A state senator and leader of the Florida’s school superintendents association said he’s not sure schools will have the technology in place for new online exams this spring.
Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told the Senate Education Appropriations committee that Florida’s new statewide tests, the Florida Standards Assessments, are on track for use beginning in March. The tests are tied to new Common Core-based math, reading and writing standards.
But Montford, a Democrat, wasn’t as sure that school districts would have the computer and Internet capacity for the exams, which are mostly taken online.
“I would feel very uncomfortable,” Montford said, “leaving here today thinking that all districts are ready from a technological standpoint to administer the assessment this year.”
The conversation came during the first big week of committee work prior to this year’s legislative session. The amount and cost of testing is expected to be a high-profile issue.
Stewart answered a number of lawmaker questions, clarifying what state law does and does not require.
Lawmakers asked whether state law requires students in kindergarten to take exams at the end of the school year. Stewart said tests weren’t necessary, and that teachers could use a portfolio of the student’s work, a project or other methods to prove the student mastered the year’s lessons.
Agency staff said state-required tests cost $90 million each year. That includes the Florida Standards Assessments, college-readiness exams and others, but not required end-of-course exams chosen by each school district.
Sen. David Simmons said the pending debate is a chance to overhaul the system.
“We have a chance to do a re-write, so we can make sure we’re not over-testing,” he said.
Sen. Don Gaetz, Republican, had to cut off the questioning, but asked Stewart about the growing practice of opting out of state exams. Testing opponents are withholding kids from the tests, and teaching other parents how to do it.
Gaetz asked Stewart to find out to what extent people are opting out, and why, for a future committee meeting.