Legislation to replace standardized testing with a “progress monitoring program” is on to its final committee after receiving the unanimous support of a House education panel.
The bill (HB 1193), carried in the House by Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, would replace the much-maligned Florida Standards Assessment, or FSA, with coordinated screening and progress monitoring. Gov. Ron DeSantis and teachers support the proposal.
Students would take more strategic tests three times during the school year, with the first two intended to give students, teachers and parents guidance on how to work on the students’ weaknesses. The final “summative” test, late in the school year, would still provide results in time for students to be able to use summer school to meet standards.
Members of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee voted unanimously Wednesday to advance the bill to its final panel before it is ready for the House floor.
“This bill is almost entirely about what teachers, principals, superintendents have been asking for, and that’s that the assessments guide instruction,” said Plasencia, a teacher and coach. “We’ve had that in progress monitoring at the county level. And now, at the request of our districts, we’re moving it, hopefully, to the state level.”
DeSantis rolled out the proposal alongside Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran in September, calling progress monitoring a big priority for the administration. The bill also builds off of legislation passed last year that created progress monitoring between kindergarten and eighth grade. This year’s measure extends the progress monitoring to grades nine and 10.
Department of Education Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva, who oversees the department’s public school operations, told the subcommittee the quick turnaround time for progress monitoring results will keep parents, teachers and students informed of students’ learning progress in real-time.
“It’s going to help drive instruction, and then that end-of-year summative assessment’s not a surprise,” Oliva said. “We should know how the students are doing and we should be able to provide opportunities for acceleration.”
Teachers’ unions, notably the Florida Education Association, support the change. So do most school districts and the leadership of both parties.
Ahead of the 2022 Session, Plasencia told Florida Politics the likeliest opposition is from people who want to see the reform go further. That prediction appeared to come true.
Despite the bill receiving the panel’s unanimous support, Weston Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman disputed framing that the bill would eliminate “high-stakes” tests, noting she didn’t want to sell her community a “bill of goods.” Bartleman, an assistant principal and a special education teacher, said the bill is a step in the right direction but that the assessment would still impact school and district ratings and teacher pay.
“It’s not the annual summative assessment that’s the problem. It’s the way we use it here in this state, and that is the issue teachers have,” Bartleman said.
Miami Republican Rep. Vance Aloupis pushed back on Bartleman’s concerns.
“I think the goal of this bill is to ensure that we are doing everything we can to not create an environment of anxiety for our students and for our teachers,” Aloupis said.
Subcommittee Chair Randy Fine stressed the importance of high-stakes testing to know how students are progressing.
“You know why we should have high-stakes testing? Because life is high stakes,” Fine said. “You don’t get to go through sunshine and rainbows and participation trophies and everything works out great.”
Fine’s comments clashed with some of the parting words Plasencia had for members. Plasencia said he dislikes using the term “high-stakes testing.”
“I think that, as adults, we create an environment for our kids by the words that we use, by the actions that we show them,” Plasencia said.
Hialeah Gardens Republican Sen. Manny Diaz is carrying the Senate version of the bill (SB 1048), which has graduated through the Senate committee process and is ready for consideration on the Senate floor.