Florida Senate Bill Filed to Address High Stakes Testing

Florida State FlagState Senator John Legg (R-Lutz), chair of the Florida Senate Committee on Education PreK-12, filed SB 616 on Monday that according to the press release he sent out will “foster student innovation, creates teacher and school district flexibility, and maintains academic accountability.”

“We need better, but fewer, tests. This bill maintains accountability, while creating a much needed framework on assessments, evaluations, and flexibility on implementation.” Legg said.

He states his legislation proposes the following.

  • Removing state requirements for local assessments on each course that is not assessed state-wide
    Granting school districts greater flexibility in determining district required local assessments for teacher performance pay evaluations
  • Reducing the student performance component in teacher performance evaluations and providing latitude to the school districts for the other components
  • Limiting state and district testing to the maximum of 5% of total student school hours
  • Establishing options for schools and school districts experiencing implementation issues while transitioning to the Florida Standards Assessment

“Our students need an education environment that fosters innovation and creativity. This bill grants school districts the flexibility in creating this environment, without sacrificing accountability,” continued Legg. “I am confident that the Florida Legislature, the Governor, and all education stakeholders will continue to collaborate in developing a framework that promotes innovation, transparency, and accountability.”

Going through a pdf version of the bill emailed to me here are some observations.

  • Also on pg. 4., “the district must secure written consent from a student’s parent before administering the district-required local assessments.”
  • It drops the student performance component in teacher performance evaluations from 50% to 40% over the course of three years of data, (pg. 5).  Unless less than three years of data is available then the percentage drops from 40% to 30%, (pg. 6).  It reduces the percentage for school administrators from 40% to 30%, (pg. 6).
  • It now only requires 30% of a teacher’s evaluation to include “indicators based upon each of the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices,” (pg. 6).
  • The whole formula to measure student learning growth seems pretty convoluted and it doesn’t change under this bill, (pg. 7-8).
  • Pg. 10 of the bill – “each school district is responsible for administering local assessments that measure student mastery of course content at the necessary level of rigor.”  Who determines rigor?
  • Pages 19-20 discuss a waiver system.

Honestly if Florida’s high-stakes assessment culture is a pig, and I think a number of our readers would agree with that comparison.  Then SB 616 puts some lipstick on the pig, and maybe some eyeliner.  While this is better than the current system, I hardly think it goes far enough.  The language about parental consent for local assessments is the best language in the bill.  Now only if they’d extend that to include state assessments as well.

One thought on “Florida Senate Bill Filed to Address High Stakes Testing

  1. Bill analysis: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2015/0616
    John Legg has presented a new bill February 2, 2015 with much fanfare, SB 616.

    Like most other efforts by those who created the problem, this one creates more questions than answers. His bill attempts to solve the problem of too much testing by simply demanding that schools should limit testing to 5% of the school year while it doesn’t reduce testing requirements by the State.

    If schools can only use standardized tests 5% of class time, (9 of 180 days) does that mean just the time they are sitting and filling in the blanks? Who measures this and tracks it? What about the time they are sitting in their classroom with no teacher while she proctors the makeup tests or retests? This is what creates most of the 40% estimated lost class time. We don’t have a computer for every student and the “musical chairs” problem is a huge and expensive complexity!

    Who will notify parents when the 5% threshold is reached? Is that 5% collectively by school, by class, or individually? If only “permission” is required over 5%, why would parents deny this and under what penalty? I just saw a “permission” slip in Lee County which penalized parents $15 for a standardized test or $55 for refusing an alternate exam and asked for the student’s phone number as well as parent info and IDs.

    This “edict” is no better than just raising the bar and demanding better performance, a strategy they are using for testing overall. And by the way, most have agreed the tests used to measure success are unreliable at best.

    Schools must test because they are mandated to do so in statutes Senator John Legg helped create. The existing mandated tests fit nicely into the 9 day window if you don’t account for the lack of testing computers, space and proctors, retests and makeup tests, and this would not provide any relief for students, teachers and schools.

    Here’s a link to the bill https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2015/0616/BillText/Filed/HTML and article about it: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/senate-bill-aims-limit-standardized-testing#comments

    This bill prescribes how teachers and schools must be evaluated in detail, removing all local control from local districts and providing unworkable and formulaic measures with no evidence of successful use. What makes 40% test score weight in teacher evaluation the right number? Why not 70% or 10% or 50% as it was? No one has explained or scientifically justified these arbitrary numbers which have high stakes consequences for students and teachers. The same goes for the 5% number on the amount of time for testing. Why not 1%, or 10%?
    This bill does not mention the main issue for many, and that is the content that is being “taught” to our children does not measure up, and is NOT rigorous, but crippling our children’s future. Common sense and empirical data shows the children of Florida are being short changed. We have recently dropped to number 28th in the Nation as shown by the ACT scores. Our scores were better in 1995 than they are today, yet we are constantly being fed misleading statistics on “student growth” showing otherwise. The tortured use of made up measures is just unseemly to disguise the fact that Florida’s vaunted education system is a massive failure.
    The underlying question is why the Legislature micromanages the education process at all when nearly all of them have no teaching expertise? We can use “off the shelf” Nationally Normed tests to measure how our students compare and save billions in the process. Using pencil and paper tests equalizes the districts and eliminates the musical chair complexity, costs and fears of computer failures. No explanation has ever been provided as to why pencil and paper tests should be replaced by computer only testing. Why not let certified teachers teach and accredited schools monitor the teachers?

    The answer is simple, POWER AND MONEY. Billions must be spent to purchase, maintain and upgrade computers, software and networks to prepare for computer testing. No estimate has been provided to the taxpayers and voters of Florida, but judging by the pilot project in Orange County reported Feb 18, 2104 at the State Board of Education meeting, this cost was estimated at over $2 Billion by Chair, Gary Chartran.

    We do know, however, that the companies promoting this, Pearson, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, GE and others are the selfsame companies which receive this money. They are also making large donations to the politicians who push for computerized testing and Common Core. The Superintendents Association and State School Boards Association both list the same group of supporting corporate cronies who are benefactors in this incestuous scheme. Here are links: Gary Chartran and the KIPP Schools: http://www.kipp.org/about-kipp/the-kipp-foundation/national-partners
    Florida School Boards Assoc: http://www.fsba.org/sponsors/ Superintendents Association: http://www.fadss.org/businessPartners/ourPartners

    GOOD NEWS! We have a solution with something for everyone to love:
    • Issue 1: What they are learning- The Commissioner will select several of the best standards from pre 2009 for the local districts to select. These standards for English and math are free and not copyrighted, well vetted and highly rated (higher than our existing standards). Districts will have local control to choose from this list based on their varied needs.
    • Issue 2: Accountability- yes, we need to measure, but there are already nationally normed tests that will do a better job comparing us to the rest of the nation and the world. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel or force our kids to be guinea pigs. We propose the districts should have local control to choose from a list of the best of these, such as the Iowa Basics and Stanford Achievement Tests. They would administer ONE test at the end of each year between 3rd and 8th grade and one in high school. These tests are less expensive and pre-common core versions are available. Teachers will not be teaching to the test if it is a nationally normed test and it is NOT used to determine graduation or promotion, but simply to inform us on our students’ progress.
    • Issue 3: These tests can be administered on paper and taken at the student’s own desk, eliminating the “musical chairs” now needed to address the lack of computers for testing. This has, by some reports, absorbed as much as 40% of class time for learning. By going to paper tests, we can reduce costs by BILLIONS of scarce education dollars, AND increase time for learning. It will also allow schools more control of the data to prevent data mining. Student data can be aggregated with individual identifiers removed to prevent data companies from collecting and using individual data. There is much to do and we invite your help to get this passed.
    • There is something for everyone to love in this bill. It saves money, provides more time for learning, and provides high standards and accountability. We CAN do this with your help. We are having a “March for the Children” event in the Capitol March 5. Let your legislators know we want local control and we need solutions, not posturing in Tallahassee.
    Here’s a link to the event: http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=80746f1f4cc55d530b7523630&id=f2e93e7b10&e=b49717f24c
    Chris Quackenbush
    239-823-2980
    Frederick Douglass:
    “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

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