How Many Tests are Too Many?

The Florida School Boards took a stand today against over testing.

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Sorting out which tests students are required to take is no small task. The Florida Statewide Testing Program Schedule is extensive–take a look.

Take a test yourself.  This is a training test to see what the FSA is like.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said the testing was “under review“. It is about time!  The Florida Standard Assessments (FSA), our version of Common Core testing in English Language Skills and Mathematics begin this year.  We also have district level tests, end of course exams, national and international tests, and college placement and admissions tests.   All of this testing has generated a backlash.

OPPOSITION TO high stakes testing takes many forms.  The amount of testing, how they are used to label teachers and schools are just two concerns.  Consolidating courses reduces the number of end of course exams but can make a single course too broad to be useful.  Eliminating ‘non essential’ courses to allow more time for English, reading and math can make school a dull place.  Schools are in a squeeze; cuts in funding have shortened the school day and eliminated summer schools.  When are students to use the three “Rs” in other subjects?

THE HIGH COST of testing means money is diverted from instruction to build computer testing labs.  These labs should be used for help in teaching students not just testing. The Ramifications of Testing on our Public Schools by the Central Florida School Board Coalition provides a comprehensive analysis of the impact of testing in Florida schools.

THE NUMBER of tests and how they are used are reasons enough to ask:  Should students fail and teachers arbitrarily lose their jobs due to a test?   Orange County, Florida says not so fast! FSA results for teacher evaluations will not be included for two years. Citizens pushback against testing in many other ways nationwide. There are other reasons for voters to do their own critical thinking about the standards on which tests are based.

THE STATE STANDARDS validation process is not complete until we understand what works and what does not.   Here is some useful information. The Florida Standards (FS) adopted in 2014, modified the 2010 Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS).  Calculus and some elementary measurement skills were major changes. These standards were aligned with the Common Core.  Critics argue with good reasons that some of these standards are inappropriate, especially for young children.

New assessments are being developed after Florida decided to opt out of the Common Core PARCC exams.  Thus, Florida will use Common Core equivalent standards but not a test that can compare achievement levels across states.

THE STATE TESTING PROGRAM should be overhauled. There are too many tests that take too much time and money. The Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) begins in the spring of 2015. FSA  will replace the FCAT 2.0 tests for grades 3-8 in mathematics and grades 3-11 in English Language Skills. Most districts also administer the Florida Assessment in Reading (FAIR)  in grades K-3. Mandatory computer administration at the kindergarten level, however, was suspended for 2013-14 due to technical problems.

End of course examinations in Algebra I, Biology I, Geometry, Civics, and U.S. History were added to Florida standards. In 2015, the new AIR developed tests will replace those currently in use.

These State required assessments are only part of the story. Other State tests are required for some groups of students e.g. the CELLA, GED, and PERT. In addition, students may be chosen to participate in selected national and international examinations such as the NAEP, PISA, PIRLS, and TMSS.  College admissions or placement tests are also administered in high school including: AP, PSAT, SAT or ACT PLAN.  Then there are district mandated tests.

DISTRICT LEVEL TESTING includes physical fitness, health, cognitive abilities and diagnostic skill deficiencies given prior to state assessments. Commonly used tests are: Benchmark tests for retained 3rd graders, Running Record Assessment DAR grades 1-3 , BAFs grades 3-11 in October and February, and the cognitive assessments CoqAT.

FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF.  Add up all the time and money these tests require.  Take a test yourself!  A FSA training test is online that reflects the test content and format.  Some questions are not only useful, they are interesting.  We as voters need to understand what is good about testing and raise our voices against its misuse.  Testing should aid learning, not the political agenda of special interests.

Posted in Common Core Standards, Florida, Funding, Teachers, Testing.

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