Live Oak —
By Jerry Talyor
Treasurer Florida School Boards Association
Suwannee County School Board, District One
The Florida School Boards Association has adopted a resolution that expresses concerns about high stakes testing in Florida and offers recommendations that address those concerns.
Our concerns are shared by students, parents, local business leaders, and community members. The following is a quote from the student, parent advocacy group ‘Fund Education Now.’ “Even Commissioner Robinson admits these lower grades “do not necessarily mean that the schools, teachers or students are not doing as well as they were before.” The state knows that FCAT is not reliable, still it insists on making these faulty grades count. Schools will still be sanctioned and fined. Children will still be retained, bright kids will be forced into remediation and seniors will still be denied diplomas. Despite the growing objection to high-stakes tests like FCAT, the BOE clings to this unreliable, ineffective yardstick. What kind of a state purposely uses a faulty instrument to hurt children and harm their schools?”
We believe in accountability and high standards. We do not believe that a single high-stakes test like FCAT should be used to grade schools or dictate the future of children. The time has come to reform our outdated and punitive School Accountability System, eliminate the high stakes nature of testing, and stop punishing our children
Florida is in the process of transitioning to new, more rigorous standards and this is accompanied by a transition to new, more rigorous standardized testing. FSBA’s purpose for adopting our resolution is to ensure that, in making this transition, the flaws in the current system are not carried forward into the new accountability system
Our resolution has elicited a tremendous response from both the critics and the defenders of Florida’s accountability system. FSBA welcomes this discussion. We believe it is essential that the issues and concerns expressed on all sides are fairly and openly debated, particularly as we transition into a new state accountability system.
We fully support educational accountability on the school, district, and state level, and we believe that testing plays a vital role in the accountability process.
Our resolution does not seek to eliminate assessments or accountability, but rather to improve the reliability, validity, and fairness of Florida’s accountability system.
The goals of our resolution are: to remove the “high stakes” elements from the accountability system; to ensure that the accountability system is valid, reliable, and fair; and to ensure that all aspects of the accountability system are adequately funded. We are concerned that assessment scores are being used for purposes for which the assessments were not designed, particularly when those uses have a detrimental effect on students.
Test scores are intended to provide information about a student’s progress and proficiency, or lack thereof, in core curricular areas and to assist in making decisions about future instructional plans for the student. But, under the current accountability structure, rather than informing these decisions, the test scores have BECOME the decision.
The development of valid, reliable testing instruments is a complex science. The result of such testing is meaningful only when used for the purpose for which the testing instrument was developed. Yet, the state has relentlessly pursued policies that attempt to apply testing results for other purposes and to make, sometimes subjective, adjustments to the system. This, in effect, negates the test’s validity and reliability.
For students, among many other implications, Florida’s high stakes testing structure calls for the use of FCAT scores to deny a standard high school diploma (as is the case with the grade 10 FCAT scores), to deny progression from middle school to high school (as is the case with the Civics EOC scores), and to require extensive remediation when it may not be warranted (as is the case with FCAT Reading scores). At the same time, a student’s performance on other course tests, course work, projects, and other indicators of the student’s abilities has significantly less weight than the student’s score on the single, statewide assessment. This is discouraging to students who see their years’ worth of work and learning reduced to a day’s worth of testing.
For school personnel, Florida’s high stakes testing structure calls for the use of assessment scores as the majority measure of teacher and administrator effectiveness and for the use of assessment scores for the evaluation of the performance of educators who are not directly responsible for the instruction of the students being tested.
For schools, Florida’s high stakes testing structure calls for the use of statewide assessment scores as the sole measure in ranking the performance of Florida’s elementary and middle schools, and as the majority measure in ranking the performance of Florida’s high schools.
For schools districts, Florida’s high stakes testing structure calls for the use of statewide assessment scores as the sole measure in ranking the performance of a school district. In addition, the state accountability system calls for school districts to develop and administer a variety of valid, reliable local assessments yet provides no funding to do so.
We are pleased and proud of the academic progress that Florida’s students have made over the past decade, but we do question those who suggest that the progress is DUE to testing. Testing is not progress; it is only ONE measure of it.
Live Oak —
By Jerry Talyor
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