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Monday, February 06, 2023

Alachua County Public Schools, Florida public schools face new testing possibility

County students may take three tests instead of the FSA; ACPS officials say this is more effective

Graphic by Melanie Pena
Graphic by Melanie Pena

Alachua County Public Schools believes Gov. Ron DeSantis’ legislative proposal to replace the Florida Statewide Assessment (FSA) is a step in the right direction.

DeSantis backed a proposal Sept. 14 that will eliminate the Common Core based, end-of-year FSA. If passed, the bill will replace the standardized test with a progress monitoring system dubbed the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking, or FAST, plan, according to the governor’s staff news release. Florida would become the first state to shift from end-of-the-year assessments to progress monitoring.

The elimination of FSA and implementation of FAST progress monitoring will be introduced to the state Legislature during the next session, which begins Jan. 11.

 DeSantis’ proposal promises to reduce testing time by an average of 75%, according to the release. It will also provide parents and teachers with timely feedback in order to adapt to students’ learning needs throughout the year, in contrast to results that return after students leave for summer break.

Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said the county favors any proposal that provides a more effective and efficient assessment of its students. 

“We, like all public schools in Florida, have to administer the FSA test and that takes up an awful lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of staff time,” Johnson said. “And we agree with the governor that it is time and effort that could be better spent on actually teaching children.”

This legislation would replace the FSA with three shorter tests administered in the fall, winter and spring, according to the release. These tests would provide information about students’ growth throughout the year to the students, teachers and parents, fostering improvement opportunities.

Jenny Wise, ACPS chief of teaching and learning, said if higher-stake tests like the FSA become smaller and more frequent, then these tests give the county more results. Frequent results allow the county to meet students’ needs through intervention or acceleration. 

“When you wait until a test that you take at the end of the school year, and you don’t get your results until the summer, you know, it’s hard to be responsive to those results in real time,” Wise said.

With FAST, students would test three times during the school year, supplying more data for teachers, parents and administration and revealing weak areas for students in English language arts and mathematics. 

“This is going to allow us, and expect us I think, to be very responsive to how our students are performing,” Wise said.

Johnson said ACPS already does progress monitoring. All students participate in the Alachua Instruction Measurement System benchmark assessment, which the county developed locally. However, if this legislation passes, ACPS will adopt the statewide platform.

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The FSA assesses students’ mastery of the Florida State Standards, where the FAST would evaluate their mastery of the BEST, Florida’s Benchmark for Excellent Student Thinking, standards.

The Florida Department of Education released the Florida BEST standards for English language arts and mathematics in February 2020, but these have not been fully implemented yet. Common Core, which follows the existing state standards, will be officially eliminated from Florida classrooms, according to an FDOE press release.

With new standards and the possibility of a new test, a new curriculum must be created as well, Wise said. But for now, ACPS is waiting for the state’s guidance before it changes how its students take tests.

“You have to have materials that are aligned to the standards, and you have to have a scope and sequence and a pacing that is aligned to those standards, so yeah, we have a lot of work to do when they change the standards,” Wise said.

This is a contributing story to The Alligator. Follow Emma on Twitter at @emmabehrmann

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Emma Behrmann

Emma Behrmann is a third-year journalism major and The Alligator’s metro desk editor for the Spring 2023 semester. She loves bodybuilding and spends most of her free time at the gym.

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