Governor Scott Signs Student Assessment Bill
The fight does not stop here. This bill is a first step, however the accountability system still needs fixing. There are just too many state-mandated tests and not enough schools are set up with the proper resources to administer the computer-based tests. FEA will be keeping an eye on the rest of the testing season and talking to those involved about their experiences. We will also continue to educate the public and lawmakers about standardized testing so that we can continue moving in the right direction.
I sent the following letter to the Governor as our feedback for the bill before he signed HB 7069:
April 14, 2015
The Honorable Rick Scott
Plaza Level 05, The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
IN RE: CS/HB 7069 Concerning Education Assessment and Accountability Issues
Dear Governor Scott:
Yesterday, you received and are now called upon to act on legislation that attempts to appropriately measure a student’s progress and to appropriately assign levels of accountability for the education provided.
On behalf of the Florida Education Association, I write to urge that you sign CS/HB 7069 but want to express some concerns about what is left undone in this bill.
In February, you launched the conversation about testing by recognizing Florida had gone too far in the number, frequency and purpose of testing. Your Executive Order suspended two state tests and called on the legislature to address a number of areas including progress monitoring requirements, duplicative local final exams, excessive numbers of exams per course, the need for better information to parents and teachers and improved evaluation policies. On each of these issues, the bill makes progress and we think this warrants your approval and signature.
While this progress is important, it is equally important to recognize what still needs to be accomplished if we are to provide every student with the best education.
Quite simply, Florida’s statewide, standardized testing program continues to occur far too early in the school year. We should all rededicate ourselves to the idea that a year’s learning takes a full year’s time. For this reason, we hope you will direct the Department of Education to ensure no rule, policy or contract allows testing until after most of the year has been used for instruction.
Further, we remain concerned the legislation will not change the current STATE testing disruption. The inflexible requirements that all state testing be online will continue to deprive students of meaningful instructional time because schools are turned into testing centers for nearly two months of each year. Students and schools lose quality instruction time through numerous issues from the increased use of substitute teachers, time lost repeating material for students pulled out for testing and students taking classes that require the use of the media centers and computers are continually displaced. So much of this loss could be mitigated by the simple use of paper and pencil testing until such time as all schools truly have reliable, one-to-one technology capabilities.
Another consequence of our current testing regime is the failure to return useful information to educators and parents in a timely manner. As you so rightly stated, “Teachers, parents and students deserve to know how well students are grasping the content they are taught.” This means that detailed data must be returned more quickly. Our current statewide assessments fail to provide this timely information.
Governor, we know you and your State Board are aware of the problems arising from the impact of ever changing standards and tests. We hope you will continue to keep a keen interest in ensuring that no student, teacher, school or district suffers penalties for the failures of the accountability system design. The systemic issues of transition, technology, training and time should not become reasons to penalize people.
Finally, I also strongly call on you to abide not just by the letter but the intent of the legislation regarding test validity. This validity study must include more than just content. We must ensure that the administration of the tests is equally valid as it is critical to the quality of the data returned.
In short, we support this legislation as a first step, but hope that you will continue the effort to make sure that Florida’s education accountability is built to serve the learning needs of children and the legitimate data needs of the adults that serve them.
President, Florida Education Association