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  1. Opinion

Editorial: Florida's student tests deserve an F

3. Pam Stewart, interim Florida education commissioner, starts the Education Accountability Summit, Monday, August 26, 2013 at the St. Petersburg College Collaborative Labs, Clearwater. The three day summit brought together state educators, government representatives, and business leaders to discuss such education issues as school grades, teacher pay, the new Common Core education standards and the assessments that will test the benchmarks.
Published Sep. 2, 2015

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart called it "welcome news." County school superintendents say it confirms their worst fears about the botched rollout of the Florida Standards Assessments and suggest the test results are worthless. So you read the following annotated excerpts from the just-released $600,000 study by Alpine Testing Solutions of this year's FSA and judge for yourself whether you would trust the test results. You decide whether, as state education officials contend, everything is on track and just fine with Florida's standardized tests or, as many school superintendents argue, the results can't be trusted and that if their students did such work, they would be failed or given incompletes. Good luck. Begin now.

Excerpt: Scores for some students will be suspect. Although the percentage of students in the aggregate may appear small, it still represents a significant number of students for whom critical decisions need to be made. Therefore, test scores should not be used as a sole determinant in decisions such as the prevention of advancement to the next grade, graduation eligibility, or placement into a remedial course.

Translation: Don't use these scores to pass, fail or otherwise evaluate these students. Use something else, maybe — here's a crazy thought— the teacher's judgment.

Excerpt: The interim passing scores were not established through a formal standard setting process and therefore do not represent a criterion-based measure of student knowledge and skills. The limitations regarding the meaning of these interim passing scores should be communicated to stakeholders.

Translation: We have no idea what a passing score is and the scores don't really measure student performance well, and we should tell you that.

Excerpt: The spring 2015 FSA administration was problematic. Problems were encountered on just about every aspect of the administration, from the initial training and preparation to the delivery of the tests themselves. Information from district administrators indicate serious systematic issues impacting a significant number of students, while statewide data estimates the impact to be closer to 1 to 5 percent for each test. The precise magnitude of the problems is difficult to gauge with 100 percent accuracy, but the evaluation team can reasonably state that 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.

Translation: The entire thing was a frustrating mess. We know it was bad, but we can't even tell how bad.

Having read the excerpts, which reaction to the study reflects reality?

A. "This is welcome news for all of us. Now all Floridians can share my confidence in the assessment." — Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

B. "We think we're going to be assessing at one level, and they're telling us in their own words that we're not." These results should not be used for school grades, "much less anything else." — Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning.

The answer is obvious.

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