The Florida Senate is looking to temporarily suspend school grades in order to appease parents, teachers and superintendents who are looking for a smooth transition as schools work to implement new standards and exams.
A provision was recently added to the testing bill requiring an independent review of the Florida Standards Assessment currently being implemented. According to the proposal, the results of the exam would not be able to be used for school grades or teacher evaluations until the completion of the review.
"We will rely upon this year's assessments if and only if they have been deemed valid and reliable," former Senate President Don Gaetz said.
According to the proposal, tests in the state must be considered valid by an independent panel prior to the publication of grades from the 2014-15 school year used for teacher evaluations. The review must be completed by September 1.
"What this does is say school grades will only rely on this year's assessment if, and only if, they have been deemed to be valid and reliable by an independent third party," said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. "No school grades, for any school, that rely on this year's data would be released, published, calculated or used until validity is confirmed."
The provision was added to a bill meant to reduce the number of tests taken by Florida students.
An additional provision would allow school districts to begin their school year as early as August 10. However, not all Senators agree with the move, arguing that the summer travel season is important to the economy and should not be cut short.
"Senators, save our summer," pleaded Sen. Darren Soto, a Democrat who represents the tourism mecca of Orlando. "There's so much about life you learn outside of a classroom."
The changes were made after a number of concerns arose from parents, educators and lawmakers who asked for a hold to be placed on school grades this year over issues with testing, writes Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster for The Tampa Tribune.
The proposal would end the English Language Arts assessment taken in the 11th grade and would stop districts from giving additional finals in courses that already require a statewide standardized exam. In addition, the amount of time for administering exams would be limited to no more than 5% of the total number of school hours per student per year.
While third-graders would no longer be required to pass an English Language assessment in order to move on to the fourth grade, those students who place in the bottom 20% would be labeled "at-risk."