Three state lawmakers say it’s high time to cut back on standardized testing in Florida’s public schools and they’re joining forces to push legislation to do it. Reps. Manny Diaz, Jr., R-Hialeah, and Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor have filed legislation to swap SAT and ACT tests in place of Florida’s standardized tests, eliminating a layer of testing many have criticized in recent years.
The proposals, SB 926/HB 773, would require Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart to review both the SAT and ACT tests to determine whether or not their results could be used in place of the Florida Standards Assessment.
The bill would move testing to the end of the school year and shorten the testing window from nine weeks to three weeks.
The FSA is currently administered during the springtime.
“We have to have an honest conversation about what time we spend teaching [and] learning and what is testing time,” Diaz told Sunshine State News Tuesday. “There's also been a lot of conversation in both chambers about changing tests, so I believe we should really explore if SAT/ACT would even be viable solutions.”
If passed, the bill would also ensure teachers get their students’ standardized testing results in a timely manner. District-level assessment results would be given to teachers within a week of administration.
Diaz told SSN he had been working with parents, teachers, students and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education to gather data on the issue.
“We cannot afford to wait any longer to address this,” Diaz said.
A similar proposal was pushed in the Senate last year, but it didn’t receive much traction and died during the legislative session.
The stars could easily align for the measure this year, since Diaz chairs the Pre-K-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
Flores also wields power in the Senate as President pro tempore and is committed to scaling back testing. Sprowls currently serves as the House Judiciary Committee chairman.
“This legislation will aid teachers in their instruction by providing the results of the students in a timely manner, parents will be better informed about their child’s progress and the students will be better prepared because statewide tests will be given later in the year," said Flores.
Florida lawmakers have pushed to limit standardized testing in recent years as education groups and teachers have criticized an “overabundance” of tests. Two years ago, the Legislature passed a bill to limit testing time to 45 hours per year and scrapped the 11th grade language arts test.
Opponents say overtesting is detrimental to students since they are often taught to pass tests rather than to actually learn the material.
Some state senators have already filed proposals to change testing in the Sunshine State. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, recently filed a bill to allow students to go old fashioned and take “paper and pencil” exams rather than electronic tests.
Diaz said he was hopeful about the bill passing, saying its future looks bright.
“Many members are interested in providing some solutions to testing,” he told SSN. “I believe this bill will [get] a lot of support.”
Education groups said they were excited over the prospect of the bill's passage.
"This is [an] important and powerful policy," said Florida Coalition of School Board Members president Shawn Frost. "Great bills by these courageous legislators."
The three legislators will formally unveil the legislation in Tallahassee Wednesday.