Broward School Board member Abby Freedman has withdrawn her son from the public school system she helps to oversee, deciding he would be better off in private school.
Freedman, who was elected last November, now pays $23,900 to send her 12-year-old son Harrison to Fort Lauderdale-based Pine Crest School, where he's in the seventh grade.
Her concern isn't with her son's former school, Westglades Middle in Coral Springs, or the county school district. Instead, she said she's fed up with state-mandated testing, especially the standardized end-of-course test given when students finish algebra, geometry, biology, U.S. history and civics.
Under a state law passed this year, the tests make up 30 percent of a student's grade, which Freedman called too much weight. She said the test can result in a student who has performed at an A level all year to drop if they have an off-day.
"Last I checked, Einstein was able to discover the theory of relativity without an end-of-course exam," she said. "We have sent men to the moon and made incredible breakthroughs without end-of-course exams."
Pine Crest, which serves about 2,500 students in grades pre-K to 12, has been ranked by the Washington Post as one of the best schools in the country. Ninety-nine percent of graduates attend four-year colleges. The average SAT score is a combined 2020 for reading, writing and math, compared to a national average of 1498.
But what most impressed Freedman is that instructors teach without constantly drilling kids for high-stakes tests, she said.
"Their philosophy is my philosophy for education, the one I received when I was in a public school," she said. "Unfortunately I'm having to pay right now for this education."
Freedman has two other sons. Beau graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a public high school in Parkland, and now attends the University of Florida. Her middle son Jarrod is enrolled at Stoneman Douglas but has completed all the classes where end-of-course exams are used, so she didn't withdraw him.
The exam requirement was part of a reform bill the Broward School Board voted to support before Freedman joined.
Board member Rosalind Osgood's three children graduated from Westminster Academy, a Christian school in Fort Lauderdale. Osgood said she withdrew her children because of academic and safety concerns but the district schools have improved dramatically.
Board member Katie Leach, whose children attend district schools, said she doesn't judge Freedman for her decision.
"I think we're parents first," Leach said. "We have to do what is in the best interest of our children."
Freedman said she would gladly return Harrison to public schools if the state rescinded the testing law.
"I would love to not have to spend all this hard-earned money," she said. "But I will fight for everything I believe in. My son has been in public school. I didn't pass this law. It happened to me."
email@example.com or 954-425-1421 or 561-243-6637