It goes without saying that 2020 was a tough year for education, and 2021 is turning out to be no different so far. Many students across the state are dealing with the disruption that comes with learning in a virtual environment. Even kids who are attending brick and mortar schools are in a state of constant chaos with hybrid classes, classroom fluctuations, quarantines, and in some cases contracting the virus themselves. Teachers have been asked to do the impossible – learning new technology within a few weeks, developing virtual lesson plans on a dime, teaching hybrid classes, and helping students stay safe – all while worrying if they will contract the virus themselves.
Standardized tests have also been disrupting our schools for decades. Rather than being used holistically to improve whole-child instruction (like assessment should be), tests have become a mechanism for high-stakes decisions that impact everyone in the education system. In Florida, FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) scores are a major factor in whether a student is promoted in 3rd grade and tied to graduation requirements in other grades (please check your school district’s requirements for promotion and graduation in their student progression plan to learn more.) Scores are also a significant component of teacher and administrator evaluations, which impact pay and even termination decisions in some cases. School grades, (which are largely based on test scores), are used by the state to threaten school closures.
Decades of research shows significant flaws in using standardized test scores for high stakes decisions. This year’s scores will be particularly questionable given the large variance in learning environments, not to mention the constant quarantines and illnesses keeping students and teachers out of the classroom.
Children and teachers are also experiencing an increase in mental health concerns this year, which will be worsened by test-based anxiety.
The Florida Department of Education has indicated that all students (including digital learners) must take the FSA in person this spring. This creates additional concerns with COVID safety. Providing the necessary distancing will require additional staff resources, space, and cause even more loss of valuable learning time.
Schools should be a place of solace for students, both now and in non-pandemic times. Stressful, high-stakes tests have no place in a positive learning environment, especially during a pandemic. This is why many parents, teachers and grassroots groups across the state are calling for the FSA to be cancelled this year. Add your voice to the movement!
Call to Action
- Reach out to your legislators, Governor DeSantis, Commissioner Corcoran, and the Board of Education, and ask them to cancel the FSA this spring. Talking points include:
- To safely administer the FSA in person and follow CDC guidelines for distancing would require a significant amount of resources that many schools don’t have, including space and staff time. It would also crate a hardship for many students learning virtually who do not have transportation to school at designated times.
- Testing and test preparation takes up an extreme amount of learning time that is desperately needed this year to help students recover from COVID slide.
- Using FSA scores for any kind of high-stake decision would not be meaningful or equitable, given the variance in learning environments and constant disruption due to COVID.
- Mental health is a major concern for students and teachers right now. Adding test-based anxiety to an already stressful school environment is not appropriate. Eliminating the tests would also free up time for School Counselors to help students in crisis rather than administrating tests.
- Many other states, including New York, Michigan, Georgia, and South Carolina are requesting a waiver from the federal testing requirements this year.
- Contact your district and school leadership to share your concerns. Ask them to reach out to the state and request a cancellation of all FSA tests for the spring. If your student is learning digitally, ask what their plans are if your student does not show up for the test. Per state statute, a good cause exemption can be used, which most districts already have in place. Check your district’s progression plan for a list of good cause exemptions.
- Sign this petition from the Network for Public Education to request that the National Secretary of Education, Dr. Cardona, cancel tests for all states.
Copy and paste these emails for the Governor, Commissioner and Board of Education:
Thank you for your advocacy!