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Department of Education Responds to Rick Scott's Executive Order

September 22, 2013 - 6:00pm

After Gov. Rick Scott pumped the brakes on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) with an executive orderon Monday, the Florida Department of Education weighed in on what the governors decision would mean for the future of Floridas schools.

In a letter sent to Gary Chartrand, chairman of the state Board of Education,thegovernor asked that the commissioner of education end Floridas fiscal agent relationship with PARCC and begin creating a new state assessment. That means Florida wants out of the financial responsibilities of PARCC, though the test may still remain an option for Common Core testing.

As of next year, the FCAT will be no more, and there will be a brand new statewide test to measure the achievement of Floridas students. What that test is, however, has yet to be determined.

It is important that we select an assessment that best meets the needs of Florida students, parents and teachers, not the needs of federal government or other states and does not involve overreach by the federal government, read Scotts letter to Chartrand.

Under Scotts new executive order, the public would play a bigger role in the future of Floridas education. The governor ordered Commissioner Pam Stewart to initiate public hearings on Floridas current English language arts and mathematics standards in order to identify any opportunities to strengthen or risks for federal intrusion in Floridas standards.

Stewart said there would be three public, face-to-face hearings on the standards.

She also announced that Floridas schools will be waving goodbye to FCAT and saying hello to a newer, appropriate assessment. This year will be the last year that the FCAT will be used in Floridas schools.Stewart said the board will decide on a new test by March of next year.

PARCC came under fire from several high-profile legislators during the summer when Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford asked former Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett to pull out of the assessment because it was too costly and time-consuming for Floridas schools. Members of the public also voiced concerns about the possibility of data mining through the assessment test, and Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, recently filed legislation in the House to put a pause on the assessment.

Data security appeared to be a prime reason for pulling out of PARCC, and Stewart assured that the department would be taking the appropriate steps to keep student data secure in the new assessment for Floridas students.

We take [data security] very seriously, Stewart told reporters Monday. We believe its our responsibility and so we will take measures in order to ensure that student data in Florida is secure and not provided [to the federal government].

The Department of Education will now be working at warp-speed to create a new assessment to replace the FCAT and align to the new standards for the 2014-2015 school year. When asked whether she was concerned if Florida would end up with an assessment that is haphazardly put together, Stewart accepted the weight of her role as commissioner.

I think its my responsibility to ensure that that is not the case, said Stewart, who said an assessment would be chosen by March.

She also stood by the timeline for the selection of an assessment test.

I believe that ... the right decision for Florida and Floridas students is not to take a step back, not to remove our foot from the gas pedal, she said.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atallison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at@AllisonNielsen.

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