New Florida law will delay school test results for months

Florida Standards Assessments must now be verified by an independent expert.
Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says test scores could be delayed eight months.
Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says test scores could be delayed eight months.
Published April 15 2015
Updated April 16 2015

If you thought computerized testing would generate quick results, think again.

Students taking Florida Standards Assessments exams this week won't get their scores for close to eight months, education commissioner Pam Stewart said Wednesday.

"I have concerns with us moving forward with data … before it is validated," Stewart told the State Board of Education.

She referred to a requirement, signed into law Tuesday, that an independent test expert verify the FSA as properly written and administered before the results can be used. That report is due by Sept. 1.

After that, the department must set the FSA "cut scores," which determine where students fall within the five performance levels. The effort begins with a review by hundreds of teachers, followed by input from a panel of experts, lawmakers and the public before a State Board vote.

That work will last late into the fall. Only after it's done, Stewart said, will the outcomes be available for schools and students.

Board members questioned the lengthy process. Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, for instance, worried that schools would lack information needed to make informed academic decisions for next school year.

In recent years, student results have been provided in early June, and school grades in July.

A teacher might ask "what can I use to make smart choices?" Fishman Lipsey said.

Local school leaders said Wednesday they regretted the anticipated delay in FSA scores.

"That we go through all this effort and put so much on students, to not have results in a timely fashion is unfortunate," said Colleen Faucett, principal of Wilson Middle School in Hillsborough County. Some middle school students "don't remember what they did yesterday, much less six months ago. They won't get validation for what they did."

But that doesn't mean schools won't make informed decisions, Faucett and others said.

State test results "are important to us, just as all other data is important to us," said Teresa Love, principal of Odessa Elementary School in Pasco County. "We don't just use one piece of data, or one data source, to make decisions. We use a preponderance of evidence."

That information includes teacher input, report cards and classroom assessments that principals use to make decisions such as which classes to place students in the following year.

"When the (state) results come in, we might make adjustments," said Kara Smucker, a Pasco County principal trainer until recently. "It's just a piece of the puzzle."

State Board vice chairman John Padget encouraged Stewart to compress the process. "I would think it's in the interest of the whole state that we do it right but we do it as early as possible," he said.

In the meantime, the Department of Education should keep the public well-informed, chairman Gary Chartrand said. "Where there's a void of communication, people make things up."

Once the cut scores are set, Stewart said, the reporting of results should return to the early summer, as in the past.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at jsolochek@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4614. Follow @jeffsolochek.

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