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Florida Education Commissioner Issues Response To FAA Criticism

Florida Department of Education

Florida's top education official has responded  to growing concern and criticism over testing requirements for the state’s most severely disabled students.Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart sent a letter addressing Florida teachers about growing controversy over the Florida Alternative Assessment.

Under state law, public school students unable to take the state’s standardized tests are required to take the Florida Alternative Assessment. However, the issue has come under fire in recent weeks after news broke of a dying 11-year-oldOrlando boy required to take the exam.

The Florida Educators Association released a video last week criticizing the state’s inflexibility on the matter.

A state Senate bill making it easier for severely disabled students to get exemptions from the test was introduced Friday. The bill was named the Ethan Rediske Act named after the the Orlando 11-year-old, who died later that month. 

But Monday, Stewart sent a letter to teachers expressing support for the exams and calling the criticism a political effort to “attack the assessments by using the tragic situations of children with special needs.”

In the letter, Stewart writes “We cannot and should not return to the days where we tacitly ignore children with special needs by failing to ensure they are learning and growing as a result of teachers’ excellent work.”

According to the state department of education, it received 30 requests for test exemptions and 16 were approved. A total of nearly 1.7 million Florida students took the statewide assessment in 2012-13.

READ: Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart's letter to Florida teachers on the Florida Alternative Assessment

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter@RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.