Why there is no virtual PMA testing for Duval County students this year

The third round of exams meant to track the progress of Duval County students started Monday, but this time, all students who take the test have to do so in person, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The third round of exams meant to track Duval County students’ progress begins Monday, but this one brings a major difference.

All of the Progress Monitoring Assessments, or “PMAs,” will be taken in-person despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Duval County Public Schools is not offering a virtual option this time around, despite allowing it for the first two PMAs.

The Florida Department of Education is mandating that all the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSAs, be administered in-person this year and for the assessments to actually be valid in the eyes of the state’s education department, the district has to get 95% of students in 3rd-through-10th grades tested.

Therefore, DCPS opted to use the PMAs as a “trial run” for the state-level exams later in the Spring to find out if the level of participation even approaches the 95% requirement.

“So, that’s why we’re telling parents, ‘If you want to take PMA 3, you have to come in the building,’” Greene told the school board in a Feb 16 workshop. “‘We will work with you [parents], we will do what we need to do to support you, but we have to now figure out are we even going to be close to 95%, because if we’re not going to be close to 95%, then that brings in a host of issues, especially for those schools that I told you are like in purgatory.”

Greene was referring to Florida’s Differentiated Accountability Program, which is aimed at tracking and improving underperforming schools that are currently, or recently, graded low by the FDOE. The only way for a school to graduate out of the program is to land a better grade via the FSAs which were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, hence, the “purgatory” dilemma.

In Duval County, there are 17 schools that are currently in that program:

  • Annie R Morgan Elementary School
  • Arlington Elementary School
  • George Washing Carver Elementary School
  • Highlands Middle School
  • J.E.B. Stuart Middle School
  • Jefferson Davis Middle School
  • Pine Estates Elementary School
  • Pinedale Elementary School
  • Ramona Boulevard Elementary School
  • Reynolds Lane Elementary School
  • Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School
  • Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School
  • Southside Middle School
  • Susie E. Tolbert Elementary School
  • Timucuan Elementary School
  • Westview K-8
  • Young Men’s/Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Eugene J Butler

If a district fails to get 95% of students to take the FSAs, DCPS won’t get a grade from the FDOE and will be marked “incomplete,” a status that also put funding from the state’s School Recognition Program at stake.

The concern from many families continues to surround safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than one-in-five students in the district still engaged in its virtual learning formats.

Last week, the Florida Department of Education issued an emergency order to extend the window for districts to administer those state FSAs by two weeks in each subject to allow for distancing during exams.

But those measures do little to ease the concerns of parents like Rolline Sullivan.

“I am putting, you know, pretty much the safety of my children and my family in their hands.. And I’m hoping that, like I said, some of my concerns are addressed,” said Sullivan.

DCPS leaders said they’ll be implementing strict safety requirements during the PMAs and hope to use them to gauge participation, concerns from parents and any logistical problems in order to course-correct before the state-level FSAs which begin in April.

More information about the FSAs and what options are afforded to parents can be found at the district’s website.