As statewide testing looms around the corner in Florida, superintendents are asking to limit test result implications

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In late October 2020, Florida Insider covered the topic of “high-stakes” testing for college admissions and how it was affecting students at the high school level for future applications.

Now, as the final stretch of the 2020-2021 school year turns the corner, standardized testing for all grade schools begins next month. Generally speaking, these standardized tests such as the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) are required exams in primary and secondary public schools that test student’s knowledge across three areas of study: English Language Arts, Reading, and Mathematics.

The final months of the school year are undoubtedly one of the most stressful stretches of the school year for both students and teachers, coupled with ongoing pandemic concerns and in-person instruction and you have a storm of stress. 

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a major problem for sidetracking student progress, Michael Grego, president of Florida Association of District School Superintendents and Pinellas County Superintendent, implored Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to ask the federal government for waivers regarding student assessments and accountability earlier this week. 

However, the education commissioner signed an order on February 15 earlier this year requiring students in third grade and up must be present for in-person standardized testing. The order also requires students who exercised remote learning privileges to be on campus for the exams. 

On top of that, the U.S. Department of Education has also pushed for states to administer the standardized exams with a published plan detailing it be given in accordance with social distancing protocols. The plan included the following options:

  • Shortening the state tests
  • Extending the testing window
  • Giving the assessment remotely

In his message to Corcoran, Grego believes the transition to brick and mortar format has interfered with learning and the online usage surge has caused broadband services to throttle on many families. 

“Many students and staff members have missed time at school due to the illness itself or mandatory quarantine periods of up to two weeks at a time,” said Grego. “Many students struggled in various online platforms for a variety of reasons, including lack of access to broadband. Others have not been attending school in any form, and some have only recently started back in the brick and mortar setting.” 

The argument being made is not to eliminate the testing for this year, but rather to provide a slight break or leniency for educators and students and how the test results can be interpreted and used. If a federal waiver is sought, it would limit how the test results are used in regards to a student’s academic path and presumably a teacher’s performance.

Last year, standardized testing was canceled across the board due to the pandemic but this year it is scheduled to take place over an extended period of time between April 15 and May 28 in order to safely administer the exams.

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