The FSA will be administered for the last time this coming spring if the governor has anything to say about it. At a press conference Tuesday, Governor DeSantis announced that the FSA is “outdated” and does not give results in time to allow teachers to provide appropriate interventions. He also noted that the FSA testing season takes away critical time needed for learning and instruction– a point we for which we have advocated, along side parents and stakeholders, for years.
The proposal would involve a series of short, progress monitoring tests given three times per year instead of one test in the spring. School districts already do progress monitoring and it has been required during the pandemic by the state. Details remain unclear but the governor claims these tests will take 75% less time than the current FSA.
The Alliance and other stakeholders have long advocated for an end to the high stakes tied to tests in Florida. It has never simply been about a specific test. Instead, it has been the consequences tied to the tests that put too much pressure on children and educators. A third grader’s matriculation or a high school student’s future should not depend on one test- nor should an educator’s professional evaluation. The Orlando Sentinel reports:
DeSantis said the state would continue its school accountability system — which now includes A-to-F school grades — but did not provide details on how that would work.
The federal government requires states to have a school accountability system based in part on statewide testing so presumably, the U.S. Department of Education would have to weigh on the changes. The press office at the federal agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Florida law ties promotion to fourth grade to passing the third-grade reading FSA exam and also requires high school students to pass the FSA algebra 1 exam and the 10th-grade language arts exam to earn a diploma.
DeSantis did not mention whether those high-stakes decisions would still be made based on the new progress monitoring tests.
Lawmakers must hammer out many details in order to make this change a positive one for students and educators. The state has transitioned tests before but has never eliminated any of the high-stakes tied to them.
Florida’s current system of high-stakes tests was ushered in by former Gov. Jeb Bush and has been supported by every GOP governor since. Under Bush, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, was used to grade public schools and decide if students were promoted or earned diplomas.
The FCAT was largely replaced by the FSA, though its elementary and middle school science exams remained, and the state later added end-of-course exams in biology, civics and U.S. history. As with the FCAT, the FSA was used for high-stakes decisions about students. After the passage of the state’s 2011 merit pay law, student test scores also factored into the system used to evaluate teachers.
Over the years, many superintendents, school board members, teachers and parents complained the state’s testing system put too much pressure on students and made exams too much of a focus of the school year.
DeSantis previously pushed for less testing and for an end to the FSA. But that was in part because the tests are aligned to Common Core, the standards for what students should learn in math and reading classes. He successfully got the state to replace Common Core with new standards, so the FSA needed to be replaced, too.
His administration last year proposed another series of standardized exams to replace the FSA starting in 2023. Now it wants to remove those from the drawing board and implement mini-tests given during the year instead.
We will continue to monitor this issue and the subsequent bills that will address this proposal.
Click here to use our quick tool to send a message to the governor and tell him to support students and educators by removing the high stakes tied to testing in Florida.