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Politics

Senate Bill Aims to Limit Standardized Testing

February 1, 2015 - 6:00pm

Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, wants to reduce standardized testing in Florida -- and hes filed a bill in the Senate to make it happen.

On Monday, Legg filed SB 616, a bill that would offer school districts struggling with the transition to Common Core flexibility in their transition to the new statewide assessment test administered as part of the Common Core State Standards.

Like everything in life, you have a good plan and realize there are some adjustments, said Legg, who currently chairs the Senate committee on Pre-K-12 education. What were trying to do is create a framework and guide posts.

Leggs bill comes on the heels of a great deal of outcry from anti-Common Core activists who say the state has transitioned to the standards too quickly.

If passed, Leggs bill would limit the amount of time a school district can administer standardized tests to its students. Under the bill, a district may not schedule more than 5 percent of total school hours to give tests. If the district requires more than 5 percent of school hours to administer the tests, it must get written consent from parents before giving the test.

We need better, but fewer, tests. This bill maintains accountability, while creating a much needed framework on assessments, evaluations, and flexibility on implementation. he said.

The new statewide assessment test, the Florida Standards Assessment, is expected to be more rigorous than its predecessor because it tests critical thinking promoted by Common Core. As such, student scores on the new tests are expected to drop, but school grades wont be affected as schools transition this year.

Under SB 616, district school boards struggling with the assessment can document implementation issues and request approval from the State Board of Education to essentially opt out of the FSA if approved.

Teacher evaluations would also be affected under Leggs bill. SB 616 would allow districts to maintain flexibility and determine which assessments are appropriate for teacher pay evaluations. Evaluation criteria must include at least 40 percent of a performance evaluation assessed by statewide assessments or a district can use a formula to measure student learning growth.

Student test scores are high-stakes for teachers -- they currently make up half of a teachers evaluation statewide.

If a district opts for an alternative evaluation criteria, it must select an equally appropriate formula to measure student growth for other grades and subjects.

I am confident that the Florida Legislature, the governor, and all education stakeholders will continue to collaborate in developing a framework that promotes innovation, transparency, and accountability, said Legg.

Executive director for the Foundation for Floridas Future, Patricia Levesque, offered Legg several suggestions after SB 616 was filed, including reducing test scores to a third of the total for teacher evaluations and replacing high school assessments with exams that are widely accepted for college entrance, such as the SAT or ACT.

Levesque didnt back down from rigorous testing, saying it gives parents objective, accurate and necessary information about how their students are performing.

Retreating from this successful approach would return us to the days when almost half of our fourth-graders were functionally illiterate and our graduation rate hovered around 50 percent, she wrote. The foundation believes in fewer tests, better tests, and tests that serve a meaningful purpose, and I believe we are on track to getting there.


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

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