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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco superintendent scales back elementary school testing



Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning has responded to a grievance by more than 1,300 elementary school teachers by cutting back the number of mandatory tests the teachers must administer.

Browning told the Gradebook on Wednesday that while he believes testing is important to determine how students are learning, he does not support the idea of forcing teachers to use exams they don't find useful.

As such, he decided to make optional many of the tests that had been district mandated in the past. It will be up to the teachers, he said, to determine which ones they will employ to help guide their instruction.

Browning also said he will tell all principals to treat teacher planning time as "sacred."

The teachers filed a formal complaint in October saying that their time had become overly burdened with testing, paperwork and meetings. Former superintendent Heather Fiorentino rejected their request for relief.

Browning, who took office in November, said he wanted to resolve the grievance without having it go to the School Board. See the full story here.

Read on for Browning's letter to union president Lynne Webb.

Ms. Lynne Webb, President
United School Employees of Pasco
21322 Lake Patience Road
Land O’ Lakes, FL 34638

Dear Lynne:

Since taking office, my staff and I have been carefully examining the concerns brought forward by the
District’s elementary school teachers relative to the frequency and utility of the formative and summative
assessments currently in place for Pasco’s elementary school students. Our alternative is to use a continuum of
strategies within a range of frequency and purpose. A Best Practices Assessment Paper has been written to further define
our commitment to move towards a balanced assessment system (Chappuis, et al., 2005; Stiggins, 2008) that we believe
can provide students, teachers, and parents with continual evidence to gauge student progress in mastering the foundations
or prerequisites that underpin and lead up to the CCSS.

After meeting with a group of teachers selected by USEP on Tuesday, February 12, 2013, the following
expectations for elementary student assessment were developed:

1. FAIR BENCHMARK Reading Assessments –
a. The continued use of the FAIR assessments will satisfy the state requirement that students receive
a benchmark assessment in reading at least 3 times per year.
b. The District recognizes and will respond to the need to provide additional training for teachers on
administering the FAIR assessments and effectively utilizing the data from these assessments to
drive instruction in the classroom.
2. Macmillan/McGraw Hill Reading Series Assessments –
a. The K-5 Weekly TREASURES assessments will be optional for teachers.
b. The K-1 Reading unit assessments will be optional for teachers.
c. The 2-5 Reading unit assessments will become optional pending state approval to alter the current
K-12 Comprehensive Reading Plan approved by the state for this year. Once approval is received,
the District will notify teachers and administrators.
3. Core K-12 and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Math and Science Benchmark Assessments –
a. BENCHMARK ASSESSMENTS: During the next few months, we will be working with teachers to
determine whether the District will continue to use the Core K-12 Benchmark Assessments for
math and science or will transition to using the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Benchmark Assessments
for Math (GO MATH) and Science (FUSION). This will be effective in the 2013/2014 school year.
Students receive a benchmark assessment in math and science at least three times per year.
UNIT ASSESSMENTS: The K-5 GO MATH Pre-Post assessments will be optional for teachers.
Teacher teams electing to use the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt pre-and post- Unit Assessments will
be able to utilize an online version of the assessments that eliminates the need for teachers to enter
a “0” or “1” on the Excel file to reflect student responses to assessment items.
b. The K-5 FUSION Pre-Post assessments will be optional for teachers.

As elementary teachers begin to operate under these new student assessment expectations, it is important for them to keep
in mind that we all are committed to working together to achieve the collective purpose of learning for all students. We
are all responsible for cultivating a collaborative culture through development of high-performing teams and the priorities
for our shared work will include the following:

That all teachers need to keep a pulse on the learning of their students.
That all teachers will need to work in collaborative teams to clarify what students must learn, gather
evidence of student learning, analyze the evidence, identify the most powerful teacher training strategies/
best practices, and transfer these strategies across all team members.
That teacher teams are going to need to build their collective knowledge about the Common Core State
Standards and Next Generation Sunshine State Standards to clarify what their students must know and be
able to do as a result of each unit of instruction.
That teacher teams will use common assessments to monitor the learning of each student on essential
outcomes, and that these common assessments will align to the required outcomes.
That all teachers need to be able to analyze data from common assessments to identify students who
need additional time and support for learning, discover strengths and weaknesses in their individual and
collective teaching, and help measure team progress toward its common goals.
That all teachers will seek out relevant data and information and use that information to promote
continuous improvement.
That all teachers will act on the information from their data using a research-based model to increase
teacher/team effectiveness and ensure that all students learn and benefit from our collective best efforts as
we close all achievement gaps.

Of course, if the state is in your school (Differentiated Accountability), intensity of assessments increases, and
when a student is not responding to instruction, intensity of instructional assessments increases.

Moving forward, our goal is to give schools and teachers the tools they need to improve student achievement
without overburdening them with mandatory, prescriptive testing requirements. The philosophy of this
administration is that professional educators need to have the ability to make decisions based on what is best for
their students while working collectively so that all Pasco students can reach their potential. Critical conditions
for the development of collaborative cultures will include designated and protected time for teachers to meet and
collaborate during the regular school day. As such, we will work with schools to ensure:

Master schedules are built to provide daily common preparation periods for teachers of the same course
or in the same department. Each team should then designate one day each week to engage in collaborative,
rather than individual, planning.
Teacher teams will receive time during their workday and work year to meet on a regular basis.

We look forward to building and strengthening our efforts to meet the needs of all of our students.


Kurt S. Browning
Superintendent of Schools

[Last modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 6:26am]


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