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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas school board to consider Florida version of anti-testing resolution

20

July

It's a little bit of deja vu for the Pinellas County school board.

After passing a national anti-testing resolution in June on a 6-1 vote, the board now plans to consider Tuesday the Florida version approved by the Florida School Boards Association. This is the resolution, you'll recall, that prompted an intense back and forth between state education officials and school leaders about how much testing is too much - and who's responsible for it.

Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said the resolution was "short on providing hope."

Just one Pinellas County school board member, Glenton Gilzean, was opposed to the national version. See why here. Now the board will take a stab at the Florida version. The board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The resolution is under the special order agenda.

Here's the Florida resolution:

WHEREAS, Florida school districts strongly supports accountability on the school, district, and state level for the delivery of the uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools guaranteed by the Constitution of Florida; and 

WHEREAS, testing is one of many tools that can play a role in measuring student achievement and learning gains, in identifying areas of weakness, and in informing students and their parents of a student’s overall educational progress; and 

WHEREAS, Florida’s accountability system has developed into a system of high stakes testing that uses  student performance on  standardized tests to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators, schools, and school districts; and 

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing, when used alone, is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, since 1998, the number of state required high stakes tests administered each year has soared from two to more than twelve; and 

WHEREAS, the over-emphasis on standardized testing has resulted in a variety of unintended consequences that diminish the quality of the educational program, including stifling a love of learning, narrowing the curriculum, reducing student access to elective and other desired courses, and impeding the recruitment and retention of excellent teachers and administrators; and

WHEREAS, it has been demonstrated that high  stakes  standardized testing fails to measure accurately student progress from the beginning to the end of the same school year; and

WHEREAS, under Florida’s  high  stakes  testing structure, a  student who  scores  poorly on  a statewide assessment may – among other things – be retained in grade, be required to take extensive remediation courses, be denied access to upper level courses, be denied any credit for a  course, and/or have  a  standard  high school  diploma  withheld, regardless  of the  student’s performance on other course tests, reports, course work, projects, and other indicators of the student’s abilities, and 

WHEREAS, under Florida’s high stakes testing structure, an educator whose work or instruction is not assessed by a statewide assessment, can be evaluated based, in majority measure, on the performance of students that the teacher may have never met or taught; and

WHEREAS, under Florida’s high stakes testing structure, a school’s grade can be based, in part, on the performance of students who do not attend the school and who have not been taught by teachers in the school; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s  high  stakes  testing instruments  are  not correlated  to  any national  or international assessment instruments to allow for a comparison of both student achievement and progress in Florida with student achievement and progress with other states and countries; and 

WHEREAS, periodic  revisions  approved  by Florida’s  State  Board  of Education  to  curriculum standards, cut scores, testing time frames, scoring criteria, and other elements of the high stakes testing structure have made it impossible to track student learning gains or learning weaknesses from one year to the next, or provide timely results for diagnostic purposes, thus defeating the original purpose of such testing; and

WHEREAS, in the absence of state funding, Florida’s school districts have been forced to take growing amounts  of fiscal  and  human  resources  away from student instruction  and  support services  and  redirect those  resources  to  the  development,  the  purchase  of hardware  and infrastructure, the administration, and the related support of high stakes testing; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s  high  stakes  testing structure  hampers  efforts  to  promote  innovation, creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills that allow students to thrive in a democracy and in a global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s high stakes testing structure results in some schools and school districts to be mislabeled as low performing which, in turn, has been shown to have a negative impact on state and local economic development; and 

WHEREAS, the over-reliance on Florida’s high-stakes standardized testing is undermining Article IX, Section 1 of the Constitution of Florida which declares that it is “a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision  . . . for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education” particularly with regard to adequate provision, uniformity, efficiency, and high quality;

THEREFORE, BE  IT RESOLVED  that the  Florida  School  Boards  Association  calls  on  the Governor, Florida Legislature, and State Board of Education to:

• Contract with  a  qualified, independent entity to  conduct a  thorough  and  fully transparent independent review and evaluation of Florida’s accountability system, including the assessment instruments, contracts with service providers, state and local costs, the return on investment, and the overall quality, reliability, and validity of the system;

• Revise the accountability system to include data from multiple forms of assessment and limited standardized testing to more accurately reflect student learning gains and identify learning weaknesses;

• Eliminate the practice of using student performance on standardized tests as the primary basis for evaluating teacher, administrator, school, and district performance;

• Phase  in  any revisions  to  the  accountability system in  order to  ensure  adequate  time  for students, teachers, parents, and administrators to fully understand and adapt to the revisions, and ensure that students, teachers, schools, and districts are held harmless during the phase-in period; and

• Ensure that Florida’s accountability system is fully funded by the state and that school districts are held harmless from incurring any expenses related to the development of assessment instruments and the administration of assessment tests, including the expenses related to training, test security, and the hardware, software, and infrastructure necessary to administer assessment tests.

[Last modified: Friday, July 20, 2012 3:16pm]

    

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