Florida Senate allows alternatives to standardized tests

Courtesy of Aljazeera

Florida Standards Assessments could be getting swapped out for national tests to meet state graduation requirements.

The Florida Senate's education committee approved Senate bill 1360 to make the Scholastic Assessment Test or American College Testing an option over the FSA Jan. 27.  Florida school districts could have the opportunity to give high school students a menu of alternative tests to choose from.

SB 1360 was introduced by Sen. Don Gaetz and received an unanimous vote of approval by the Senate panel. The 54-page bill could lessen the load of tests high school students are required to take.

Concerned parent Tyrone Davis supports the bill and believes it will minimize the number of tests for his stepson.

“It will be more convenient for parents to not constantly drive to test sites. It is a needed adjustment because teachers wouldn’t have to stress about their teaching methods and they can spend less time preparing students for multiple tests,” Davis said.

The Florida Department of Education administers seven assessments to students grades K-12 across Florida.  According to fldoe.org, the test is used to measure student performance on specific standards to certify teachers and administrators.

These tests include FSA, Statewide Science, Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, End-of-Course exams, Florida Standards Alternate, National and International and General Education Development.

The Department of Education feels the standardized tests serve the students.

“The assessments serve Florida students by measuring education gains and progress. Florida Standards Assessments includes english language arts, mathematics and end-of-course subjects (Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry),” the DOE said.

Gayla Sanders, psychology and sociology teacher at Chiles High School, believes too many tests are given to Florida students.

As an educator I am not pleased with all of the testing that we have in public schools. Many teachers, as well as myself, feel that too much time is being wasted because we are ‘teaching to the test.’ Because of this we are not able to use our creativity in the classroom,” Sanders said.

According to Sanders, the average teacher now reports spending about 40 percent of their work time on testing-related tasks, including preparing students, proctoring and reviewing results of standardized tests.

She said the standardized test craze is what made her decide to put her children in private school.

“I personally put both of my kids in private school due to all of the public school testing,” Sanders said.

According to the bill, the rigorous alternative assessment options are to be available for students in high school beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.

Even though the Senate was all in agreement on SB 1360, the bill currently doesn’t have a companion in the Florida House.

The last action on this bill was Feb. 11 and is now in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.