Saturday, December 16, 2017

Don’t waste teaching time on tests, Pasco School Board says

Citing concerns with getting student grades calculated on time, the Pasco County school district administration asked the School Board to move its semester testing windows forward by one day.

The board refused.

I cannot support a plan that supports losing two instructional days, especially in a year when we’ve lost so many days due to Hurricane Irma,” said board member Colleen Beaudoin, who removed the item from the usually uncontested consent agenda for discussion.

Beaudoin, a math teacher, said she had heard that in some schools, teachers encourage students not to attend on the final day of the semester after exams are completed. Shifting the testing period to end a day before the semester concludes would effectively kill two days of school, she said.

I will be disappointed if we send the message that two instructional days are not needed,” Beaudoin said, noting superintendent Kurt Browning frequently has pushed state officials to change testing to give teachers more time to teach.

Browning, appearing taken aback by the suggestion, aimed to redirect the conversation.

“It is not the intent of this superintendent to send the message that we don’t value instructional days,” Browning said, stressing that the issue was more about two software programs that don’t communicate.

Accountability director Peggy Jones explained further that the district is using new systems to collect and calculate student data. Two don't have a direct interface, and the district needs more time to ensure grades are accurate without asking teachers to manually enter any scores from tests taken on the last day of a semester.

“That doesn’t mean that last day of school won’t be a valued day,” Jones said.

But board members weren't appeased by the explanation. Board member Steve Luikart said the district should have fixed its software concerns by now, and if it can't get those resolved, it should have teachers input any lingering scores while at work after classes end.

After all, Beaudoin said, it's easy to say that teaching and learning will take place after students take their finals. Reality indicates otherwise, though.

It’s a final exam. It should be at the end of the semester,” she stressed.

Staff continued to press its point, adding that the issues should be resolved by next year. Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong joined that position, calling for a compromise and observing that the testing window allows for exams to be taken weeks before the semester end.

Ultimately, vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley joined Beaudoin and Luikart in turning back the administration's request.

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