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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

School districts take issue with Florida's testing item bank



Several Florida school districts, led by Volusia County, are raising concerns about the Department of Education's plans to provide shared test items this spring for assessments tied to teacher evaluations.

The crux of the issue: The FLDOE chose to share the items on the SchoolNet computer platform by testing giant Pearson, which doesn't interface with the systems that many of them use or plan to implement. These Local Instructional Improvement Systems (often referred to as LIIS) are required under the state's Race to the Top grant, but there is no mandate as to which one districts select.

Volusia chose a platform for student data and testing called Global Scholar. The state's choice is causing problems, as superintendent Peg Smith explained in a memo (attached below) that went to all state superintendents late last week:

"Volusia is in the process of training teachers and administrators to use Global Scholar for all of our grading, curriculum mapping, lesson planning, item writing, assessment creation, assessment scoring, and data analysis.  In order for teachers to use the items developed by the DOE they will have to leave Volusia’s LIIS, enter another platform (SchoolNet).  The assessments built within the SchoolNet platform will not be scanable nor will they be transferable to their gradebook.  In our opinion, under these circumstances, the state items banks are not accessible and will not be used effectively in preparation for PARCC.  This would completely go against the spirit of the LIIS and would only result in frustration on the part of the classroom teacher who would have to use two separate systems depending on whether or not they wanted to use the DOE items.

"The contract entered into by DOE with Pearson for this project forces districts, like Volusia, to partner with Pearson in order to truly have an LIIS and be able to use the DOE items.  This is unacceptable.  For the state to enter into a contract with a vendor that will ultimately force districts to either partner with that vendor, or not be able to access the product establishes resource and financial inequities among the districts."

Joy Frank, the chief lobbyist for the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, asked other superintendents if they are having similar issues. She told the Gradebook that many had responded that they are, too, and she's now collecting data before making any recommendations.

Smith has called upon the state to have the Pearson product make its test items exportable to all district LIIS choices. Stay tuned to see how this gets resolved.

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 9:52am]


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