Florida has suspended the use of a state reading comprehension exam for students in grades K-12.
The state has suspended the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) exam. In its place, teachers will observe students using less formal measures.
“It’s amazing,” said Susan Bowles, the Alachua County kindergarten teacher whose widely publicized refusal to administer FAIR this fall sparked the state’s move. “I am very grateful that they have seen that the test was not a good thing for children.”
Opponents to testing are considering this a win, claiming that students are subjected to too many exams and that those exams play too large a role in educational decisions.
Many teachers are also unsupportive of the testing of younger students, as they say it cuts down on instruction time available for other types of learning. The testing had been administered to students on a one-to-one basis, three times per year, and is given online.
“Every five-year-old student is expected to use a mouse and click their answers with the mouse independently,” said Teacher Debra Smith.
Some students cannot color inside the lines yet, let alone use a computer, Smith added.
Administering the exam individually means that other students in the class must join another class for that time, pushing class sizes up to 35 students.
“This is not an education problem. This is a state government problem,” teacher Bowles added.
According to Joe Follick, director of communications, political pressures did not add into the decision to pull the test, but rather issues with computer programming. Teachers were have trouble logging on and staying connected.
“This decision was made solely due to technological problems,” Follick said. Plus, he said superintendents had expressed concerns.
Brevard Superintendent Brian Bingelli said the issues are “cause for concern.”
“We should take this opportunity to have a much more thoughtful discussion about the role standards-based tests should play in evaluating the overall success of students, teachers and schools,” Binggeli said.
The FAIR exam is used to measure student progress and is not linked to any educational decisions such as grade promotion and high school graduation or teacher evaluations and pay.
Decisions of that nature will be decided through the new Florida Standards Assessment, taken by students in grades 3-11.
However, the change has brought about a statewide focus on less testing, which some believe is overdue.
In Brevard, more than 600 people have joined an “Opt Out Brevard” Facebook Group, calling for a change in the state testing policy.
The Lee County School Board had opted out of state testing, but quickly rescinded the decision when faced with threats of lost funding and delayed student progress.
As part of his re-election platform, Florida Governor Rick Scott is asking for a “thorough investigation of all standardized tests.” Scott opposes the Common Core Standards, calling them a federal intrusion into local education decisions.