Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Proposed Limit Might Not Reduce Testing Time

Florida lawmakers want to limit the amount of time students spend testing.

StephenMitchell

Florida lawmakers want to limit the amount of time students spend testing.

A proposal to limit students to 45 hours of testing a year is unlikely to reduce the amount of time spent on exams, according to a survey of Florida’s largest school districts.

Districts say they don’t currently track the time individual students spend on testing.

Calculating the number is complicated. The amount of testing varies by a student’s grade, the classes he or she is taking and other factors, such as whether the student is learning English or receives extra time to accommodate a disability.

Orange and Miami-Dade county schools provided estimates and say even if a student were to take every test available in a single year, the student still would not exceed 45 hours of testing.

For instance, the district says a Miami-Dade eleventh grader has 20.6 hours of required tests. If the student took every eleventh grade test possible that would add 15.2 hours. And two International Baccalaureate courses — an advanced program for motivated students — would add eight more hours.

That’s a total of 43.8 hours of testing — and most students don’t take that course load.

Miami-Dade says an eighth grader taking high school level courses might have as much as 42.1 hours of testing.

Orange County schools say eleventh graders have to complete the most testing, a total of 28.55 hours. Seventh and eighth graders must complete 22.42 hours of testing and fifth graders have the most testing in elementary school — 23.42 hours.

School officials in two other large districts, Palm Beach and Hillsborough counties, say they don’t keep track of how much time each student spends on testing.

“Right there underlines a significant amount of the problem,” said Sen. John Legg, who introduced the bill limiting testing. “If you don’t know how much they’re being assessed, odds are they’re being assessed too much.

Legg said the 45 hour limit is a place to start the debate. The Florida Department of Education is investigating district testing requirements at the request of Gov. Rick Scott. Those finding could also influence lawmakers.

Testing is expected to be one of the biggest education issues during the legislative session which begins next month. Across the country and Florida, a growing number of parents, students, teachers and school leaders have said students take too many tests, and too many decisions are based on student test scores.

In Florida, that includes whether students advance from third to fourth grade, graduate high school, and judge public school and teacher performance.

Senate lawmakers say they want “fewer and better” exams, while House lawmakers have yet to introduce a bill proposing changes.

Districts have also taken steps to reduce testing. Miami-Dade eliminated some tests they said were redundant. Other districts have followed suit, or said they are considering eliminating exams.

Comments

  • Amelia Guimarães Larson

    The “Opt Out Movement “in Florida has constructed the testing scenario in a way that has forced those in power to pay attention and to deal with the “problem”. In response to this pressure, Senator Legg filed a bill on testing and evaluations that in no way addresses the real issues!

    Airbrushing Florida’s Accountability System does little to regain the public’s trust or move teaching and learning forward. The continued focus on lagging indicators, top-down mandates. and highly-prescribed solutions will not do! Airbrushing will not do! Parents, students and educators have had enough. Moving forward, there is an urgent need for diverse perspectives to articulate new accountability principles and develop a deeper understanding of what they mean in daily practice!

    WE HAVE A PROBLEM…A BIG PROBLEM…AND WE HAVE TO SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS TOGETHER…it should be clear by now that answers cannot come from legislators alone! … Educators must lead the dialogue on what matters when preparing students for their future:

    “What are the real problems we are trying to solve?” “What would success look like?”

    “How can we make them more equitable places – especially in regard to issues of race, gender, class and sexuality? ”

    “How can we ask hard questions about the world we live in and the world we hope our children will create?”

    “How can the work we do in schools help students become deeply thoughtful about the world around them?”

    “How can we empower them to believe in — and work toward — a vision of the world that is better than we have today?”

    “How do schools need to evolve to more authentically ask these questions?”

    These questions inspire lengthy debates based on deeply held beliefs, but we must go there. Kids are counting on us!

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