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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Key Florida lawmakers to unveil testing legislation on Wednesday



UPDATE: The lawmakers' legislation is HB 773 / SB 926, identical bills that would among other things study whether the SAT and ACT tests align with state math and language arts standards to possibly replace some Florida Standards Assessments. It also would mandate that most state testing take place "no earlier than the last three weeks of the school year." Read the bill language

Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the anti-high-stakes testing group FairTest, told the Gradebook he viewed the testing alignment study as "much ado about nothing." He noted the U.S. Department of Education has raised several concerns about whether the two college entry tests actually align with state standards. 

The other ideas are "not bad," he continued. However, Schaeffer added, "they do not address Florida's overarching problems of too much testing attached (improperly) to high stakes. This has the fingerprints of Jeb's Foundation all over it from the title on down, as your blog correctly notes. It is attempt to 'change the optics' without doing much about the substance."

More reaction is certain to come.


Florida Senate president pro tem Anitere Flores, Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee chairman Rep. Manny Diaz, and House Judiciary committee chairman Rep. Chris Sprowls have announced plans to introduce a bill aimed at scaling back state-mandated student testing on Wednesday.

The three are calling the bill the "Fewer, Better Tests" act, a nod to the direction of Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education has taken since Florida's parents have started fighting back against the state's high-stakes testing model that Bush promoted while governor.

Language hasn't been made available in advance of the 10:45 a.m. press conference at the state Capitol. But the news alert says the lawmakers' goals are to:

- Improve and enhance state tests,
- Move the exams to later in the year (a goal superintendents set forth weeks ago),
- Provide better student score reports (something the Department of Education said it did a year ago) and
- Ensure teachers get results from local assessments early enough to inform their instruction (note it's local, not state, results).

The move comes at a time when the Senate PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee and its members have been vocal about seeking to cut back the state's testing system. Several lawmakers have argued that the model has become too costly -- Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, recently noted at a committee meeting that the Legislature could save money on testing by reducing the number of tests given -- and that it also has taken away too much teaching and learning time.

Some lawmakers already have filed measures aimed at tackling some testing issues, such as Rep. Ralph Massullo's HB 407 and Sen. Bill Montford's SB 584. Indications have been that House and Senate officials might prefer to have a single testing bill to debate in both chambers, and with the sway of the sponsors, the "Fewer, Better Tests" act could become that vehicle. Stay tuned.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 15, 2017 7:44am]


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