Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins reacted to yesterday’s decision by the Florida Department of Education to suspend the consequences of Algebra I, II and Geometry, by holding all students harmless from the numerous “common finals” (district developed end of course exams) mandated by the state to determine teacher effectiveness. Orange County is the 10th largest school district in the nation. Jenkins’ announcement is a dramatic example of how a school district can use common sense to protect students.
Florida’s 2014-15 testing season has been fraught with problems. The new Florida Standards Assessment has not been proven to be valid or reliable; students have lost weeks of valuable instruction time due to multiple new standardized tests, new online testing has failed repeatedly with students unable to log on or losing their work mid-test. Through it all, the Florida legislature has been sluggish about holding teachers and students harmless during what amounts to a testing experiment.
Prior to today’s announcement, district “common finals” represented 20% of a student’s annual grade. The percentage, determined by districts, could range from zero to 30%. Orange County students still must take the exams but now they will be held harmless from any high stakes consequences. The exception to this plan are the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards Assessments (Algebra I retake, Geometry retake, Biology, US History, and Civics), will still be used as 30% of the course grade as required by State law.
The one significant education bill to pass the Florida legislature before its health care meltdown and early departure was SB 7069, which contains some important flexibility for teachers and schools, but does not go far enough. Districts across Florida are calling for Governor Scott to issue an executive order to suspend the consequences of Florida’s troubled testing season. This announcement from Orange County Public Schools provides welcome relief to those who stand to be harmed the most from high stakes tests – public school children.
From Superintendent Jenkins:
Common Final Assessments
All students taking common final exams in applicable courses will receive the exam as 20% of the course grade for initial calculation. We will then ONLY consider the calculation if it IMPROVES the student’s grade. In any case where the exam lowers the student’s grade, the final common exam calculation will be removed. In essence, during this baseline year, OCPS will do no harm to any student’s grades based on Common Final Assessments (locally created EOCs).
Elementary School EOCs
As previously announced, elementary schools are NOT considering EOCs in calculation of student grades. More importantly, third grade promotion considerations will NOT include FSA outcomes which have not been validated. Instead, principals, parents and teachers will look at various data regarding student performance to consider any need for retention
Students Taking Florida Standards Assessments in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II
For the 2014-2015 school year only, because of the unavailability of independently validated statewide assessment results in Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry, the statutory requirements to include these results in the final course grade are inoperative. As a result, schools should calculate final course grades and make promotion decisions without regard to the 30 percent requirement that typically applies. The absence of EOC results alone in these courses will not result in a grade of incomplete. A student’s final grade in these courses will be calculated from 50% of the Semester 1 grade and 50% of the Semester 2 grade. OCPS will NOT recalculate grades this year should the state eventually validate these EOCs.
Students Taking Next Generation Sunshine State Standards Assessments (Algebra I retake, Geometry retake, Biology, US History, Civics)
The results of assessments aligned to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards Assessments are still required by statute to be used as 30% of the course grade in applicable courses.
Florida Organization of Instructional Leaders (FOIL) presentation with updated information at http://www.fldoe.org/schools/k-12-public-schools/foil.stml.
Memo from Florida Department of Education: