Students across Florida will face a new standardized test next year to replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test 2.0.
Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has selected a replacement test, but not everyone is embracing it.
“I don’t agree with the choice that she’s made,” Pasco County Schools superintendent Kurt Browning said.
Florida has joined a host of other states in the pursuit of Common Core Standards — now known as the Florida Standards — which define what students should know as they proceed through school in order to graduate from high school fully prepared to enter college and the work force. Browning has been making the rounds for more than a year, talking to parents, teachers, administrators and civic groups about the importance of adopting the more rigorous standards, and also of the importance of being able to measure the district students’ progress against students across the nation.
The test Stewart has selected won’t allow those national comparisons, Browning said.
With the FCAT, the district could compare itself to other Florida districts, but that’s where it stopped, Browning notes.
“With this new assessment, we still can’t compare ourselves to other states,” he said.
The superintendent said he’s also concerned that the field-testing for the new assessment is being done in Utah.
“Utah is nothing like Florida,” Browning said. “In addition to that, we find out that it’s not the entire assessment that’s being field-tested, but just questions that are being field-tested.
“Right now, we’re just going in there saying, ‘Well, if it’s good enough for Utah, it’s good enough for Florida.’ I disagree with that.”
Stewart selected the not-for-profit American Institutes for Research to provide the new English language arts and mathematics assessment.
Browning noted the new assessment is not a done deal until it gains approval from the state Board of Education.
“The Legislature certainly has the opportunity to chime in on what assessment is used,” Browning said. And if state lawmakers do, Browning asks them to approve “an assessment that provides transparency, that truly measures student growth,” and that would allow for comparability with performance by students in other states.
Pasco School Board member Cynthia Armstrong agrees with Browning’s objections. Armstrong is concerned the test doesn’t allow comparisons across the nation, and she also is worried about the field-testing being done in Utah, which is much less diverse than Florida.
When Stewart announced her selection of the assessment, she posted prepared letters to teachers and parents.
In the March 17 letter to teachers, the education commissioner noted she has heard repeatedly from teachers that they want “tests that provide a more authentic assessment of our students’ grasp of Florida Standards.
“These assessments will do that,” Stewart said, “because they will include more than multiple choice questions. Students will be asked to create graphs, interact with test content, and write and respond in different ways than on traditional tests.”
The education commissioner also told teachers the “new question types will assess students’ higher-order thinking skills, which is in keeping with the higher expectations of the Florida Standards.
In a March 17 letter to parents, Stewart explained the new Florida Standards, upon which the new test will be based.
“As many of you know, your children will have new goals to meet with the adoption of the Florida Standards,” Stewart wrote. Simply put, these standards are the detailed expectations of what every child should be able to do at each grade level.
“The new standards were developed with unprecedented input from Florida teachers, educators and the public,” Stewart wrote. “The emphasis with these standards is for your children to think critically and analytically and go beyond memorization.”
Published April 2, 2014
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