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Florida lawmaker, union leader optimistic of what’s next for assessment testing

Gov. DeSantis has proposed end for Florida Standards Assessments testing next school year

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans Tuesday to get rid of the Florida Standards Assessments testing, or FSA. Those are the tests given in public schools at the end of each year.

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.

State Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, told News4Jax there are still a “number of questions to be answered.” She said it’s something she could get excited about if change is executed properly.

“It does go back to some of the teachers saying, is this going to be more work? Or is it truly going to be more time for the teachers to teach and our children to learn and have the opportunity for growth and progress?” Davis said.

Andrew Spar is the president of the Florida Education Association. He leads the largest union in the state with 145,000 members.

“Educators, teachers, administrators, parents have been asking for an end to this one-shot deal of high stakes testing for a long time,” Spar said.

As president of the FEA, Spar says he supports the proposal in what he’s heard so far. He typically doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the governor’s office.

That’s not the case this time.

“The governor is right when he says, you know, the hope here is that we’re going to be able to customize this a little bit more to students,” Spar said. “Instead of setting an arbitrary number, an arbitrary bar, and saying kids reach this level, we’re looking at each individual student and making sure that their performance is improving against themselves and that they’re learning and growing.”

The earliest version of the new FAST (Florida’s Assessment of Student Thinking) program would change timelines and look to put more time back in teachers’ control.

Progress monitoring tests would be three smaller tests in the fall, winter and spring. They would take hours, not days.

The governor’s plan is based on the B.E.S.T. standards recently adopted. FSAs are rooted in Common Core.

“We’ve got to make sure that we get this right and there’s still a legislative process to go through, there’s a lot of discussions that are going to take place and we certainly want to be part and intend to be part of those conversations as we move forward,” Spar said.

Education advocates say they have questions surrounding teacher pay in the new system.

With the FSAs, there are teacher incentives based on scores.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.