Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans Tuesday to end the Florida Standards Assessments testing for students across the state, a move applauded by the state’s largest teachers union.
“We need to measure results, and we will continue to do it. We will continue to set high standards,” DeSantis said. “But we also have to recognize that it is the year 2021 and the FSA is, quite frankly, outdated.”
The FSA is designed to measure “education gains and progress” in Florida students in the subjects of English language arts and mathematics, according to the Florida Department of Education website.
DeSantis said he will ask the Legislature to drop the current annual standardized testing in public schools and replace it with assessments taken throughout the year to better gauge individual student progress.
DeSantis said by creating the new Florida Assessment of Student Thinking Plan, Florida will become the first state in the nation to fully implement progress monitoring instead of end-of-year standardized testing, and fully eliminate common core.
“The FSA’s kind of antiquated -- with algorithms and where we are with computer technology, we can take that progress monitoring data and have the exact same accountability system,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said Tuesday as he joined DeSantis for the announcement at a school in Doral. “When you eliminate or reduce testing, guess what happens -- that’s more teaching and that means you’re giving those kids a better education and they’re going to be able to go out there and be great citizens and live a great life.”
The plan includes three much shorter tests in the Fall, Winter and Spring that will “inform students, teachers and parents about students’ growth, rather than a single lengthy end-of-year assessment that halts learning and leaves zero opportunity for improvement,” DeSantis said.
According to the Governor’s Office, testing time will be reduced by 75% on average. The plan would also allow for more customization for individual students.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said that schools basically shut down in April and May to prepare for the standardized tests.
“We always say the FSA is an autopsy. We basically wait at the end of the year, we have this autopsy and we don’t even gather the data until the end of the year,” Corcoran said.
The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, praised the decision, calling it a “big win” for both students and teachers and saying it was a long time coming.
“This is good news for our students, for our parents, for our teachers, and for our public schools,” FEA President Andrew Spar told News4Jax. “Educators and parents have been saying for a while we shouldn’t just focus on one high-stakes test.”
The governor’s proposal still needs to go through the legislative process before it can take effect. If it is passed during the next legislative session, the 2021-2022 school year will be the last year for the FSA, it will not be given in 2022-23.
The FEA said as districts move away from the FSA, the 2022-23 school year will serve as a “benchmark” year to determine how children are assessed. That means during the 2022-2023 school year, the state will not issue grades for schools, which is done based on student achievement under the FSA, allowing that year to serve as a baseline for the next year.
However, the grading system would return in the next school year with the grades based on the progress monitoring data.
“A student’s future shouldn’t hang on one high-stakes, make-or-break test, and one test shouldn’t dominate weeks that could otherwise be used for meaningful instruction,” Spar said. “We welcome today’s announcement as a sign that Florida is moving closer to a system that focuses on students’ growth instead of on high-stakes standardized tests.”
We asked viewers for their opinions, and many, like Ruth Burrell, echoed the FEA’s sentiments on the changes: “Absolutely, the standardized test should be eliminated. It will allow teachers to teach academics instead of to the test.”
The FEA contends that changing the approach for standardized testing could help reduce shortages of teachers and support staff. At the start of this school year, there were nearly 9,000 vacancies for teachers and support staff listed on district websites, the FEA said.
Duval County Public Schools sent a statement about the proposed changes:
Today, we remain 100% focused on the academic achievement of our students. We have multiple methods for analyzing student growth within Florida’s learning standards including the type of progress monitoring assessments proposed by the governor.
We will continue our focus on student success within Florida’s standards while we listen for guidance from the legislature and the Department of Education on our state’s future accountability system.