Lee County Jumped into the Fire: Many Repercussions for Opting Out of Tests
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Lee County made history this week when it decided to opt out of standardized testing, but the ramifications of the School Board’s decision could be far-reaching and leave students, employees and the district with more problems than originally anticipated.
In a little less than a week, the Florida School Boards Association’s board of directors will meet in Vero Beach. On the agenda: the opting-out-of-testing issue.
If anything is clear in the 10-page document discussing the consequences of opting out of statewide standardized testing, it’s that the decision could have incredibly far-reaching effects for virtually every aspect of the Lee County School District.
For students, opting out of testing poses several problems:
-- It could be an issue for third-graders who need to be held back because they are not proficient in reading. Under Florida law, third-graders who don’t have reading deficiencies remedied are held back. But without the standardized test, there’s no way to determine whether a student is proficient in reading.
-- High schoolers might not be able to graduate because they would not be able to fulfill the needed requirements. Florida law requires students to pass the 10th-grade FCAT and the end-of-course assessment for algebra in order to receive their diploma.
-- Opting out of standardized testing also goes against a significant aspect of Florida’s education system: Without an assessment, there’s no way for schools to get letter grades. Without letter grades, the FSBA says there’s no way to determine whether a district is high-performing.
-- Teachers could suffer financially as a result of opting out of standardized tests. Without a way to measure student achievement, teachers may not be able to receive a performance-based salary increase.
-- Districts could miss out on grant funding because they aren’t participating in assessments. Furthermore, the State Board of Education could decide to withhold state funds for districts that don’t comply with the state’s assessment plan.
Yet, despite the seemingly long list of complications as a result of leaving the statewide assessment tests behind, Lee County doesn’t seem to be backing down from its decision.
"We went against the statutes by not adhering to the class-size amendment,” said Lee County School Board member Dan Armstrong. “What's the difference?"
For opponents of standardized testing, Lee County’s decision could start a tidal wave of districts deciding to abandon statewide standardized tests. Palm Beach County has already expressed a similar desire to get rid of testing in their district.
“We expect Lee County’s action to kick off even stronger campaigns that force politicians to stop the testing fixation that is undermining educational quality and equity in our nation’s public schools,” said Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @Allison Nielsen