Is this the end for standardized testing in Florida?

A woman writing on notebook paper. Photo credit: iStock

Governor Ron DeSantis is considering implementing plans to end standardized testing for students across Florida. These plans would specifically remove the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) tests that have been in place since 1971.

According to the Florida Department of State, “The FSA in English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics and end-of-course (EOC) subjects (Algebra 1 and Geometry) serve Florida students by measuring education gains and progress.” However, the FSA tests fail to accurately gauge student success in schools because the FSA testing is set up as a one-size-fits-all system, where students are judged based on their test-taking skills and ability to answer multiple choice questions and complete timed work. It does not provide students the chance to demonstrate what they have learned throughout the school year and does not test students on knowledge that may be important to their professional growth after graduation, such as industry-specific knowledge, leadership skills and more.

Having grown up in the Florida public school system, I can attest that the FSA tests did not give me the chance to demonstrate the knowledge and skills I learned throughout the school year. I found myself studying test-taking tips, understanding the “ideal” responses that FSA graders were looking for and memorizing multiple-choice style content instead of implementing what I learned in school.

Further, the FSA does not accurately measure the content that is learned in a particular classroom setting. According to the University of Lethbridge, a 1983 study of the relevance of textbook content to popular standardized test formats found that, “In no case was even 50% of a test’s content satisfactorily addressed in any textbook,” (Popham, p. 331). That is, there was a poor correlation between test questions and the information in textbooks used to prepare students for them.

In proposing a new plan called the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking Plan, DeSantis is working to enable teachers and educational officials to better understand student academic advancement methods. He hopes the switch will set a precedent for other states to follow.

Florida will become the first state in the nation to fully implement progress monitoring instead of end-of-year standardized testing and fully eliminate common core,” DeSantis said.

Further, authentic learning is based on the ability for students to acquire new skills and knowledge to help them in their leadership, academics and professional development. This method of testing is contradictory to the standards of effective academic learning that every state promises to enact within their education system.

Learning is not something that happens at a set point in time; it occurs through a sequence of interactions, communication and exploration with the instructional content,” said Dr. Dakeyan Graham, Florida’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2020.

By implementing more interactive and individual-based measurements for understanding student success, many believe that teachers will then be able to establish more intricate and effective classroom learning plans and can create more well-rounded decisions about what type of classroom structure and method of instruction works best for their students.

Having a progress monitoring tool that aligns to the standards will be instrumental in helping me and other teachers across Florida become more effective in the classroom,” said Joy Prescott, Florida’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2019.

The pandemic has put added pressure on students, as many of them have faced health and social challenges, both at school and at home, that have made it harder for them to focus and stay active in the education system. Parents across the state of Florida have demonstrated their concern for the continued commitment to FSA testing during the pandemic and the negative consequences this could have on students. The continuation of FSA testing during the pandemic is contradictory to the state’s supposed commitment to the wellbeing and mental health of students.

It is important to remember that the professional development and leadership success of students result from access to a good education and productive learning methods. If we don’t establish new, more effective means for measuring student success, it will be difficult to continue fostering the growth of intelligent and dependable professionals.