Florida House moves closer to Senate on changes to state testing system
The Florida House took steps Thursday to bring its proposal for testing reform closer to the measure moving through the Senate.
Rep. Manny Diaz, sponsor of the "Fewer Better Tests Act," tied several of the ideas from that bill into a separate effort to allow parents and others to see certain state tests after students take them.
The Diaz amendment would, among other things:
- Eliminate the state Algebra II end-of-course exam,
- Require paper-based state language arts and math tests for third- through sixth-grade,
- Move the state testing window to later in the spring, and shrink it to a shorter time frame,
- Change the value-added model of evaluating teachers.
Diaz also moved to relabel a Level 3 score on the Florida Standards Assessments as "grade level" instead of the current "satisfactory." That provision was removed at the request of Rep. Shevrin Jones, the committee's ranking Democrat. It also did not make it through the Senate Rules Committee when proposed Wednesday as an add-on to SB 926, the Senate's testing bill.
With the changes, the House bill gets closer to SB 926, which would eliminate more end-of-course exams, extend paper testing to more grades and detach VAM from teacher evaluations. Speakers from the public largely praised the committee for taking the steps.
Vern Crawford, lobbyist for several districts, noted "politics is the art of compromise" and took heart that some testing changes might emerge from a session where it appeared the discussion might not yield much.
One speaker criticized the committee for creating a "train" that was little more than "a wide-ranging patchwork of poorly articulated ideas." Chairman Michael Bileca observed that SB 926, which the speaker supported, had become "the ultimate train bill going on in the Senate."
Rep. Rene Plasencia, meanwhile, noted that the amendment brought in ideas that had been vetted in other committees.
"There is no lack of transparency," the Orlando Republican said. "At the end of the day, we are trying to get things done."
Rep. Larry Lee, a Port St. Lucie Democrat, agreed that the parties had worked as legislators together to find compromise where they could.
"We should do all that we can to get something moving," Lee said.
HB 549 next heads to the House floor, while SB 926 is on its way to the Senate floor. Session ends in two weeks.