JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For Duval County parents who have kept their students in virtual learning this school year, the upcoming Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) exams are causing concern as the district is not offering a virtual option.
“The Florida Department of Education is requiring all students in grades six to 12 to take their Florida Standards Assessment, FSA, in state and the course exams, at a school location,” said a voicemail message sent to Duval County families whose students are enrolled in Duval Homeroom. “There will be no online options or alternative locations available.”
Rolline Sullivan has four children in Duval County schools, all of whom have been utilizing the district’s virtual learning options since classrooms initially closed their doors during the spring semester last year.
“It just seems like, sometimes, our opinions are undervalued,” Sullivan said of parents of virtual learning students. “This whole time, I’ve had my kids home. They haven’t gone to parties, we barely go out, and now, to know that we went through all that sacrifice and we still have to bring the kids into school, it’s sort of like a slap in the face.”
As part of its message to Duval Homeroom families on Monday, the district encouraged families to use the upcoming Progress Monitoring Assessment (PMA) as a “practice session” for the FSA. While students were allowed to take this school year’s previous PMAs virtually, the message to parents was unclear as to whether the next one would offer that option.
According to a spokesperson for DCPS, “Students – specifically seventh-grade students – who choose not to take the FSAs or the EOCs this year could lack a score required for acceptance into high school acceleration programs during the 2022 school choice process. Additionally, fifth-grade students seeking entry into Kirby-Smith’s accelerated program need a 4 or higher on the state FSA.”
In a November presentation, Vince Verges, the department’s Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Accountability, Research, and Measurement said the FDOE is, “exploring options for offering flexibility for the spring 2021 administrations and will communicate those decisions as soon as possible.”
As of Tuesday, DCPS spokesperson Tracy Pierce said no updates had yet been received from the department.
Meanwhile, in Tallahassee, some lawmakers have filed legislation to soften the financial impact that the state assessments could have on schools.
State Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Broward, filed a bill that would prevent the results of the FSA from affecting the school accountability system, which affects teacher performance pay, student retention, and school grades.
“This has not been a typical school year,” Bartleman said. “COVID-19 has disrupted our education systems and it doesn’t make sense to give a high stakes test one day, and then use it punitively, and that’s what the school accountability system does.”
Florida’s legislative session begins March 2.