Florida’s Scott, Stewart Paring Down Testing Regimen

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Last year Florida Governor Rick Scott requested an investigation into standardized testing in the state’s public schools. After Scott received the completed inquiry from Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, Scott suspended the English and reading test given to high school juniors — and now Scott and Stewart are continuing to slim down the testing regime.

Stewart said high school students were already required to pass a 10th grade version of the test in order to graduate. Scott explained that he had heard from parents and teachers across the state that too many tests are being given to students.

Gary Fineout of the Associated Press reports that testing rose dramatically in this school year, more than the school year that ended last summer. That along with the growing concern over too much testing, led to the Lee County school board opting out of statewide testing last August, a decision which was reversed a week later. State lawmakers were poised to change testing requirements during the upcoming session when Scott released his announcement.

The practice of giving annual tests in all grades from third to 10th came into being through a law ushered in by Gov. Jeb Bush over ten years ago. The 11th grade tests started with the current school year. Stewart also suggests that final exams be eliminated in the subject areas that have a mandatory final exam, reports John W. Davis of BHTV.

Stewart’s recommendations included adding a required state college-readiness test, Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT), for high school juniors. But, concerns of parents and teachers, as to the high-stakes decisions based on the results of the testing including graduation and teacher evaluations, persist. Stewart’s report said the state should continue with “fewer and better assessments”, a phrase which has become the mantra of the state’s GOP leaders.

“I applaud the Governor’s recommendations and any recommendation to decrease the amount of testing so we can increase the amount of teaching,” said Walt Griffin, superintendent of Seminole County public schools, in an email.

In 2010 Florida adopted the Common Core State Standards and joined a consortium of states writing standardized tests in alignment with the new standards. As Common Core began to generate criticism, Scott changed the name of the assessments to Florida Standards, which stayed true to Common Core but offered some changes. He did away with the state’s partnership with PARCC and acquired a new test named the Florida Standards Assessments to evaluate the Florida Standards, writes The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss.

Stewart’s recommendations are to suspend the 11th grade FSA for English language arts until legislation eliminates the mandate and to begin the legislative process to do away with PERT and make it optional. She also wants to enact legislation to eliminate the current progress monitoring requirements, eliminate local final exams in areas where there is also a statewide standardized end-of-course exam and give only one school- or district-wide test per course/subject per grading period.
Stewart believes that tests should not be given for the sole purpose of evaluating teachers, and that schools should provide teachers, parents, and students with information on progress on each assessment used to monitor student progress.