Column: Superintendents united in dismissal of 2015 tests

Michael Grego is in charge of Pinellas schools.
Michael Grego is in charge of Pinellas schools.
Published Oct. 2, 2015

We join other Florida superintendents in saying we have lost confidence in the current accountability system for the students of the state of Florida.

For the last few years, Florida's superintendents have voiced their concerns over grading schools during this transition in student assessment and the state accountability system. A child's learning gains and how much they have grown are not taken into account in this year's grading. We cannot support a system that does not recognize the academic achievement and growth of Florida's students through the work of our outstanding teachers.

We shared concerns that the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSA, weren't field-tested in Florida and weren't correlated to any national or international assessments to allow for comparison of Florida students' achievement with students in other states and countries.

We warned that districts did not have adequate information technology infrastructure to allow for simultaneous instruction and computer-based testing. We asked for a delay in using student data from the FSA in decisions that affect students, teachers, school administrators and school districts.

The independent evaluation of the FSA's validity, mandated by the Legislature and governor, provided evidence that our concerns were valid, stating, "the spring 2015 administration of the FSA did not meet the normal rigor and standardization expected with a high-stakes assessment program like the FSA."

We, the superintendents of Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties, join our colleagues across Florida in recommending the following:

1. Suspend any application of the results from the spring 2015 administration of the FSA to students, teachers and schools.

2. If schools must be graded, issue "I" (incomplete) grades, due to the limited and flawed data available from the FSA.

3. Undertake a comprehensive review of the accountability system, with the goal of truly measuring whether students make a year's worth of learning gains each school year.

We believe in accountability. Students should be tested on their mastery of standards, and student performance should be a factor in teacher evaluations. It is equally important that school boards and superintendents be held accountable for the performance of their students and staff.

We stand ready to work with our legislators and the Department of Education, and are happy to start by supporting Pasco Sen. John Legg's and Niceville Sen. Don Gaetz's proposals to give districts flexibility in choosing the appropriate assessments to measure students' knowledge of the Florida standards. We appreciate that they are listening to school districts' and parents' concerns and are taking steps to address them, and we look forward to working with them during the upcoming legislative session.