Broward to study easing teacher workloads, testing demands

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.
Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The Broward school district will create two task forces to find solutions for issues that its teachers have long complained about: heavy workloads at the high school level and teacher evaluations that are focused on standardized test scores.

At a press conference Thursday in which both sides promised “collaboration,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie joined with local teachers union leaders to announce the new efforts. Also on hand was Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

The announcement came less than two weeks after the Broward School Board passed a resolution opposing Florida’s “over-reliance” on high-stakes testing. The Miami-Dade school system has also criticized the state’s test-focused education philosophy, and recently took announced plans to administer 24 fewer tests this academic year.

Runcie said Broward’s two new task forces are an attempt to shift the conversation in a different way: by improving working conditions for teachers and evaluating them in ways that are more useful and constructive.

He described the move away from testing as a “fundamental philosophical shift from where we’ve been going for decades in this country.”

“This is time for us to really think about investing in teachers,” Runcie said “This is about improving the quality of instruction.”

Responding to questions from reporters, Runcie said Broward, like Miami-Dade, is also considering reducing the number of tests it administers, but is reluctant to create any sudden scheduling disruptions. That makes it likely that Broward will wait until next year to make any changes in that area.

Weingarten, the union leader, said the emphasis on testing is a national issue, but “Florida is pretty much one of the most extreme cases.”

“Testing has replaced teaching in terms of the instructional strategy in schools,” Weingarten said. “And there’s a huge backlash now.”