We have a testing problem

Florida has a testing problem.

Consider that in December state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, in response to public outrage over too much testing in our public schools, announced her department would analyze how many and what kinds of tests each of the state’s 67 school districts were giving.

With just two weeks to go before the state’s new Florida Standards Assessment starts being given to students for the first time and the Legislature convenes to consider, among other things, testing reform, Stewart’s assessment is not complete.

Consider that the new Florida Standards Assessment, which is replacing the despised Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test after 17 years, has not been seen by local school officials, whose teachers are supposed to prepare students for the new test.

Moreover, the FSA is supposed to be administered online and many Florida counties have neither adequate computers nor bandwidth to effectively administer the test — and the Legislature has offered little to no financial help.

Earlier this month, state Senate Education Appropriations Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, a former school superintendent and school board member, offered this telling observation:

“We don’t know how much time is consumed by state-mandated tests.

We don’t know how much money it costs to perform state-mandated tests.

We don’t know whether tests that are required by the state are valid and reliable.”

Thankfully, the Legislature appears poised to address some of the issues surrounding testing.

That is not to say Florida should retreat from accountability, something no one suggests or wants. Nonetheless, the Legislature and Stewart’s Department of Education need time to get a read on where the problems are and how they can be fixed and, in turn, improve the educational experience for our children and their teachers.

A bill has already been introduced by Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg to limit testing to 5 percent of public school hours.

As it now stands, some observers say there are students who spend 60 days or more of the 180day school year on standardized tests.

That is unconscionable.

Too much rides on the outcome of these tests, especially the new FSA. Students, teachers and administrators all stand to be hurt if the testing problem is not corrected.

As Legg put it recently,

“We need better, but fewer, tests.”

With so much uncertainty and even the validity of the FSA in question, lawmakers should call a timeout on the consequences of standardized tests.

The Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition has recommended such a timeout to ensure the standards provide “valid and reliable growth metrics.”

Nothing could seem more reasonable.

Children’s and teachers’ futures are tied to their outcomes, so it is essential to get standardized testing in Florida right.

That can best be achieved without the pressure of a short deadline.

Give testing a timeout and get it right for our children’s success and Florida’s too.

From Halifax Media Group.

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