Parents, students, teachers, administrators and other educational leaders across the state have been questioning the validity and benefit of our educational accountability system for years. The high-stakes system uses standardized test scores to evaluate students, teachers and schools, leading to important decisions such as retention, graduation, and even teacher and administrator pay.
At the center of the debate is the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). The test was given for the first time in 2015,as a replacement for the previous assessment (FCAT). It was created by a company called American Institutes for Research (AIR), using questions that were field tested in Utah (where the Standards being measured by the test are different than in Florida). This year’s implementation was plagued with difficulties from the very beginning. Students reported being kicked out of the test and having to complete it the next day, giving them an unfair advantage. There was at least one known cyber attack and thousands of other computer glitches.
In May 2015, based on public concern about the assessment (and the fact that it was not properly validated before being implemented), legislators required the state to conduct an independent assessment of the FSA to confirm its validity. The results from the study by Alpine Testing Solutions were released to the public in September 2015. Despite several areas in the report that confirmed the test was not valid, the Florida Department of Education announced plans to use the results from the 2015 test to grade schools and evaluate teachers, as well as continue with the test in 2016.
Senator John Legg, who chairs the chamber’s pre-kindergarden – 12th grade education committee, is also pushing to move forward despite the drawbacks and disruption caused by the 2015 test.
The state recently convened several review boards to determine cut scores for the FSA, which show achievement gaps that are cause for great concern.
Despite all of this, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (a national education reform group founded by Jeb Bush) continues to promote increasing the consequences which would widen the achievement gap even more by manipulating the cut scores.
In a very bold move, the Florida Association of District Superintendents has joined citizens in the accountability fight with the issuance of a press release which called into question Florida’s entire educational accountability system:
“In this high stakes environment students, teachers, and schools should not be impacted by a rushed and flawed administration of new, untried assessments. While direct negative consequences were avoided for students, the results of a flawed assessment will impact teacher evaluations (VAM) and be used to judge the quality of schools.”
Our Superintendents need to be recognized for their efforts in addressing the issues we are all experiencing with the State and our Legislators. Be sure to thank your district’s superintendent. To find contact information for your district, click here.
However, we still have a long way to go. Let’s also advocate for removal of the high stakes and test and punish policies implemented at the state level, not just this year, but permanently. Until the High Stakes are removed, we will continue to see our accountability system in need of repair. You can let the Florida Department of Education know how you feel about the FSA,the validity study and the high stakes by emailing them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.