Seminole schools must show leadership by axing state test

Florida Standards Assessments test is flawed, it’s foolish to continue this debacle

Seminole County Public Schools Superintendent Walt Griffith is asking the state to dump its flawed standardize test that was plagued with technical issues.

The test – known as the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) – is a computer-based exam that has been condemned statewide. In addition to numerous technical issues, the FSA significantly decreased instructional time versus traditional paper-based tests.

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Click to enlarge

Students had to take the test in shifts because Seminole County – or, for that matter, any other school system in the state – does not have enough computers to test all of its students at one time. In Seminole County, it took 29 days to administer the test to middle school students and 31 days for high school students.

In a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, Griffith suggests the state eliminate the FSA and allow elementary and middle school students to take the Iowa Assessment, and allow 9th- and 10th-graders to take either the PSAT or SAT. The superintendent notes that all three test are paper-based test that have been used for decades and have produced reliable assessments.

Furthermore, results from these three national tests would be available in about 30 days. Local districts are still waiting for the results of the FSA testing that was administered in the spring. State officials say those results won’t be ready until fall.

Quite frankly, Griffith does not go far enough in his letter. He and the school board should not meekly ask the state to dump the test. They should boldly notify the state education commissioner that Seminole County is scrapping the FSA in favor of the alternatives Griffith outlines.

Seminole County is one of the top school districts in Florida. They clearly have a commitment to education. Dumping the FSA would send a clear signal to the state that action is needed immediately. It would also embolden other school districts to join Seminole County.

In fact, it is incumbent upon our school board members to convince their colleagues at other top-rated school systems to join Seminole County in terminating the ill-conceived FSA. Our elected school officials love to brag about Seminole’s stature in the state education community. It’s time to stop bragging and start showing some real leadership on a statewide issue.

Yes, Florida statutes require local districts to administer the FSA or risk state funding (in Seminole County’s case that’s $300 million). But how likely is that possibility? Would the state actually jeopardize the education of Seminole County children over a test that state officials themselves admit is a debacle? Imagine how that would play out on social media, as well as statewide and national media.

Would our locally-elected state officials – as they ramp up to run for reelection next year – want to explain why state funding would be denied our children? What do you say Jason Brodeur, David Simmons, Scott Plankon, Bob Cortes?

And imagine if 5 or 6 highly ranked school districts joined Seminole County in eliminating FSA. There is no way the state would refuse to fund the top systems in Florida.

Griffith’s letter is a responsible, incremental approach. It’s what you expect from a professional educator who runs a respected, high-performing school district.

But who has time, for polite baby steps? In fact, his letter is about three months late. The school board outlined this very same approach at a meeting in April (Seminole schools to state: Let us skip FSA, use national exams). Why he has waited until the middle of July to send this letter to Stewart is unclear. What is clear is that the state, like a petulant child, has thus far refused to make any corrective action regarding statewide testing.

Now is the time for our superintendent and school board to tell state education officials to shove it in regards to FSA. Now is the time to truly prove that Seminole County is a leader in education.

– by Dan Ping


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