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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco district officials remain committed to quarterly tests

18

November

Pasco County school district leaders have no plans to end the quarterly testing system they launched this fall, despite vocal complaints from some teachers and parents about the tests' quality.

Superintendent Kurt Browning and his staff defended the "checks" during a 90-minute School Board workshop Tuesday. They argued the assessments help teachers understand what their students know as related to state standards, and that all schools are held to the same expectations. They do not carry high stakes, the administrators added.

"Really, it's about equity," assistant superintendent Vanessa Hilton told the board. "We have the same assessment at Lacoochee Elementary School as we have at Trinity Oaks Elementary School."

The administration brought in one principal and one teacher, who helped write the checks, to offer "in the trenches" testimony about how the tests helped.

"I am a very loathed person at my school because of my stance on the quarterly tests," said Wiregrass Ranch High social studies teacher Rachel Miller. "I think they are good tests. ... I find it so beneficial that this tool is available."

Noting the concerns about quarterly checks raised by many other teachers -- as manifest in a recent union survey -- board members expressed some hesitation. Chairwoman Joanne Hurley pointedly asked if the tests are the best way to meet the state mandate for monitoring student progress.

Browning offered an unqualified "yes." He explained that, in the past, it was a "crap shoot" in trying to determine if children were ready for their year-end state exams on the standards. Now the district will have data to inform instruction along the way.

"It's the right thing to do. It really is," Browning said. "Were they perfectly rolled out? No, they were not. We're going to keep getting better at it."

At least some teachers and parents remained unconvinced. During the board's public comment period, they raised another round of criticisms of the quarterly tests.

Land O'Lakes High English teacher Tracey Suits told the board she had hoped the checks would provide relevant, useful information to help her students learn. 

"I am left in dismay and disgust at what a poor tool they have turned out to be," Suits said. "I am discouraged as I look to future quarterly assessments. We deserve better."

The next round of quarterly checks are scheduled for January.

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 9:19am]

    

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