September 20, 2021

Valerie Strauss: Florida says it’s ending year-end, high-stakes standardized testing. Here’s what it’s really doing.

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At the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss offers a good explainer of Ron DeSantis’s recent pledge to do away with the Big Standardized Test.

The announcement sparked a slew of striking headlines, some of which said that DeSantis was ending (a) standardized testing, (b) high-stakes testing or (c) the dreaded springtime assessment season that has demoralized teachers and students for years.

In fact, he isn’t ending standardized testing, he isn’t ending high-stakes testing, and testing in the spring isn’t disappearing.

There’s plenty we don’t know about the new testing system: The governor offered few details, and the Florida Education Department did not provide any when asked. But it is the first time that a state has announced it is setting up a new accountability testing paradigm, and it could spur other states to make a similar change to eliminate highly unpopular assessment programs.

Here’s what DeSantis said he is doing:

The governor announced Tuesday that he would ask the Republican-led legislature (which will do pretty much anything he wants) to end the Florida State Assessment (FSA) system, which tests students in reading and math and other subjects at the end of each school year.

Those tests — and others like them used in every state for years — are given at the end of each academic year, virtually always after significant test prep that eats up days of instructional time. Scores are not available until after the school year ends, and teachers don’t know which questions students got wrong.

The new Florida Assessment of Student Thinking, DeSantis said, will give three short exams to monitor student progress in fall, winter and spring, giving teachers more time to teach as well as real-time data to target instruction — and will cost less money. He said the exams would be individualized, which would mean online adaptive tests that some Florida districts already use for progress monitoring.

“We will continue to set high standards, but we also have to recognize it is the year 2021 and the FSA is, quite frankly, outdated,” DeSantis said. “There will be 75 percent less time for testing, which will mean more time for learning.”
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