Florida’s plan to ditch old standardized tests draws heat from educators


By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

MIAMI — The Florida Legislature’s idea to ditch the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers standardized test and develop its own is flunking out among school personnel.

“F” FOR FCAT: School Board Members from several County in Florida, think the new FCAT test is a bad idea for students, teachers and schools.

Starting next year, Florida — and not the PARCC coalition — will pick the new Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, the standardized test that has been used for about a decade, and will begin administering it to students in grades 3-11 by next spring, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The new tests will be aligned to the Common Core, a U.S. education initiative that details what K-12 students should know in English language, arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. It was adopted in Florida in 2010.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered the state to withdraw from the PARCC coalition, a group of states that developed standard test and classroom content to prepare students for colleges and careers. Florida lawmakers made that request because of unanswered questions about the coalition’s administration, timeliness and costs.

American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., won the contract to develop the new test and will receive $220 million over six years.

Many school staff working in the trenches aren’t enthusiastic about the change. Raquel Regalado, a member of the Miami-DadeCounty School Board, said in a letter published by the Miami Herald that the decision is typical of the Legislature’s ever-changing educational philosophy and that indecision and endless changes “frustrates teachers, students and parents.”

“In the last year alone, the State has made more than 36 changes in school standards, testing and grade configuration,” she wrote.

Kurt Browning, the superintendent of Pasco County School System, agrees.

“It looks like we are developing our own assessment and I kind of railed against that before,” he told the Tampa Tribune. “We do not want to be in the same position as before with a home-grown assessment. Why would you not use a nationally normed assessment? I don’t get it.”

Broward School Board spokesperson Cathleen Brennan told Florida Watchdog by email that “district staff will review the information provided by the Florida Department of Education regarding the selection of a new state assessment to replace the FCAT 2.0.”

Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said new and more rigorous standards of the standardized test will cause student progress and achievement to take a back seat.

Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia told the Tampa Tribune that cross-state comparisons were one of the major appeals of the previous tests and the new tests won’t take that into account.

“The biggest issue for us is we’re going to be comparing Florida to Florida,” she said.

Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org or on Twitter @mtoledoreporter