Putting Education Reform To The Test

Your Guide To The Florida Standards Assessments

We’re taking this week to help parents and students understand the new Florida Standards Assessments, which students will take for the first time beginning in March.

The math, reading and writing exam (reading and writing are combined as English language arts) is intended to measure how well students in third through eleventh grades understand Florida’s Common Core-based standards. The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade.

We’ve pulled together the most important things to know about the new exam in this presentation. Click on the right or left side of the slide to advance or go back.

Meet Florida’s New Statewide Test

This is a sample math question from the Florida Standards Assessment. The questions asks students to...

Screen shot / Florida Department of Education

This is a sample math question from the Florida Standards Assessment. The questions asks students to fill in the blanks, but provides more possible choices than answer spaces.

This spring, Florida students will take a brand new test tied to the state’s new math, reading and writing standards.

This is the test that replaces the FCAT. It’s known as the Florida Standards Assessment, and it’ll be online.

What’s on the test won’t be the only thing different about the exam. Students will also find new types of questions.

We gathered your questions about the new exam from our Public Insight Network. Here’s what you you wanted to know — and what it’ll mean for students and schools.

Bill Younkin from Miami Beach is wondering about the fact that the exam’s online.

“What type of test will it be? How will it be administered?” he asks. “Will there be a paper and pencil alternative? What types of questions will it contain? How long will it take to administer?”

Last year, Florida students took 3.8 million tests using computers – so online exams are nothing new in Florida. But the Florida Standards Assessment is different from past exams

The new exam will be more interactive (you can see practice questions here).

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What Jeb Bush’s Education Record Means For The 2016 Presidential Race

Here’s another story analyzing what Jeb Bush’s education record could mean for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, this time from the Associated Press. The story notes the growing pushback against policies Bush launched when in office.

“The pendulum swing of accountability is now moving back with equal force and strength,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools and the 2014 national superintendent of the year. He oversees the fourth-largest district in the country.

“It has gone too far, too fast and it has to a certain extent abandoned the transparency and simplicity the state’s accountability system used to have,” Carvalho said.

In an acknowledgment of the shifting landscape, Bush’s education foundation has mounted a public campaign to address the furor over testing, emailing parents and penning opinion articles that call for “fewer tests, better tests and tests that serve a meaningful purpose.”

Still, Bush and his allies say testing remains critical, arguing that his accountability program made Florida a national leader in student achievement. They point to record graduation rates and significant gains on national tests. The state ranked fourth in the country in improving fourth-grade reading scores between 2003 and 2013, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Read more at: news.yahoo.com

Students Interested In Math And Science Careers — But Don’t Want To Teach

About half of the 1.8 million students who took the ACT college entrance exam said they have an interest in a science, technology, mathematics or engineering career. But just 5,500 students said they want to teach math or science.

“The numbers we’re seeing are not likely to meet the expected demand for future STEM teachers,” Jon Erickson, ACT’s president, said in a statement released with the report. “Highly qualified teachers play an essential role not only in preparing students to succeed but also in raising awareness of and interest in STEM careers, which are vital to our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy.”

In addition to a national look at students’ interest in STEM jobs, ACT also breaks the data down state by state.

The report also suggests that students’ interest in STEM subjects outstrips their preparedness. Half or fewer of the students who took the ACT and indicated an interest in STEM fields met or exceeded ACT’s “college-readiness benchmarks” in math or science.

Read more at: blogs.edweek.org

Florida Seeking Advice On Goals For New Exams

The Florida Department of Education is ready to start work setting the passing scores on its suite of new statewide tests. The agency is asking superintendents to recommend people to help the agency determine passing scores.

The new exams include language arts tests for students in grades 3 to 11, math exams for grades 3 to 8 and then new end-of-course exams in algebra 1, algebra 2 and geometry. They replace most of FCAT and the state’s current batch of math end-of-course tests.

They are all to be aligned to Common Core, benchmarks for what students should learn in those subjects.

Like the Florida Comprehensive Assessment, the new exams will be five level exams, with 5 the best and 1 the worst and 3 considered a satisfactory performance.

The process of setting the scores needed to reach each level will begin after students take the first round of the new FSA this spring.

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

How Standardized Tests Add Up

NPR uses a Florida eleventh grader to show how local, state and federal testing requirements add up to a big burden. According to one survey, the average student takes 113 standardized tests between pre-K and twelfth grade.

“In some places, tests – and preparation for them – are dominating the calendar and culture of schools and causing undue stress for students and educators.” The quote comes not from an angry parent or firebrand school leader but from Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Read more at: www.npr.org

Florida Teachers Consider ‘Civil Disobedience’ To Say No To Testing

Miramar High School teacher David Ross says testing has taken more and more time away from teaching. He refused to administer an FCAT make-up exam in protest.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miramar High School teacher David Ross says testing has taken more and more time away from teaching. He refused to administer an FCAT make-up exam in protest.

In September, Alachua County kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles refused to give a state reading test.

She told the parents of her students it was an act of civil disobedience. The Florida Department of Education later suspended the exam for this year.

Florida requires that most students are tested every year. Those results help determine which students graduate, ratings for public schools and teacher pay.

Supporters say Florida schools have improved since pioneering the use of tests. Testing forces schools to pay attention to every student’s progress.

Some teachers say they believe too many tests are bad for students. Around the state, students, parents, teachers, superintendents and school boards are discussing how to voice their opposition to testing.

But is the classroom the right place to raise those questions? Educators disagree about the best way for teachers to speak up.

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Author Sherman Alexie, On Writing For Young Adults

Author Sherman Alexie.

Chase Jarvis / Grove Atlantic

Author Sherman Alexie.

When we sat in on classes at Miami Northwestern High School to report on the Million Word Campaign, one of the writers whose work was discussed was Sherman Alexie.

Alexie frequently writes about American Indian life, including the movie Smoke Signals.

Alexie also appeared at the Miami Book Fair International last year to talk about writing young adult fiction. This year’s Miami Book Fair International opens this weekend, so we thought we’d re-post the interview Alexie did with StateImpact Florida last year.

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Opinion: For Better Teachers, Larger Classes And Higher Salaries

Sarasota County middle school math teacher Brenda Fuoco, in 2013.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Sarasota County middle school math teacher Brenda Fuoco, in 2013.

Maybe a charter school in New York City has discovered “The Answer” to Florida’s K-12 education challenges?

If so, the school has done so by setting aside Florida’s focus on keeping class sizes small and by instead adopting a strategy that our state has so far ignored – recruiting star teachers with high salaries and an attractive working environment.  In particular, the school’s spectacular results in math achievement should provide the standard by which Florida’s efforts to prepare students for careers in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — fields are judged.

The New York City charter, which teaches grades 5-9, is called The Equity Project (TEP).  It pays its teachers a $125,000 salary – with bonuses based on student achievement.  The salary seems extravagant in part because the cost of living in New York City is so high.  An equivalent salary in Tampa would be $71,000, according to Bankrate.com – still considerably higher than the average Florida teacher salary of about $46,000.

In addition to the high salary, the TEP teachers have time to plan and collaborate, and a six-week professional development program is built into each summer.  The teachers take a large role in school-wide decision-making.

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Three Questions With State Sen. John Legg About His Technology Summit

State Sen. John Legg is gathering experts from schools, the technology industry, business and universities to talk about helping Florida schools integrate more technology.

jaredearle / Flickr

State Sen. John Legg is gathering experts from schools, the technology industry, business and universities to talk about helping Florida schools integrate more technology.

Today in Tampa, lawmakers, superintendents, businesspeople and state university staff will gather to talk about using technology in Florida classrooms. The summit was the idea of Senate Education chairman John Legg, R-Trinity. We asked him what he wanted to accomplish:

Q: You are gathering some school and education leaders together…to talk about school technology. Why are you doing this and what do you hope to learn?

 A: Why we’re doing this is technology’s becoming a critical part of education. And in the recent years, what we’ve seen is, we’ve seen a real disconnect between the education world, the business world and the students.

What we expect our students to do is basically power down when they walk into a classroom. And what we’re trying to do is — our educators don’t want that to happen.

But to change that culture and to change the schools and to integrate technology into a classroom is not an easy task. It’s very complicated. And it involves people who speak different languages.

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