Brevard superintendent axes 192 district-level exams

Desmond-Blackburn-180-1

by: Jessica Saggio|Florida Today

November 3, 2015

Superintendent Desmond Blackburn has axed 192 mandatory district-level assessments for students in Brevard Public Schools while he reevaluates the examination system in the county.

The decision comes on the heels of an announcement from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, which includes all 67 superintendents in Florida, that the group had “lost confidence” in the state’s testing and accountability system. The group denounced the Florida Standards Assessment and called for the State Board of Education to withhold issuing school grades this year and not use tests results as part of teacher evaluations. State officials denied the request, citing Florida law that requires school grades.

Since the September announcement, Blackburn has decided to “conduct an extensive study of our local assessment beliefs and strategies,” he said in a memo sent to principals across the county Tuesday. While doing this, he has called for dozens of required district-level tests to be tabled. The cancelled district-level tests range from first grade math to high school chemistry.

“The state is responsible for a lot of over assessment, but they’re not responsible for all of it. Some of it is done locally,” he said.

“We will do it smartly, we will do it collaboratively and we will work really, really hard not to exacerbate the over-assessment of children,” said Blackburn, in reference to the future of district testing.

Over the summer, teams of teachers developed an array of new end-of-course exams to be implemented this year, said associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction Cyndi Van Meter at the beginning of the school year. The district-wide exams were developed to replace final exams in various middle and high school classes. The cancelled exams include the tests these teams created.

However, Blackburn wrote in his memo that teachers have the option of using the tests if they would like and if they align with the school’s progress monitoring plan.

“Many of our teachers and district support staff responded to a nearly impossible task of creating many of these assessments,” he stated in the memo. “I am thankful and recognize the dedicated spirit of collaboration this took and I am doing to depend on the same dedicated spirit to build the system that we will all be proud to leave behind as our legacy.”

A handful of mandatory district-level exams will remain despite the vast recall. The kindergarten literacy survey, performance assessments for first and second graders, language arts final assessments for first and second grades, math performance assessments for kindergartners, ACT for 11th graders and English Four, honors exams and college prep exams for 12th grade will continue.

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