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Politics

Legislators Call for Suspension of Florida Standards Assessment

March 3, 2015 - 6:00pm

After technical issues plagued the writing portion of the Florida Standards earlier this week, two Florida senators called on Gov. Rick Scott to suspend the test entirely until all malfunctions are resolved.

Yesterday, the first day of testing under the new and untested Florida Standards Assessment, was nothing less than a disaster, read the letter from Sens. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, and Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.

Earlier this week, many middle- and high-school students were unable to complete the writing portion of the FSA when the computer system responsible for the test wouldnt allow them to log on to the test or complete it.

After working late into the night on Monday, Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said testing could resume after working out software issues plaguing the assessment.

On Tuesday, many districts resumed testing, but some were still experiencing issues.

Schools that are experiencing issues are being told to stop for the day, read a tweet posted Tuesday from the Hillsborough County School District. Other schools are not having issues and continue testing.

Bullard and Clemens called for the test to be suspended to allow educators to work out the issues with the test instead of using our children as guinea pigs for a flawed system.

The two Democratic senators have joined the chorus of criticism against the FSA, with opponents of the assessment saying the glitches should have been worked out prior to administration.

Florida computerized tests are clearly not ready for prime time," said Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. "The reason is that they were rushed into place based on a Tallahasee-mandated schedule, not technical competence or educational readiness.

But Commissioner Stewart held strong -- while some experienced issues, there were still other students able to take the test.

"While I understand that some of you experienced difficulties, a number of you expressed that your students tested successfully, she said in a statement. We had approximately 68,000 students complete the test yesterday and more than 85,000 students completed the test today, for a total of over 150,000. This represents 23 percent of the students registered to take the computer-based writing component.

Others were quick to point out the problems of an untested system and expressed hesitation over the new test.

"Of particular concern, beyond the reliability and validity issues, is the fact that many students with limited exposure to technology will be assessed on a computer for the first time," wrote Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "Was there consideration given to the real possibility that technical skill will influence content mastery results?"

Carvalho questioned whether the test was reliable enough to be used in his school district and canceled the administration until further notice.

"Nothing short of a reasonable accountability transition, which must include treating this year as a baseline development year, makes sense," he said. "Getting it right must trump getting it done."

The writing test was still not being given in Miami-Dade County as of Wednesday morning. Palm Beach County and Leon County were also holding off on administering the assessment.

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

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