Over the past two decades there was a state-mandated explosion in the amount and scope of standardized testing in Florida’s public schools. Whether it was called FCAT, FCAT 2.0 or the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), the over-reliance on the results of a single state test formed the foundation for an entire shame-and-blame program: a bogus school grading system that tends to punish poverty, the use of the faulty VAM in teacher evaluations and flaky bonus schemes.
This year, there is finally a chance for things to start to change — for our state to move to a system of progress monitoring that is truly focused on what’s best for students. At long last we have an opportunity to reduce the amount of time students and teachers must spend on test prep and high-stakes standardized testing — and to use that time for genuine teaching and learning.
A better assessment system should improve outcomes for kids, helping them achieve at their highest potential. And there will be less unnecessary anxiety and stress all around — for students, parents and educators.
Help make the change to a new, smarter system
Gov. DeSantis announced in 2021 that he wants to take a bold step forward on student testing, moving away from the FSA. What that change will look like is now in the hands of the Florida Legislature.
It is time to roll up our sleeves and make sure that we are addressing assessment in a way that promotes student learning and empowers teachers to meet the needs of every child. We must hold our lawmakers accountable for following through on the governor’s promise. Educators’ voices are crucial to making change happen.
Remember, it is not enough for educators and parents to focus on what we want less of, namely high-stakes standardized testing. We must also take this opportunity to advocate for what students need and deserve when it comes to testing.
Among other things, our students deserve:
- Timely, specific feedback.
- Paper and pencil testing especially in the earliest grades, but no matter the grade for all students who read and understand best when given a paper and pencil option.
- Educators who have protected planning time so they can plan and prepare to make use of progress monitoring data to guide instruction to ensure success for all students.
Help make the change by following the progress of the legislation that will re-shape testing on FEA’s 2022 session page, and by taking every opportunity to make your voice heard.
How the existing tests impact students and educators
Out-of-control testing in Florida has routinely cheated our students of valuable instruction time over the past two decades. Libraries are often closed for weeks at a time so they can serve as testing labs. Non-classroom professionals such as guidance counselors and school psychologists are pulled from their duties to proctor testing. School schedules are disrupted for months on end.
Teachers and other school staff professionals need flexibility to use everyday assessment of their students’ work to guide their pacing and instruction without the monumental loss of time for tests and testing administration. Time and resources spent on testing and test preparation are better used to develop students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Standardized tests do very little, if anything, to actually help improve student performance. Because the test results are not available for months after the test is taken, they cannot be used to guide instruction or provide timely feedback to students.
Our state’s obsession with standardized testing is harming our students and plays a significant role in the growing crisis of teacher shortages. Testing should be used to inform teaching practices, not to impede teaching.
In order for that to happen, there must be a significant reduction in size and scope of high-stakes standardized testing. And when such tests do occur, the results must be provided in a quick yet thorough manner so the tests can be used to guide instruction.