In South Florida, the Common Core Testing Doesn’t Count…

The “testing window” for the Common Core-derived Florida Standards Assessment is finally closing here in South Florida.  Students have been taking the computer-based FSA’s since April, and teachers have prepared the students for the tests since September.  South Florida school districts have now decided that scores from this years tests will not count toward student promotion.  The Sun-Sentinel details what happens next:

After weeks of taking new standardized tests and end-of-course exams, students can breathe easy — most of the scores won’t count toward final class grades or determine whether third-graders will be promoted to the next level.

The series of exams, which debuted this year and are tied to tougher education standards known as Common Core, have yet to be validated. And until they are this fall, local school districts say they won’t use the scores to make decisions affecting students and teachers.

In Broward, teachers will decide whether third-graders will be promoted or held back based on their class performance. In Palm Beach County, teachers will use district tests and other local measurements to identify third-graders who are not at reading level.

Older students who took the end-of-course exams in Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry won’t have their test scores count for 30 percent of their grade as mandated by the state.

“We will not allow the results of one single test to determine the future of our students,” said Broward schools Superintendent Robert Runcie during a press conference on Tuesday.

Well then!  Now there’s a quote… If only we had enough parents, administrators, teachers and children stand up and shout that statement toward our representatives in Congress, maybe we could finally put an end to these tests once and for all!

I understand that I am taking the quote wildly out of context, but still… Regardless, the Superintendent’s decision here is absolutely the right call, from the stakeholders that I’ve spoken with, preparation and rollout of the FSA’s has been one long stress-filled disaster.

Keith Oswald, chief academic officer for Palm Beach County schools, said the district would not use any of the test results this year.

“This allows us to make better decisions for kids,” he said.

This year the state rolled out new standardized tests that were longer, harder and mostly online. Test scores factor into school grades, teacher pay and student retention.

“This is a tsunami in terms of change,” said Runcie. He said the state rushed the changes through despite pushback from local districts, educators and parents.

Runcie added that because of all the changes, all Broward teachers would receive an effective or highly effective evaluation this year. Oswald said the issue of teacher evaluations was still on hold and had not yet been resolved.

District officials also reacted to a memo sent by the state Department of Education on Monday stating that exams in Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry would not count toward a student’s final grade this year. Under law, end-of-course tests count for 30 percent of a student’s grade.

Both Broward and Palm Beach County said the results from the math course exams, which will be released in the fall, will be used to retroactively adjust a class grade only if it benefits a student.

“Students will not be penalized,” said Runcie. “if they are adversely impacted, we will not count it.”

I find it telling how the Broward county Superintendent has already cleared up the issue of test scores impacting teacher evaluations, but the Palm Beach County chief academic officer stated that the topic had “yet to be resolved.” This comes as no surprise to my friends who are teachers in Palm Beach County, as they have told me many times that they have been discounted financially and professionally by their district over the past decade.

Choosing not to count FSA scores for this year is the correct call.  The better course of action would be for all of us to call on our representatives to scrap the program once and for all.  You’ll find out how to do that right here…

-Gabriel Diaz

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