How A Conflict In Florida Policies Means The End Of A Student Help Desk

Jun 5, 2014

Students man a computer help desk at Ocoee High School and assist classmates. The school has to end the program because of a state requirement for end-of-course exams.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

A recurring theme in Florida education is that policies intended to address separate issues can and do conflict with each other.

For instance, Florida lawmakers changed high school graduation requirements last year so that students no longer have to complete Algebra II. Research shows most students won’t use Algebra II in their careers, and many students struggle to pass the course.

But eliminating Algebra II conflicts with the state’s adoption of math standards based on Common Core. Those standards ask every student to complete concepts traditionally taught in Algebra II courses.

We came across another example at Ocoee High School, west of Orlando, reporting on how Florida schools are upgrading their technology for online Common Core-tied exams.

That school is one of seven in Orange County which received a top-to-bottom tech overhaul to figure out what works best for the new tests and a 2015 requirement to deliver half of classroom instruction digitally.

Every students is assigned a MacBook Air, and students are the first call when something goes wrong. But the school will have to end its student help desk — known as iKnights — because of a state requirement that every class have an end-of-course exam at year’s end.

“Unfortunately we won’t be able to continue that program next year,” principal William Floyd said. “There’s no matching end-of-course exam for it, so we can’t offer it anymore. There’s actually quite a few courses like that.”

The Orlando Sentinel reported in March that Orange County schools plans to eliminate or combine more than 100 courses rather than create end-of-course exams for them. Other school districts are also eliminating or combining courses because of the exams.

But eliminating iKnights — the school treats it as a course — means students won’t have the chance to pick up information technology, networking, computing and other experience. Giving students more chances to earn real world experience or industry certifications has been a top legislative priority the past two years, including creating a new high school diploma category focused on earning industry certifications.

“That’s been really neat form their perspective,” said Thomas McNabb, Orange County schools’ infrastructure director, “in terms of getting some experience, getting to help out their fellow students.

“They’ve certainly helped out in terms of resolving issues.”

But as Floyd notes, iKnights must go: “Every teacher has to be given a test on the students that are assigned to them to determine how they are evaluated.”