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Florida school assessment tests could be on the way out

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Tim Lewis

The end may be nearing for Florida's standardized school tests.

A bill that would carry out Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to end the Florida Standards Assessments received unanimous approval Tuesday in its first Senate committee. The Senate Education Committee approved the bill (SB 1048), sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah.

The measure seeks to replace the current standardized testing system with what Diaz described as a “computer-based coordinated screening and progress monitoring program” starting in the 2022-2023 school year.

Under the proposal, students in grades 3 through 10 would take progress-monitoring tests for English-language arts at the beginning, middle and end of the year. Students in grades 3 through 8 would follow the same schedule with progress-monitoring tests in math. The final tests of the year, Diaz said, “will be used as the tool for school accountability purposes.”

DeSantis rolled out the plan to end the current standardized tests in September, touting the progress monitoring proposal as “short, individualized check-in assessments” that “will take hours, not days” to administer.

The governor also said it is a way to keep educators and parents informed of student progress. Teachers would be provided with results within one week of the students taking the tests, and parents would get results within two weeks, the bill said.

“This will lead to meaningful feedback for parents and teachers and will reduce the amount of time dedicated to testing, leaving more time for learning,” the governor said during his State of the State address to kick off the legislative session Tuesday.

But Cathy Boehme, a lobbyist for the Florida Education Association, expressed a concern about the bill being vague regarding how much time students will be required to spend on the tests. “It’s hard to see how testing time decreases based on the language of the bill,” Boehme said.

The measure has received early bipartisan backing, largely because Democrats have long decried high-stakes testing as an arbitrary system that puts too much pressure on students and takes away from learning time.

“I will tell you as a former teacher, we were overtesting our children,” said Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park. “We can’t test our way out of this. We have to get teachers back to teaching and giving them the educational freedom that they need.”