Saying it’s time to use modern tools to measure progress, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday repeated his desire to end time-consuming, high-stakes testing for Florida’s schoolchildren.
Appearing with Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran at a roundtable at a middle school in Niceville, DeSantis said legislation to replace the Florida Standards Assessment, or FSA, with progress monitoring is one of his priorities for the upcoming Session.
“This will be a big priority for us … something that we’re really, really serious about,” DeSantis pledged.
He first announced his plans to end annual standardized testing in schools, a move long backed by educators, last week.
Progress monitoring, DeSantis said Monday, allows the use of more “modern tools” to “measure progress” and “be able to remediate when things aren’t going well.”
The goal: “More streamlined periodic assessments.”
“Teachers want to teach and not just be test preparation proctors,” he said.
DeSantis said this could help students who are “ahead of the curve” also, so they’re not “running in place” essentially waiting for their classmates to catch up.
In his remarks, Corcoran noted COVID-19-driven disruptions helped drive the planning.
“We’ve had conversations over the last two years, especially when the pandemic hit…. it was in that time we realized what we’re mostly shutting down was testing for the FSA,” Corcoran said.
“This progress monitoring is really showing us what we need to see,” Corcoran added, allowing the state to be “smarter, faster, more efficient.”
“We have perpetual D and F schools…. Last year, when we had that infusion of dollars (from the federal government), we had 55 schools,” Corcoran said, “all of them come out of turnaround during that most difficult academic year.”
Progress monitoring made it possible for beleaguered schools to turn around, Corcoran said.
Okaloosa County Superintendent Marcus Chambers said progress monitoring allows the district to guide instruction and drive professional development.
“To be able to have progress monitoring is a gamechanger,” Chambers said, adding that it allows for “adjustments in real time.”
Parents had their plaudits too. Catherine Card, a middle school parent, said one of her daughters was able to progress to advanced math because a teacher noticed her aptitude.
“Now she is a seventh-grader sitting in an eighth-grade class,” Card said.
DeSantis’ proposal envisions new progress tests, known as the Florida Assessments of Student Thinking or FAST. The tests would be customizable to each student, with shorter grading times and quicker and more readily available feedback.
Expect legislation to be fast tracked.
Teachers unions, including the Florida Education Association, support the bill, which feels like an election year victory for a Governor who will be on the ballot.