by Elizabeth Martinez
As a result of the Education Commissioner’s investigation into state testing, Florida Governor Rick Scott has stated that he will be issuing an executive order to suspend the 11th grade FSA testing in language arts.
The Governor’s actions come after Pam Stewart, Florida’s Education Commissioner, released recommendations regarding the issue of testing in the state’s education system. The investigation included a comprehensive look in to district level assessments to understand their frequency, number, and purpose, as well as an evaluation on the state level to ensure that students weren’t taking exams for duplicated reasons.
Eliminating the 11th grade FSA test, which provides 11 graders immediate testing relief, was just one of the four recommendations Stewart made to the state legislature regarding the investigation.
The other being to enact legislation to make the PERT optional, being that rigorous standards and increased graduation requirements can ensure the same college readiness, eliminate current progress monitoring requirements on the state level and instead make them an issue on the local level, and eliminate local final exams in subjects areas where a state end of course exam already exists(US History, Geometry, Algebra 1 and 2, Biology, and Civics.)
The recommendations even extended to the district level, requesting districts to only have one schools wide or district wide interim assessment per course/subject per grading period, and provide students, teachers, and parents with their student’s progress and test scores.
Additionally, Stewart recommended that districts not test their students for the sole purpose of evaluating teachers, but instead to test them on their progress and knowledge of the subject matter, which can be used to judge teacher performance.
The issue of state testing came in to the spotlight as the state adopted its own Common Core Standards, and required EOC’s of every subject, including PE and Drama. This called for the introduction of one million additional tests in the beginning of this school year, which only allowed for 8 days free of testing across Miami-Dade County, which left many parents upset at the state for over testing students.
Throughout the year, the state legislature has held hearings to better understand the sentiment of both sides, and better deal with the issue of state testing. One of such hearings coinciding with the release of the investigation, where Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho gave insight as to his recommendations regarding testing.
Carvalho made it clear he was not for the full elimination of testing, but did express that over-testing was not a solution. “We do need to face the condition as it stands today there is considerable over-testing that robs precious time from teaching.” Said Carvalho.
He addressed some of issues with testing, the first being the FSA, the test set to replace the FCAT. His recommendations included reporting test scores back to the community to ensure that they are in fact utilizing accountability and assessment, and eliminating duplicate assessments. Additionally, the superintendent commented on EOC’s, end of course assessments, which are used to track learning improvements and evaluate teachers.
“Asses for the purpose of driving teaching and learning improvements. I think the state has an obligation at looking at the requirements for EOC’s for every course and ask the legitimate question are some of these end of course assessments being administered for the purpose of improving teaching and learning, or are they being administered for the purpose of simply driving teacher evaluations.”
Lastly, the Superintendent addressed the issue of technology. Expressing that although he is hugely in support of a transition to a digital environment, the state has yet to question whether the technological capability is available to schools.
“We need to question if we have gone too far too fast without engaging in the necessary testing for bandwidth, for connectivity, and for utilization of the assets at the expense of teaching and learning.” said Carvalho.
This address to the state legislature was the first of many as the state senate committee on education begins to look in to reforming the testing and accountability system currently in place.
Governor Rick Scott is set to enact his executive order within the coming days.