Education

State officials declare Florida should give students fewer tests

Decision does not address concerns expressed by Pensacola area superintendents, others about this year's FSA

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart today recommended a reduction in the number of tests Florida students must take following an investigation requested by Gov. Rick Scott.

But the reductions recommended seem to apply narrowly, and do not address concerns that Pensacola area superintendents and their counterparts across the state have expressed about the Florida Standards Assessment test.

“As I have traveled the state, I have heard from parents and teachers that there are too many tests and I agree,” Scott said in a news release.

The investigation included: a comprehensive inspection of district-level assessments to better understand the number, frequency, and purpose; and an evaluation to determine whether the local assessment was already assessed by a statewide, standardized assessment.

“There is, without a doubt, an excess of testing in Florida schools, and I look forward to working with Governor Scott and the Legislature to ensure we strike the appropriate balance between accountability and instruction,” Stewart said.

Senate President Andy Gardiner and Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli released statements that were supportive of the idea of less testing in general, but gave no specific details about how lawmakers would act this sessions to rollback the series of standardized tests the state mandates students take.

The reports makes four recommendations:

— Issue an Executive Order to suspend the grade 11 Florida Standards Assessment for English language arts until legislation is enacted to eliminate the mandate.

— Enact legislation to make the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test optional, not mandatory for juniors.

  • — Enact legislation to eliminate the current progress monitoring requirements.
  • — Enact legislation to eliminate local final exams in courses where there is also a statewide standardized end-of-course exam.
  • Current statewide end-of-course assessments are Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, U.S. History, Biology 1, and Civics.

Those recommendations do not address the concerns that a group of school superintendents — including Escambia’s Malcolm Thomas and Santa Rosa’s Tim Wyrosdick — presented to Scott earlier this month.

The superintendents presented five recommendations they wanted the state to implement this year to help alleviate concerns they have about the accuracy and equity of the Florida Standards Assessment test, which students will take in April.

Those were:

— Support the administration of the Florida Standards Assessments this year and use the results as a baseline for measuring progress. The State’s accountability system relies on both learning gains as well as performance.  In the first year of FSA administration, there will be no learning gains and therefore will compromise its ability to drive accountability.

— Freeze school grades through 2015-2016 to ensure two consecutive years of reliable and valid data.

— Eliminate the requirement for the 11th grade English and Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment and all new end-of-course exams.

— Allow for the determination of teacher evaluations based on local data.

— Ensure adequate technology readiness for the statewide computer-based testing.