Long a stronghold of testing, Florida plans to end ‘stale’ end-of-year exams

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said on Tuesday he was working to replace the state’s annual standardized tests in the spring with “progress tracking” from the next school year.

The state will still administer its summative assessment, the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), this year, DeSantis said. But he said changing the state’s assessment policy would provide more timely and useful information to teachers and parents, and reduce the testing burden on students and schools by 75 percent.

DeSantis has said he will work with state lawmakers to craft legislation enacting the change, so it remains to be seen what the policy change will look like in practice. But in principle, this represents a shift from annual tests in the spring to shorter checks on student progress during the school year. He also announced on Tuesday that the new testing regime will be called Florida Assessments of Student Thinking..

If the move comes to fruition, it will be a major change for one of the larger states by the time it enters Kindergarten to Grade 12, although it will still have to meet some federal testing requirements. Starting with former GOP Governor Jeb Bush in 1999, when he signed the “A-Plus plan” Under the law establishing statewide exams for grades 3 through 10, florida has come to significantly rely on test scores and represent them in educational policy. Through a group he created after leaving office, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Bush has also been instrumental in championing the value of standardized exams, although the Bush foundation has called for less testing. numerous and of better quality. A few years ago.

It remains to be seen whether policymakers will make policy changes that depend on test results. FSA, for example, is usually a large part Florida K-12 Education Accountability System. “We’re going to continue to measure results because we think it’s important,” DeSantis said Tuesday.

But DeSantis has made it clear that he believes a new testing regime is needed. He called Bringing Out the Current is testing the “last step” to ending common basic state standards in Florida, though the link between the announcement and the standards was not immediately clear. As governor, DeSantis took on the common core and actually said last year that he eliminated it. when the state released new content standards.

DeSantis said the new “progress tracking” system will create opportunities to check on student progress in the fall, winter and spring. He presented the idea as one that would best serve students, teachers and parents.

“We are in 2021. The FSA is frankly outdated. It takes days to administer, ”DeSantis, a Republican, said at a press conference. “It’s not customizable for each student. … He fails to provide timely information to parents.

ESSA still requires annual statewide testing by states

The Every Student Succeeds Act, the primary federal law governing K-12 education, requires annual statewide testing in certain classes and subjects. The ESSA allows states to use multiple interim assessments during a school year instead of a single summative test like the FSA, although a report published by the Council of Chief State School Officers notes that such assessments should be done statewide. These intermediate tests must still produce a single summative score.

Florida could develop new interim assessments that would follow federal law, but DeSantis’ announcement is long on slogans and short on important details, at least for now, said Morgan Polikoff, associate professor of education at University of Southern California Rossier School of Education.

While DeSantis’ announcement will likely get a lot of public support, Polikoff said he’s skeptical that Florida will actually be able to reduce the testing burden by 75% after switching to the new system. A question Polikoff said the state must answer: Will Florida essentially divide the FSA into parts and administer it over the course of the school year, making it easier to deliver results to teachers and others? relatively quickly, or do something more nuanced?

He also said that using mid-level evaluations for high stakes can diminish their value. Ensuring that schools administer these intermediate tests in a standardized way will also be crucial, Polikoff added.

“No one is dying to administer state assessments,” Polikoff said. “I don’t think it’s obvious what the wise decision is here.”

The US Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposed change in Florida on Tuesday.

Separately, DeSantis clashed with the Biden administration over its attempts to restrict mask mandates in local school districts. Last week, the education ministry opened a civil rights investigation on whether the state mask policy denies educational rights to some students.

Resistance to standardized end-of-year exams required by the federal government has increased over the past decade, although lawmakers retained the basic testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 when they enacted ESSA in 2015. The Ministry of Education granted blanket waivers to ESSA’s testing mandates for the year 2019-2020 at the start of the pandemic, although the agency generally rejected the efforts of ESSA. States to cancel or replace their year-end exams in the spring of this year.

Through an ESSA pilot program, the federal government has supported state efforts to create assessment models that differ from traditional exams. schools administer in the spring.

Florida began to use the FSA in 2015.

Florida Education Association expressed support for the idea launched by DeSantis. Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of schools for Miami-Dade County in Florida, one of the largest districts in the country, praises DeSantis, saying the change would allow “real-time progress tracking data enables timely academic recalibration opportunities that are suitable for Florida children.”

Speaking at DeSantis’ press conference, Sarah Hall, the 2020 Teacher of the Year for Seminole County Schools in Florida, said that using the governor-backed type of approach produced “projections. more targeted and more precise for student success ”.

“Tracking progress has had a significant impact in my classroom,” Hall said.



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