We agree with the Governor’s acknowledgement that the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) is too lengthy, unnecessarily halts learning, does not support student growth, and leaves no opportunity for improvement, thereby proposing that the test be removed. However, we are concerned that the revised progress monitoring plan, or the F.A.S.T. (Florida Assessment of Student Thinking), may not bring about the improvements it claims to bring.
Specific questions and concerns include:
- Will the progress monitoring be conducted exclusively through standardized tests, or will other, more authentic methods be used such as classroom observation or a portfolio of student work?
- Florida statute currently already requires that districts use progress monitoring at least three times per year (Statute 1008.25, 8b). What part of the F.A.S.T. progress monitoring plan is new? Will districts continue to be required to conduct their own progress monitoring in addition to the three newly created tests administered by the state? Or, will state-created tests replace the district tests?
- Will the new tests be created by educators experienced in the subject matter and grade level being tested (not using a test bank)?
- Will the questions be cognitively, developmentally and age appropriate, using question types that students are familiar with so that the focus can be on assessing learning rather than test-taking skills?
- How and when will teachers see the individual student results from the tests (how each student answered each question)? This is critical if tests are to be used to improve learning as claimed.
- Will questions on the assessments be private and protected as they are with the FSA, or will students and teachers be able to discuss and improve test questions as needed, thus utilizing the critical thinking skills that Florida Standards claim to emphasize?
- Will the amount of time spent on the assessments be cognitively, developmentally and age appropriate?
- Will administrators, teachers, students and families be informed in advance about when and how tests will be administered and how they will be used?
- The changes do not apply to end of course exams that are required at the high school level, and therefore the new plan will have no impact on high schools.
- We are concerned that the enhanced progress monitoring will turn into continuous monitoring of students without their knowledge, also known as Competency Based Education (CBE), which carriers with it significant concerns.
- It’s our understanding that the high stakes testing associated with assessments will continue, which include: school grades which could lead to closures, teacher evaluations which could lead to termination, high school graduation, and possible retention in third grade. As long as these high stakes remain, there will continue to be high anxiety and loss of learning time for test preparation.
Our position is that any changes to the statewide assessment program should include significant changes to the accountability system that eliminate these high stakes. At least 11 states no longer use tests to evaluate teachers: Maine, California, New Mexico, New York, Wyoming, Washington State, Texas, West Virginia, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Ohio.
We encourage you to reach out to your state legislators to ask them to consider these questions when making decisions about testing reform this session.