In Florida, a child does not have to pass the third grade Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) English Language Arts test to be promoted. So why call level three the ‘passing level’ when children earning a level two are promoted?
The answer is simple: more than half of Florida’s third graders would be retained. As it is, twenty-two percent (about 48, 545 children) are retained unless they can demonstrate the needed skills some other way.
Passing rates for third grade were up one percentage point this year. Fifty-four percent passed the ELA by earning a level three proficiency level but 78% were promoted. Only students who earn a level one are retained unless they can demonstrate their skills using an approved alternative such as a portfolio. Statewide, 22% earned a level one score. In Alachua County, 422 children may be retained.
Federal law requires that states must test 95% of public school children. Apparently, Florida intends to discourage parents from opting out their children from statewide assessments by simply not promoting those who do not sit the test. Some third graders, n = 224, did not take the FSA English Language Arts test. They will not go on to fourth grade according to the Florida Department of Education. The Commissioner of Education stated that students are never retained solely on the basis of a test score, but never must not mean never. One wonders if a judge may be called on to decide who passes and who fails. Perhaps these parents may opt out of public school altogether. The irony is that some may qualify for tax credit scholarships to private schools where students do not have to take the FSA.