Putting Education Reform To The Test

House Speaker Says New Tests May Not Be Ready By Deadline


Students will take the new Common Core assessments online. The assessments are still being developed, and school districts are scrambling to get the necessary equipment.

House Speaker Will Weatherford says Florida needs to be ready in case the test accompanying new education standards isn’t ready by a spring 2015 deadline.

The standards, known as Common Core State Standards, are scheduled to be taught in every Florida grade beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

The standards are a new way of teaching – students will delve deeply into fewer topics than they do now, and they’ll have to explain their answers. It also means the end of most Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests.

But the Department of Education is looking at a potential delay in implementing a new, accompanying test.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is working on a “Plan B” in case some districts don’t have the proper equipment by 2014 or the new assessment, known as PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, aren’t ready.

Speaker Will Weatherford said he hopes Florida won’t need a delay, but it might be necessary.

“There is a possibility that it’s not going to be ready for prime time,” Weatherford said. “So if it’s not, we’re going to have to have a Plan B. So I think it’s prudent of Commissioner Bennett to kind of have a backup plan just in case.

“We would like to be able to fully transition into Common Core,” he said. “We think it’s going to be a great way to assess how our students are doing, compare them to other students from around the country, and kind of have some alignment with our standards.”

Weatherford said lawmakers are working closely with Bennett.

Even the Foundation for Florida’s Future – the group formed by former Gov. Jeb Bush and heavily promoting the standards – accepts that a delay may be necessary.

Executive Director Patricia Levesque said the delay centers around the assessments that are still being developed. Kids will take them online, and many districts don’t have enough computers or the necessary Internet bandwidth right now.

“I do think that there’s some flexibility, probably, with delaying for a year that the tests are given online,” Levesque said. “What’s more important from the foundation’s perspective is making sure technology becomes an integral part of how our students learn.”

Levesque thinks the state needs to catch up with technology that’s ever-present in 2013 – multiple laptops, iPads and similar devices in many homes.

“We need to be moving toward an education system where every child is learning everyday with technology, with the teacher assigning assignments through the digital device,” Levesque said, “where students are able to sit in a classroom and download and look up information when the teacher poses a question.”

“We have to rethink the way we are delivering education because technology is a part of our lives in every other way,” Levesque said. “It needs to be a part of our education system as well.”


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