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Pasco school district looks to reduce student testing

Officials aim to have a plan before classes resume in August.
Ninth-graders at Land O'Lakes High School wait in March 2015 to get started on the writing part of the Florida Standards Assessments. [Courtesy of Pasco County School District]
Published Jun. 19

The Pasco County school district wants to cut down on student testing, as soon as possible.

Superintendent Kurt Browning has convened committees of teachers and administrators to examine all exams the district currently imposes, to see where it can get rid of some.

“We are looking at what tests are required by law, which ones provide student proficiency data and what tests we provide to get teacher data,” Browning said. “And we are looking at alternatives to multiple tests. Is there one test that can give us everything we need?”

He noted that several other districts have been able to streamline their testing more than Pasco has, and said his group is examining how they did it.

Where did the impetus come from? Walking through schools in May and talking to teachers and students.

“They were stressed beyond belief,” Browning recalled.

They faced tests from the district, state and national curriculum organizations such as International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement. Teaching had essentially given way to testing.

“It’s exacerbated by the compressed assessment schedule” that lawmakers approved two years ago, pushing all state standards exams into May, he added.

Superintendents across Florida including Browning asked for that change, to preserve more teaching time before asking students to show what they know. Pasco School Board members long have pushed to not waste learning time on tests, too.

But the outcome didn’t turn out exactly as everyone had hoped. So the time has come, Browning said, to rebalance.

The school district last attempted to reduce its testing burden about five years ago. But at the same time it cut out some end of course exams, it also implemented new ‘quarterly checks.’

Although district officials said the checks were less onerous than tests, and designed simply to get a reading on student progress in their course, many teachers disagreed. They suggested the district in reality made no real change to testing at all.

Complaints have quieted, but the model remains.

Browning said this latest round of testing review will not be like past efforts. He expected it to be more thorough and to lead to an easing of the tension.

And he anticipated having results in time to affect the next school year.

“Hopefully by the end of July we will have more information,” he said.



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