High Stakes Testing Report and Proposed Bills: What Might Change?

olive-42906_1280Education Commissioner Pam Stewart issued her report on high stakes testing in Florida.  Yes, students are tested too much.  Some testing can be eliminated.  Which ones?

Are the recommendations meaningful or just a peace offering?  The report lists the number of days of required statewide testing as seven or fewer, but districts have many more mandated tests.  Their tests, however, tend to be used to diagnose learning problems as students progress throughout the year.

Senators Montford and Legg have filed bills to modify the Florida Accountability System. Their views differ, particularly on the dates for implementing the accountability measures for school grades and teacher evaluations. Both bills address district readiness capacity for computer based testing.

The Florida Department of Education (DOE) Assessment Investigation report includes information about the history of assessment and the justification for testing in Florida.  It also reviews federal requirements for annual testing and accountability measures for schools and teachers.

Data show that the number of state required testing days per student has increased since 2007.  Performance charts indicate that the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level also increased.  Performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows increases in Reading and Mathematics for grades 4 and 11. Correlation, however, does not mean causation.  Which students take the tests and how passing standards are revised impact test validity as has been documented in other posts on the blog.

The recommendations include:

  • Eliminate the FSA English Language Arts (ELA) requirement for 11th grade.  Students meet ELA graduation requirements in 10th grade.
  • Eliminate Post Secondary Education Readiness Test (PERT) Requirement and make it optional.
  • Eliminate state mandated progress monitoring requirements.
  • Eliminate local final exams in courses where there are state mandated End of Course (EOC) exams.  These include: Algebra I, II;  Geometry, U.S. History, Biology I, and Civics.

The recommendations suggest that districts require no more than one school wide or district wide progress test per course/per grading period.  Eliminating tests used solely to evaluate teachers and reporting progress monitoring test results to parents are also included.  The individual district mandated test reports are included in Appendix F of the DOE Assessment Investigation report.

Senator Montford introduced a bill  (SB 774)

This bill proposes fewer mandated tests and extends the moratorium on school grades and teacher evaluations.  It would allow the PSAT, SAT, and ACT to substitute for the PERT.  This seems to differ from the DOE recommendation to make it optional.

Montford’s bill would not allow the ELA and Mathematics tests be used for promotion, retention or graduation purposes until the 2016-17 school year.

School grades shall be held in abeyance until 2016-17.  The teacher accountability system will be modified to reflect the new performance system, and the percentage allocated based on student performance will be modified.

Senator Legg, Chair of the Senate Education Committee

The bill (SB 616) to revise the accountability program.  The bill removes the state requirement for local assessments; restricts testing time to no more than 5% of the total number of school days, and reduces the allocation of student gain scores for teacher evaluations from 40 to 30 percent.  The bill also requires local assessments be used for teacher evaluations for courses not covered by statewide assessments.

 What Can Be Expected in the Legislative Session?

The Governor and Commissioner support the elimination of the PERT and the ELA for eleventh grade.  Districts may have to reduce local testing to 5% of the total school days or about 9 days.  If  the state mandated tests are added, many students would still be required to take about three weeks of testing per year plus tests that teachers develop for their courses.

Current proposals may be an olive branch to testing critics.  Some people would argue that these olive branches are still whips. It is too early to tell whether the legislature will enact meaningful changes but at least the problems are acknowledged.

Posted in Achievement, Department of Education, Florida, Testing.

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