Florida Senate pushes own standardized testing reforms

Senate proposal would limit testing to 5 percent of school hours


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Changing Florida's standardized testing procedures will be one of the most talked-about proposals at the end of 2015's legislative session. With the House already moving on its ideas and a testing debacle still fresh in the minds of many, the Florida Senate is now pushing its own reforms.

Lawmakers acknowledged the differences in both bills and hope to iron them out. If they don't, as Sen. John Legg put it, then both sides would lose.

Seminole County teacher Sandra Maldonado-Ross, who was part of the pilot program for the new Florida Standards Assessment test, said it was easy to see problems coming.

"In my opinion it was horrible. I mean, like I said, the kids aren't taught to write an essay with their computers. They're taught to write them with pen and paper, pencil, draw on graphic organizers and that's not what this test did," said Maldonado-Ross.

A rollout that started with a thud is just part of a laundry list of complaints that lawmakers have heard about the new state standardized tests.

"We're feeding them garbage with this Common Core curriculum," said Chris Quackenbush, of Stop Common Core Florida.

A day after the House passed a bill that would scale back some exams, the Senate took a crack at it. The Senate proposal would put a limit on testing of 5 percent of school hours. It would also allow schools to apply for a waiver of consequences if the they had too much trouble with the computer testing.

Sen. Don Gaetz said Florida wouldn't back down from accountability.

"If there are people that came here hoping that we would take down the goal posts, and we simply wouldn't keep score anymore in Florida, you won't be getting any support from this senator," said Gaetz.

Technical glitches and an alleged cyber attack plagued the rollout of the Florida Standards Assessments. Because of that, the Senate bill would allow the state to collect damages from the vendor.

"Those monies would go back to the school district," Legg said. "The intent is there to offset any cost that was caused by the problems that occurred in the rollout."

Another difference in the House and Senate bills: school start dates. The House would allow schools to start as early as Aug. 10, a provision not included in the Senate bill.