In just a couple of weeks, Florida K-12 schools will begin the grueling three-month stretch of administering mandatory statewide student assessments.
But next year, those tests might not happen until the end of the school year, if lawmakers pass a proposal this spring to reform Florida's lengthy testing schedule.
Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores said lawmakers have heard loud and clear from parents, from teachers, from students about overtesting and the overemphasis of testing, so that's why she and Republican Reps. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah and Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor want to shift all assessment tests to the final three weeks of the school year, starting in 2017-18.
They hope their plan – the Fewer, Better Tests bill – will reduce the stress and anxiety that teachers, parents and students grapple with during spring testing time.
Seeing firsthand the angst and all the scrambling, the biggest impact that can be had is pushing back the calendar, Diaz told the Times/Herald.
The legislation (SB 926 and HB 773) formally unveiled Wednesday does not eliminate any standardized test, but lawmakers and stakeholders said it could reduce the number of local tests that school districts impose because they don't get state test results back fast enough to quickly assess student progress.
It's about really putting some common sense into our whole testing situation overall, said Diaz, the House's K-12 education budget chairman this year, who is a former high school teacher and administrator in Miami-Dade Public Schools and now chief operating officer at Doral College.
Besides shifting all testing to the end of the school year, the legislation would require results from the Florida Standards Assessments to be returned to teachers within one week so teachers can actually have time to act on them. It would require a more understandable report be sent to parents of what each student's results mean, so they, too, can take steps to help their child.
Flores said that somehow the state of Florida went off the path when we had this really great idea on the issue of accountability, but she also told reporters the reforms proposed this year are absolutely not an admission by Republicans that assessment testing has gone too far.
The education accountability system the state uses today, which ties student assessment scores to school grades and funding, was spearheaded under Republican leadership – specifically that of Gov. Jeb Bush.
Flores said the technology didn't exist during Bush's tenure to hold all exams at the end of the year and guarantee results almost immediately, as lawmakers propose now.
It's an acknowledgment of the fact that we can always do better, Flores said, adding that there's finally a sense of political will to put that into action.
She said the proposal was developed, in part, with help from the Bush-founded Foundation for Florida's Future and other partner groups. The legislation also has support from several conservative-leaning organizations, including the Florida Chamber, the James Madison Institute and the Florida Coalition of School Board Members.
Our school board members believe that teachers should have more time to teach, students should have more time to learn, and parents should be provided with meaningful results to allow them to take effective actions on behalf of their students, the coalition said in a statement.
The testing reform proposal draws on a big conversation point from the 2016 session: Whether the SAT and ACT can be used as an alternative to the FSA that high school students take, which might prevent potential duplication and extra testing.
Under the bill, Florida education Commissioner Pam Stewart would be required to study this year if it is even feasible – specifically whether the SAT and ACT align with the high school-level English and math standards Florida requires under its version of Common Core, which the FSA assesses for each student.