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Pasco may join other Florida school districts in pushing back against over-testing

Published Nov. 5, 2014

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County is poised to become the latest school district to formally stand against the direction of Florida's testing and accountability system.

School Board members said Tuesday that they want relief from the state on the number of tests that students take, as well as the manner in which the results are used. They also are raising concerns about how quickly the state is switching to tests associated with the Common Core State Standards.

The board plans a Nov. 18 workshop to talk about a formal resolution on those topics, with a possible vote on Dec. 2.

In the past, board members have addressed problems by dealing with local lawmakers rather than pass resolutions, which can be ignored. But that may be changing.

"It might have reached the point in time where we need to go beyond" talking to Pasco's influential legislative delegation, board member Cynthia Armstrong said. "I don't feel we are getting the results we need."

Said chairwoman Alison Crumbley, who raised the issue for discussion: "My thoughts are that we cannot be silent on this issue, but we also should be thoughtful and respectful in communicating our concerns."

If a resolution is approved, Pasco would become the latest in a string of school boards to pressure the state over a testing system that many have argued has become too aggressive.

The Palm Beach School Board was the last to adopt a resolution; at the same time, its administration cut the number of tests it required locally.

United School Employees of Pasco president Kenny Blankenship gave the Pasco board a copy of the Palm Beach document and urged his board to join in.

"We need to push our legislators and the state Board of Education to address this issue," he said. "It is having a very negative effect on our students, our schools and our teachers."

Other districts that recently have taken public positions on testing include Duval, Miami-Dade, Marion and Lee. Pinellas and Hillsborough officials have said they are examining the issue.

Hernando's superintendent and teachers union president were expected to bring forth a recommended resolution later Tuesday.

Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning said he became more attuned to the high level of testing after seeing a full assessment calendar for a local high school.

"It hit me in the face," Browning said. "Where do we fit instruction into this?"

He has assigned two key directors to compile a list of all tests that students take in Pasco County schools throughout the year. That list is to include the reason for each test, who requires it and how long each takes to administer.

With that information in hand, Browning said, it will be easier to demonstrate to lawmakers that the idea of testing has real world implications.