Panel discusses issues with new standarized tests

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida's controversial student assessment tests were a hot topic Friday morning at the University of North Florida after technological problems delayed testing in most school districts across the state.

The Florida Standards Assessment Review Selection Panel, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to evaluate the new computerized standardized testing, met Friday.

Initial testing using the new assessment was suspended in April after most students had trouble logging in. The Florida Department of Education later said the problem was caused by hackers. 

While the problem was addressed, there were more issues accessing the online testing system weeks later when the vendor began maintenance on the servers just before another round of testing. 

Some parents have expressed concern that the new test was not a valid assessment tool, and said they became more worried after the technical glitches. Several school districts asked that the results of this first year of testing not count in school assessments. 

Last month, Scott signed a law that said this year's test results won't count unless outside groups prove that it is valid. 

During a meeting at UNF, the panel heard from two independent experts on the use of the test, how effective it is and if the technical problems are a serious concern.

"That's our job over the next three months is to collect the evidence, systematically evaluate it and form some conclusions," said Chad Buckendahl, whose company was hired to see whether the glitches will affect the test results.

Bill Proctor, chancellor of Flagler College and one of three members on the review panel, said he is unsure if the state has adequate staffing to deal with the complexity of the issues.

"No test is perfect," Proctor said. "In my experience, there is always something that can be improved. But you can (maintain) high levels of validity, regardless of what you use the test for."

In addition to Proctor, St. Johns County School Superintendent and Sen. Jeremy Ring, R-Fort Lauderdale sit on the panel.

Ring wants to know if the state can get back a portion of the money it paid a private contractor to administer the computerized testing because of all the problems.

"We can look to see if these technology issues, if we can collect on liquid damages because we paid the company several hundred million dollars," Ring said. 

The review panel is to deliver a preliminary report to the state by the end of July and a final report by Sept. 1.

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