Putting Education Reform To The Test

Education Commissioner Recommends Eliminating Some State Tests

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Florida Department of Education / Flickr

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has recommended eliminating a high school exam, making another optional and asking state lawmakers and local school districts to cut back on the amount of testing.

Stewart’s recommendations are the conclusion of a statewide review of standardized testing requested by Gov. Rick Scott.

“There is, without a doubt, an excess of testing in Florida schools,” Stewart said in a statement, saying she’ll work with Scott, lawmakers and school districts to “strike the appropriate balance between accountability and instruction.”

Stewart says lawmakers should eliminate an 11th grade English language arts exam that was added this year as part of Florida’s adoption of Common Core-based standards. Florida’s 10th grade reading exam is a high school graduation requirement, prompting some lawmakers and schools to ask why an eleventh grade exam was needed.

Students are scheduled to take the new Florida Standards Assessments starting next month.

Scott said in a press release he will issue an executive order eliminating the exam and expected lawmakers to put it into law.

Many school leaders agreed with the decision. Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho told lawmakers students taking the College Board’s Advanced Placement courses don’t need another exam.

“So eliminate one,” he said. “And I can tell you, if you ask the students and the teachers, they’re not going to want to eliminate the College Board exam, because they’re accruing college credit if they get a three, four or five. So eliminate the requirement for the FSA 11th grade.”

Stewart also recommended eliminating the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, or PERT, which is used to determine whether students are ready for college-level work. Lawmakers made remedial college courses optional in 2013, which makes it possible to eliminate the PERT requirement.

Stewart also recommended districts eliminate final exams if a state end-of-course exam already exists. And, school districts should not use tests solely to judge a teacher’s performance.

Read the Department of Education report here.

It’s notable Stewart focused on high school exams. Some districts report that 11th graders have the largest testing burden among all grades.

But school leaders across the state said eliminating some tests was not enough. Pinellas County schools superintendent Mike Grego said his district won’t be ready for the online exam. Carvalho said the state should gather test results for a year before trying to calculate school grades or rate teacher performance based on new test’s scores.

The committee did not vote on any testing bills Wednesday.


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