school district preparing their students to succeed in college and careers as the ACT. For those of you not familiar with the ACT, it measures selected skills and acquired knowledge in high school and is designed to predict the likelihood of student success in freshman college courses.

For 2014-15, the last ACT test year posed on the Collier School District website, 18 percent of Collier County students tested college ready in all four subjects; English, Math, Reading and Science. Comparatively, 19 percent of Florida students tested college ready in all four subjects, while 28 percent of students across the nation tested college ready in all four subjects. In other words, not only do we trail the state in this key academic achievement measurement, but Collier County is 36 percent below the national average in preparing our students to succeed in college.

Interestingly, in 2010-11, the last year Patton was in a senior leadership role at Dade County Public Schools, Dade County experienced a similar dramatic increase with their graduation rate, yet the Miami Herald reported in December 2012, “In 2010-11, 54 percent of students coming out of high school failed at least one subject on the Florida College System’s placement test, Florida’s remedial education needs are much greater than in many other states, and the numbers are worse at Miami Dade College [175,000 students] where 63 percent of high school graduates take at least one remedial course upon enrollment.”

Couple Superintendent Patton’s ACT State and National underperformance with her stated goal to transition Collier County Public Schools towards digital learning, where teachers no longer control classroom content and are relegated to facilitators of state approved content, and Collier students are facing some very difficult student achievement headwinds.

In 2015, MIT published a paper where they studied Economics courses at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and found average final exam scores among students assigned to classrooms that allowed computer learning were 18 percent lower than exam scores in classrooms that prohibited computers. In other words, digital learning lowered test scores of highly intelligent and motivated West Point Cadets by an astonishing 18 percent. The MIT study further warned, “We also find modest evidence that computer usage is most detrimental to male students and to students who entered the course with a high grade point average (GPA).” This finding might explain why the number of Collier County students scoring a 5, the highest score, on AP Biology, AP Chemistry and AP Physics has decreased by 83 percent since Superintendent Patton’s arrival in 2011.

Overall, although Collier County spends close to a billion of your tax dollars on an annual basis to tout higher graduation rates, they appear to be smoke and mirrors. Yes, more students are graduating from high school; however, many are not prepared for the real world, and unfortunately, a vast majority are not “college and career ready”. Parents ROCK is all for celebrating student success, let’s just make sure the measurable being celebrated relates to student achievement.