FCAT, Florida’s flawed one test, one day yardstick is gone. The new test, the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) is not in place, but must be given this spring. Since legislators would rather have a bad test than no test, they paid vendor AIR $5.4M to slap together an assessment using recycled Utah questions. Last spring over 50% of Utah’s students, many of them high achievers, failed this test with its cumbersome on-line process and confusing questions. Now this disaster is headed our way.
Rocky transitions are standard education reform strategy. The past 15 years were a constant state of chaos meant to keep teachers, students and parents confused and afraid. Moving from FCAT to the FSA is a case in point. Instead of pausing for several years to pilot and thoughtfully implement the FSA, politicians are determined to keep in place the existing harsh sanctions against children and teachers despite the fact that this year no performance baseline for comparison exists.
Because of the unknown Utah questions, Florida students are facing a test this spring that will not reflect what they’re learning now. Saddest of all, our littlest learners are using pencil and paper to perfect their writing skills but the test will be given on computers. How is a 4th grader with zero keyboarding or typing skills going to handle that?
In addition, thousands of new state-mandated end-of-course exams will be given this spring. Thanks to the Student Success Act (SB 736), the first bill Governor Scott signed, every single course including art, music and PE will have an end of course exam (EOC) worth as much as 30% of a student’s total grade.
Most of us accept that weighted final exams written by classroom instructors are an accepted part of high school and college. However, Florida’s new reality means kindergartners and elementary students will also be forced to take seven high stakes tests like the older students. The law uses our kids’ scores as a “gotcha” device that hurts them while labeling and sanctioning their teachers. Where’s the lesson in all of this punishment?
We know where the FSA is going. Cut scores will be moved, dire predictions of mass failures will be made, data will be manipulated, children will lose hope and teachers will be forced to bear witness to an epic disaster.
This week the Sun Sentinel features this writer’s view that parents, teachers, school board members, superintendents, business leaders and students must stand together and demand an end to Florida’s failed high-stakes A-F school Accountability System. Read entire article here.