Delay online testing, consider national tests, Florida school boards say

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by: Leslie Postal|Orlando Sentinel

September 24, 2015

Florida should use paper-and-pencil tests until its public schools have more technology in place and consider national tests in place of much-criticized state ones, the Florida School Boards Association says in its proposed 2016 legislative platform.

The association also said Florida should find new ways to assess students still learning English, including providing them exams in their native languages.

And it reiterated its stance that the state should yet not use the new Florida Standards Assessments or FSA for high-stakes purposes.

The proposed platform is to be voted on in December and, if approved, would be the document school board members use to push for changes during the Florida Legislature’s 2016 session.

The association said national tests such as the ACT, SAT, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate should be considered as possible substitutes for the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSA.

The FSA debuted in March, its language arts and math exams replacing most of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or FCAT. The exams are used to grade schools and help evaluate teachers, and students must pass key FSA exams to earn high school diplomas.

Students could use scores on those national exams in place of required passing scores on the FSA — or the state could decide to scrap its tests all together and use the national tests instead, the association said.

That would be adopting the “Seminole solution,” the Seminole County school district’s testing proposal made after widespread problems last spring with the FSA. That is not a solution, however, that the Florida Department of Education says will work given current state law.

The school board association last year asked for a paper-and-pencil test option for FSA and continues that request this year.

Most of the FSA is computer based, although last year most writing tests were given on paper as were reading and math exams for younger children. The state’s goal is to have all state testing online by 2018.

But many school administrators say schools do not have enough computers to efficiently give all exams online. As a result, classes are repeatedly disrupted — and computer labs and media centers hijacked — for weeks of testing.

This year, the state’s school boards say the online push should be delayed “until all districts have sufficient infrastructure and devices in place.”

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