Putting Education Reform To The Test

Why Hillsborough County Schools Add Extra Tests To The Schedule

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State lawmakers might require school districts post a schedule of district-required tests online, something Hillsborough County schools and other districts already do.

The Hillsborough County school district website lists 38 different testing dates for high school students.

They range from Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests and biology exams required to graduate high schools, to alternative tests for special needs students and personal fitness exams.

Not every student has to take every test — those personal fitness exams, for instance — and not every one is a state or federal requirement. Hillsborough County schools list them all on elementary, middle and high school calendars and note which ones are state requirements.

Florida lawmakers are debating a bill which would require all school districts to post a similar schedule online. State law already requires school districts to publish a schedule of state-required testing.

The bill’s sponsor says he wants the public to know that some school districts add dozens of additional tests on top of those required by the state or federal government. The proposal comes after a year filled with parents, students and school boards criticizing the emphasis state law puts on test results, particularly the FCAT.

Hillsborough County schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty said the district has posted its testing schedule since at least 2005. Miami-Dade schools and many other large- and medium-sized Florida districts also post a schedule.

“I guess I’m surprised that everybody doesn’t do it,” Hegarty said.

The schedule serves as a reference for parents, students and school officials, who know not to schedule big events during testing season.

Some can be used as a fail-safe in case of problems with state testing. That’s what happened in 2010 when several school districts challenged FCAT results.

Hillsborough could use results on other tests to know if there was a problem with FCAT scores, Hegarty said. Those redundancies are more important since teacher evaluations — and eventually, pay — school grades, district grades and more depend on FCAT results.

Hegarty said Hillsborough’s additional tests help provide more data for evaluating teachers in subjects not tested by the FCAT, such as art, music and more.

Posting the schedule might mean questions about additional exams, but Hegarty said the school district can defend their choices.

“I think it does make a point that we have a lot of demands on our kids,” Hegarty said. “We don’t have any tests we consider unnecessary.”


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