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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Tests needed if Florida "teacher quality" bill becomes law



If Senate Bill 736/ House Bill 7019 becomes law, as is widely expected, Florida's school districts will need tests for every course they offer. That way they can measure student performance and the related teacher effectiveness outlined in the legislation.

Most districts do not have these exams, despite requirements in law since 1999 to use them as part of teacher reviews, as bill sponsors Sen. Steve Wise and Rep. Erik Fresen repeatedly noted during debate.

The problem, those in opposition have pointed out, is that the districts don't have the money to create and administer valid, reliable assessments, either.

How much would they need? It's not clear, Sen. Nan Rich argued.  But there are some hints out there.

In preparing SB 4 last year, Senate staffers estimated in their bill analysis that it would take $1.5 million to develop and administer a statewide standardized end-of-course exam. "Costs for development and validation begin approximately two years before implementation," they wrote.

Pasco County school testing officials have begun creating some end-of-course exams, with an average cost of $100,000 each. The district has about 1,300 discrete courses. Doing the math, district leaders have said their biggest concern with SB 736 is the cost.

Hillsborough schools already have a full stock of the tests. Spokesman Steve Hegarty said the district updates the exams regularly, also ensuring their reliability and validity. "It's a huge undertaking," he said, and not one that's cheap.

Wise said the state will use Race to the Top funding to help create tests for schools to use. The Department of Education also will establish a test bank with full exams and questions to defray the costs, he added.

The legislation next heads to the full House next week.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2011 3:03pm]


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