Editorial: School testing chaos

Published October 1 2014

The best Floridians may be able to hope for is that after Election Day, Tallahassee's denial of problems in implementing a new public school testing scheme will give way to common sense. Continuing to barrel down a path to mass confusion and frustration is no way to serve students and risks undermining the good education reform work that has been done.

Less than six months from the start of testing aligned with the Common Core State Standards, known as the Florida State Assessments, the state Board of Education barely blinked this week when Hillsborough County school superintendent MaryEllen Elia warned again that the state's public schools aren't prepared to give the tests, scheduled to start in March. Speaking on behalf of her peers, Elia expressed concerns as basic as schools lacking the computers needed for the test and students lacking the skills to use them. The tests the state will use have only been field-tested in Utah, which has a far more homogeneous population, and Florida has no chance to adjust questions for cultural considerations.

But the real potential damage is to children, whose performance on the rushed tests may determine if they graduate or get promoted; and to teachers, whose pay or job security could be on the line. The superintendents are calling for the state to delay for at least a year such high-stakes consequences until the tests are fully vetted and assessed.

So far, their pleas are falling on deaf ears. Republican legislative leaders refuse to give ground and Gov. Rick Scott has done nothing to encourage them. They appear willing to jeopardize students' futures to avoid political consequences of their bad decisions and rush to test. Real leadership would make the hard choices to get the Florida State Assessments right, regardless of how long it takes.

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