Putting Education Reform To The Test

More Florida Teachers Rated “Highly Effective”

More than 97 percent of Florida teachers earned one of the top two evaluation scores — “highly effective” or “effective” — according to preliminary statewide data released Wednesday.

More teachers are earning the state's highest rating, according to the first batch of data released Wednesday.

enokson / Flickr

More teachers are earning the state's highest rating, according to the first batch of data released Wednesday.

The percentage of teachers earning the top rating increased for the second year in a row. More than 42 percent of teachers were rated “highly effective.” That’s up from 23 percent two years ago.

More than half of teachers were rated “effective.”

The ratings at the other end of the scale were virtually unchanged from last year. Teachers earning “needs improvement” were 1.3 percent of the state total, while three in 1,000 teachers were rated “unsatisfactory.”

Nearly one in five teachers has yet to be evaluated.

The teacher ratings are based, in part, on student test scores and are required by a 2011 law. This is the third year Florida has released statewide data.

Continue Reading

Florida School Boards Group Wants To Change How Tests Are Used

The statewide group representing Florida’s 67 county school boards says the state should not use testing results for any other purpose other than measuring that student’s progress at the time he or she took the test. Florida School Boards Association members say the resolution is intended more for the public — which has been leading the anti-testing charge — than for lawmakers.

In a two-page resolution, the Florida School Boards Association also urged lawmakers to delay the consequences associated with new state tests until 2017. In the meantime, the group stated, local districts should be allowed to determine when students are promoted, when they graduate and how teachers are evaluated — some of the tasks that, under state mandate, are largely dictated by student test scores.

“There is a groundswell of support for these types of issues,” Collier County School Board member Roy Terry said during a discussion on the document. “We need to get moving on it while we do have the support.”

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

Anti-Testing Groups Help Students Opt Out Of Florida Standardized Assessments

The Florida Standards Assessment replaces the FCAT. Students will take the test online.

Pearson K-12 Technology/flickr

The Florida Standards Assessment replaces the FCAT. Students will take the test online.

“Opt Out” groups are pushing back against what they say is too much standardized testing in Florida. The tests are changing as the state transitions to Florida Standards - an offshoot of the Common Core standards being implemented around the country.

Two-dozen groups have been formed at the district level to help parents learn the procedure for opting their students out of the tests.

By following a specific procedure (which may vary depending on the district), the student’s test is invalidated. The result is that the student doesn’t fail, school grades and teacher pay aren’t impacted, and the district is forced to find an alternative means of assessing what the student has learned.

Cindy Hamilton, co-founder of Opt Out Orlando, talked with StateImpact Florida’s Gina Jordan about why she wants an end to so much testing and what she’d like to see happen instead.

Continue Reading

What Florida’s New Reading Exam Means For Your Third Grader

Third graders who earn the lowest score on Florida's new statewide reading test this school year, are still at risk of repeating third grade.

OSDE / Flickr

Third graders who earn the lowest score on Florida's new statewide reading test this school year, are still at risk of repeating third grade.

We’ve been answering audience questions about Florida’s new statewide test, the Florida Standards Assessments.

A parent asked us on Facebook: “Please find out for us parents of third graders, who face mandatory retention if they fail the new reading assessment this spring, how the state plans to deal with them. Will they return to 3rd grade after the cut scores are determined in Winter 2015?”

The bottom line: third graders can still be held back next year if they score the equivalent of a 1, out of 5, on the reading test. But those students are still eligible to to advance to fourth grade through one of state’s exemptions, including a portfolio or passing an alternative exam.

Florida students will begin taking the Florida Standards Assessments beginning in early March, with testing running on and off through mid-May. But the State Board of Education isn’t expected to set final targets — known as cut scores — until Winter 2015.

Continue Reading

Your Guide To The Florida Standards Assessments

We’re taking this week to help parents and students understand the new Florida Standards Assessments, which students will take for the first time beginning in March.

The math, reading and writing exam (reading and writing are combined as English language arts) is intended to measure how well students in third through eleventh grades understand Florida’s Common Core-based standards. The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade.

We’ve pulled together the most important things to know about the new exam in this presentation. Click on the right or left side of the slide to advance or go back.

Meet Florida’s New Statewide Test

This is a sample math question from the Florida Standards Assessment. The questions asks students to...

Screen shot / Florida Department of Education

This is a sample math question from the Florida Standards Assessment. The questions asks students to fill in the blanks, but provides more possible choices than answer spaces.

This spring, Florida students will take a brand new test tied to the state’s new math, reading and writing standards.

This is the test that replaces the FCAT. It’s known as the Florida Standards Assessment, and it’ll be online.

What’s on the test won’t be the only thing different about the exam. Students will also find new types of questions.

We gathered your questions about the new exam from our Public Insight Network. Here’s what you you wanted to know — and what it’ll mean for students and schools.

Bill Younkin from Miami Beach is wondering about the fact that the exam’s online.

“What type of test will it be? How will it be administered?” he asks. “Will there be a paper and pencil alternative? What types of questions will it contain? How long will it take to administer?”

Last year, Florida students took 3.8 million tests using computers – so online exams are nothing new in Florida. But the Florida Standards Assessment is different from past exams

The new exam will be more interactive (you can see practice questions here).

Continue Reading

What Jeb Bush’s Education Record Means For The 2016 Presidential Race

Here’s another story analyzing what Jeb Bush’s education record could mean for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, this time from the Associated Press. The story notes the growing pushback against policies Bush launched when in office.

“The pendulum swing of accountability is now moving back with equal force and strength,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Schools and the 2014 national superintendent of the year. He oversees the fourth-largest district in the country.

“It has gone too far, too fast and it has to a certain extent abandoned the transparency and simplicity the state’s accountability system used to have,” Carvalho said.

In an acknowledgment of the shifting landscape, Bush’s education foundation has mounted a public campaign to address the furor over testing, emailing parents and penning opinion articles that call for “fewer tests, better tests and tests that serve a meaningful purpose.”

Still, Bush and his allies say testing remains critical, arguing that his accountability program made Florida a national leader in student achievement. They point to record graduation rates and significant gains on national tests. The state ranked fourth in the country in improving fourth-grade reading scores between 2003 and 2013, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Read more at: news.yahoo.com

Students Interested In Math And Science Careers — But Don’t Want To Teach

About half of the 1.8 million students who took the ACT college entrance exam said they have an interest in a science, technology, mathematics or engineering career. But just 5,500 students said they want to teach math or science.

“The numbers we’re seeing are not likely to meet the expected demand for future STEM teachers,” Jon Erickson, ACT’s president, said in a statement released with the report. “Highly qualified teachers play an essential role not only in preparing students to succeed but also in raising awareness of and interest in STEM careers, which are vital to our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy.”

In addition to a national look at students’ interest in STEM jobs, ACT also breaks the data down state by state.

The report also suggests that students’ interest in STEM subjects outstrips their preparedness. Half or fewer of the students who took the ACT and indicated an interest in STEM fields met or exceeded ACT’s “college-readiness benchmarks” in math or science.

Read more at: blogs.edweek.org

Florida Seeking Advice On Goals For New Exams

The Florida Department of Education is ready to start work setting the passing scores on its suite of new statewide tests. The agency is asking superintendents to recommend people to help the agency determine passing scores.

The new exams include language arts tests for students in grades 3 to 11, math exams for grades 3 to 8 and then new end-of-course exams in algebra 1, algebra 2 and geometry. They replace most of FCAT and the state’s current batch of math end-of-course tests.

They are all to be aligned to Common Core, benchmarks for what students should learn in those subjects.

Like the Florida Comprehensive Assessment, the new exams will be five level exams, with 5 the best and 1 the worst and 3 considered a satisfactory performance.

The process of setting the scores needed to reach each level will begin after students take the first round of the new FSA this spring.

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

How Standardized Tests Add Up

NPR uses a Florida eleventh grader to show how local, state and federal testing requirements add up to a big burden. According to one survey, the average student takes 113 standardized tests between pre-K and twelfth grade.

“In some places, tests – and preparation for them – are dominating the calendar and culture of schools and causing undue stress for students and educators.” The quote comes not from an angry parent or firebrand school leader but from Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Read more at: www.npr.org

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »