TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Amid a debate about whether students should be required to take standardized tests in person as COVID-19 continues to spread, the state Department of Education is giving an additional two weeks for the Florida Standards Assessments and a statewide science test to be administered.
In an emergency order signed Monday, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran pointed to “disproportionate numbers of educationally disadvantaged students learning off-campus or not attending school at all,” potentially widening achievement gaps.
The testing required by state and federal law “is now more critical than ever so that educators and parents can measure progress and determine what additional services and supports are needed to ensure that each student is given the services and supports they need to succeed in life,” Corcoran’s order says.
Florida Department of Education chief of staff Alex Kelly told the Senate Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response on Monday that the extra time for the tests is “an effort to give districts and schools the ability to provide assessments in a socially distant way, so they can have fewer students in a room.”
Under Corcoran’s order, district school superintendents “may request additional scheduling flexibility” from the education department. “The department will use best efforts to respond to all such requests within five days,” the emergency order says.
Florida canceled K-12 statewide assessments during the 2019-2020 school year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
During Monday’s committee meeting, senators asked Kelly whether the state will meet a federal requirement that 95 percent of Florida students in grades 3-8 sit for math and English-language arts exams.
“I know in Leon County there are still a number of parents who do not feel comfortable sending their kids for the assessment. So, is there concern about not making that 95 percent?” asked Sen. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee.
“It certainly is a concern, and it’s a question we’re fielding from school districts every day, too,” Kelly responded.
The state assessments that have been given a time extension are subject tests in English-language arts and reading, writing, math and science, which are administered to students in grades 3-10.
Corcoran’s emergency order also gives school districts “flexibility for administering tests on nights and weekends,” a spokesman for the education department told The News Service of Florida in an email Monday.
The lengthened testing window will also delay reporting of assessment results, according to Corcoran’s order.