Goodbye to Florida's standardized school tests. So why are teachers unhappy?
This spring will mark the final time that public-school students will have to take tests known as the Florida Standards Assessments, as Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure Tuesday that will revamp the state’s testing system.
The overhaul was a priority of DeSantis during the 2022 legislative session that ended Monday, and lawmakers gave final approval to the bill (SB 1048) last week.
“Today, we come not to praise the FSA, but to bury it,” DeSantis said during a bill-signing event in St. Petersburg.
The measure is designed to replace the current standardized testing system with “progress monitoring” tests, which will require that students be administered exams at the beginning, middle and end of each school year.
Progress-monitoring tests in English-language arts will be administered to students in grades 3 through 10 three times a year. Math assessments for grades 3 through 8 will be given to students on the same schedule.
The first two progress-monitoring tests of the year will be used to “facilitate timely interventions and supports,” the bill said. Teachers will receive students’ results from the exams within one week after the tests, with parents receiving results within two weeks.
The governor said the new system would provide results more rapidly than the current system, a change that he said will “bolster the conversations between parents and teachers.”
Results from the final tests of the year will be used to determine accountability measures such as school grades and graduation for high-school students. To allow for a transition, data from the final exams’ results during the 2022-2023 school year will not be used to calculate school grades.
Flanked by lawmakers, educators and parents at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, DeSantis heralded the new testing plan before signing the bill with his customary Sharpie.
“We think it will increase academic performance; we think it will be more accurate measurement; and we think it’s something that parents and teachers alike are going to be happy about,” DeSantis said.
State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, who last week announced he will step down from the position at the end of April, joined DeSantis at the event and said progress monitoring is “very diagnostic” and “very specific” to each student.
“Now you’re getting something that’s fairer to teachers. Because now the teachers are getting that real-time data throughout the year. It’s much more helpful to parents, and most importantly, it’s beneficial to students,” Corcoran said.
But critics of the plan have repeatedly argued that it will not cut down on the time students spend taking standardized tests.
The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, responded to the bill-signing Tuesday by saying the measure “fails to meet … expectations” of teachers and parents who had hoped the bill would end the state’s “system of high-stakes” testing.
“When the governor said he was reducing testing, teachers and parents saw a real opportunity to fix what’s wrong with how Florida assesses students. We imagined better outcomes for kids,” union President Andrew Spar said in a statement. “This bill does not reduce testing but increases it. The bill does not focus on student learning or on providing teachers time to monitor and assess children’s progress. In fact, it probably will add more work for already overwhelmed teachers. Most basically, the bill fails students.”
The law will formally take effect in July.