DeSantis calls for an end to annual spring testing in Florida schools

His goal is to have this year be the final one for Florida Standards Assessments.

Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the end of spring Florida Standards Assessments during a Sept. 14, 2021, news conference in Miami.
Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the end of spring Florida Standards Assessments during a Sept. 14, 2021, news conference in Miami. [ The Florida Channel ]

The days of preparing and sitting for hours worth of spring state tests could be nearing an end for many of Florida’s public school students.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday called on lawmakers to revamp the state’s school accountability system by eliminating several of the annual exams, and replacing them with more regular progress monitoring that already occurs throughout the school year.

“This will be one of our top priorities in the legislative session,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Miami.

He said the idea would reduce testing in the schools by 75 percent, and would allow for more individualized testing that helps students and teachers make adjustments during the school year while also keeping parents better informed.

His proposal came days before the Legislature begins its pre-session committee weeks, with the Senate Education Committee slated to hold a discussion the afternoon of Sept. 21 on standards and assessments.

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Florida schools have used mid-year testing to help determine where students are succeeding and falling behind for a number of years. The state Department of Education put increased focus on the effort when it asked school districts for their 2020-21 reopening plans, stressing that having student performance data is critical to overcoming any learning deficits.

Last year, many schools were able to predict their spring testing results with accuracy using the model, suggesting that the actual exams — long a source of discontent among many parents and educators — might be redundant.

The state cannot completely do away with exams that provide summary information about academic performance without approval from the federal government, which still requires certain data through the Every Student Succeeds Act.

But now could prove a timely opportunity to make changes, as Florida already has been moving away from the Florida Standards Assessments because of its switch to the new BEST standards, which took effect in kindergarten through second grade this year.

Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar said the idea had merit, as it could lessen the testing load while still providing plenty of information for evaluating performance. It would measure growth, he noted, because the students sit for progress monitoring more than once during the year.

Of course, Spar noted, the details will have to be worked through. “Our hope is we will work with legislators to try and get it done right,” he said.

If the Legislature runs with DeSantis’ recommendation, it would not be the first time lawmakers have talked about reducing the student testing load since the start of Jeb Bush’s A-Plus Plan more than two decades ago.

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They have over the years eliminated some high school math and English tests, for instance, and shifted the testing period to later in the year to allow more time for learning. At the same time, though, they also have added new civics testing requirements, among others.

Even Bush and his education foundation have over time called for “fewer, better tests” to drive the state’s academic accountability and progress.

This is a developing story. Stay Tuned for updates.

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