1. The Education Gradebook

Rick Scott says Florida may be testing students too much

Published Jul. 7, 2012

Gov. Rick Scott said on Friday that schools might be doing too much of a good thing when it comes to student testing and that he is talking with state education officials, school superintendents and teachers about possibly changing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The governor addressed a conference of newspaper editors from five Southern states and said that Florida received more parent complaints this year than in past years, especially about the FCAT. The state received 800 calls after the release of the FCAT writing scores earlier this year.

"Parents and taxpayers expect measurement. We've got to measure, we've got to find out who the best schools are," Scott said. "We have to have a good measurement system, but we have to make sure we don't have too much of it."

He said among the FCAT, federal testing and end-of-course exams, students might be tested too much. He said he is talking to officials and teachers about what changes should be made.

"In the end I think it's going to change a lot," he said.

About half of the state's ninth- and 10th-graders failed the reading portion of the new, more rigorous FCAT. The results have prompted school officials throughout the state to call for scrapping the controversial testing program.

Scott's comments came on the heels of the National Education Association annual representative assembly's adoption this week of a resolution opposing the "misuse" of testing. Hundreds of delegates from Florida supported the resolution.

Also this week came a letter to parents from Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, which sought to ease concerns about poor results from students on this year's state-required exams. Some of the low scores were a result of changes to the testing program, but the results should not be interpreted as lower performances by students, teachers or schools, Robinson said.

"This may be one of those rare times when I absolutely agree with (Gov. Scott)," said Hillsborough County School Board member Candy Olson. "I think it would be wonderful if he sat down with teachers and maybe some parents of students … to figure out what we're trying to prove and figure out how we're going to measure it."

When the FCAT first was implemented, it was better than nothing, but its effectiveness has deteriorated over time, Olson said.

"I would absolutely say that the whole thing ought to be rethought, beginning with the assumption that everyone ought to be college-ready," Olson said.

Pinellas County School Board member Linda Lerner expressed cautious optimism about the governor's stance on testing.

"I hope it will be a positive step, but I think it depends on who Gov. Scott talks to," Lerner said. "He can't just talk to teachers and officials. He needs to talk to leaders of various organizations."

Specifically, Lerner said she hopes the governor will reach out to the Florida School Boards Association, the Florida Education Association and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents before making any major decisions.

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Scott also said Florida needs to find a way to get its universities to graduate more students with degrees that are needed in the workplace, saying the state has 240,000 job openings but not all can be filled.

"We have job openings in areas where we don't have enough graduates. So my focus is to get our universities to really look at how they're spending their money," Scott said. "It ought to be spent in areas where individuals are getting jobs. I think where we can do much better is to be way more focused on where the job openings are."

The Associated Press and Times staff writer Cara Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.