Remember Florida’s exceptions to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? They were denied by the U.S. Department of Education. Florida must respond to correct omissions to its ESSA plan. Florida exempted:
- Certain 8th grade students taking more advanced math courses would be exempt from the 8th grade FSA.
- FSA exams would not be available in languages other than English.
- School grades calculations by each demographic group; they would include gains by lowest 25th percentile instead.
- Baseline data to measure achievement gains and graduation rates by demographic groups are missing.
- FSA passing level is indicated by a score of ‘3’, but this is not defined as grade level achievement. Thus, there is no rational for raising or lowering a passing level.
- ESSA requires states to report progress on English Language Proficiency. Florida only reports scores for students enrolled in ESOL classes, not for all second language learners.
Several of these omissions were intended to reduce double testing e.g. 8th grade mathematics where students may be required to take the FSA and an End of Course exam. In some cases, such as measuring achievement gains for particular groups, the omissions may have stemmed from attempts to reduce the data processing load. Measuring gains by particular groups requires careful analysis and baseline measures.
These are valid concerns. If the nation is going to measure progress, all states should follow the same rules. What is even more important, however, is whether all of this testing and reporting is necessary and productive every year. Any parent who marks his child’s height on the wall each year sees that some years kids grow more than others.
What happens over time is what matters. Force feeding facts to giant data sets every year doesn’t change growth rates. Some companies may get fat, but the kids starve for the lack of real world learning.