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Politics

Law to Cut High-Stakes Testing Signed in Florida, But Criticisms Abound

April 14, 2015 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law to limit high-stakes testing in Florida on Tuesday, but some education groups across the state still arent happy with the newly passed legislation.

HB 7069 would get rid of certain tests in Florida like the 11th-grade English-language arts standardized assessment and mandatory end-of-course tests. Testing time would also be limited to 45 hours out of 900 hours of classroom time.

Tests would also only count for 30 percent of teacher evaluations and the calculation of school grades would be temporarily paused until a third party fully investigates the new Florida Standards Assessment.

The bill sped through the House and Senate after harsh criticisms arose over overtesting in Florida. Parents, educators and even some legislators said there needed to be a serious reconsideration of exactly how many tests were being administered statewide.

Some education groups said the bill was a step in the right direction.

Florida has a history of moving ahead with sure-footedness and thoughtful adjustments in improving a system that has produced remarkable results for our children, said Patricia Levesque, executive director for the Foundation for Floridas Future. This year is a continuation of that process.

State lawmakers contended they were making a dent in an education system littered with too many tests, but critics are questioning the merits of the legislation and say that it doesnt go far enough to fix the problems at the heart of Floridas education system.

"We appreciate the efforts of the Legislature for the tests that were reduced," said Dr. Karen Effrem, executive director of The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, a group which has been heavily involved in the anti-Common Core and high stakes testing movement in Florida.

"We still, however, remain very concerned about a post-test validity process, subject to political appointments, that still leaves our students and teachers subject to high-stakes decisions based on invalid tests, Effrem continued. We believe that this law still does not protect students and staff from consequences of these tests that are useless for informing instruction and invasively profile our children, while leaving the taxpayers in jeopardy from inevitable lawsuits."

The consequences of the new test, say Effrem and other critics, are the very real possibilities that students can be held back regardless of whether the test is considered a valid measurement tool or not.

Some also worry the new law doesnt adequately tackle the new Common Core-aligned Florida Standards, which were implemented in state schools this year.

"This bill also does not do anything to deal with the inferior, inappropriate, and manipulative standards upon which these tests are based," said Randy Osborne, director of education for Florida Eagle Forum.

Others say legislators shouldnt be too quick to pat themselves on the back.

All the legislators who were involved in this [bill] should hang their heads in shame, said Chris Quackenbush of Stop Common Core Florida.

Quackenbush told Sunshine State News she was concerned the third-party validation wouldnt be done the right way, leaving a shaky assessment test still in place to measure students academic achievements.

I have no faith at all that they're going to do a proper job validating the tests, she said. The [lawmakers] voted what's right for their own pocketbook and Im absolutely disgusted.

Quackenbush said she wouldnt be giving up the fight to get rid of testing across the state.

She explained:

I will work to my dying day to reverse this course ... because our children are our future.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen

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