Putting Education Reform To The Test

Despite Problems With Florida’s New Test, Lawmaker Opposes Cancelling Contract

Senate Education Chairman John Legg.

The Florida Senate

Senate Education Chairman John Legg.

The chairman of the Senate Education committee says lawmakers aren’t interested in cancelling the six-year, $220 million contract with Florida new statewide test provider despite multiple problems with the new exams already.

Twice this year contractor American Institutes for Research made changes to their system which prevented students and administrators from accessing the exam. Some students were even booted in the middle of completing the test.

One senator, Alan Hays, even filed amendments which would have canceled the contract. Critics of the new exam, Florida’s Common Core-based standards and judging student and school performance based on exam results supported the idea.

But Sen. John Legg, a Pasco County Republican, says there’s little support for that.

“Quite frankly the Legislature is not heading in that direction,” Legg says, “nor are senators and House members even talking about that. To cancel a contract in the middle would be very costly.”

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said AIR’s most recent problems, during the second online testing window, were “absolutely unacceptable”  and that the agency “will hold AIR accountable.”

Lawmakers also have said they are unhappy with with AIR’s performance.

But Legg says he doesn’t think the state should cancel statewide tests.

“To replace it with nothing would really hurt our students,” he says. “We need some degree of accountability.”

Lawmakers wrapped up the legislative session last week with House and Senate Republicans in deep disagreement over whether to expand health care coverage in the state budget.

Just one education bill was signed into law, capping the amount of testing time and reducing the importance of test results in teacher evaluations.

A handful of high-profile bills were stranded when the House adjourned early last week. They include: expanding private school scholarships and allowing students to enroll in public schools across district lines; changing rules for high school sports transfers; and adding money for school technology.

Most education bills are dead, Legg says. But bills that would mean spending money — such as the school technology bill — could be revived when lawmakers return for a special session to resolve the budget.


About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »