Fewer, Better Tests
Florida’s Fewer, Better Tests legislation (SB 926 by Sen. Anitere Flores and HB 773 by Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr. and Rep. Chris Sprowls) gives teachers more time to teach and ensures parents and teachers have access to actionable, easy-to-understand information to help their student.
Florida has made significant progress in improving its assessments. This includes the passage of HB 7069 in 2015, which reduced the number of assessments, limited the amount of the time for state and local assessments to no more than 5 percent of classroom time, and improved transparency by requiring the Department of Education and school districts to publish an assessment calendar.
The policy recommendations listed below are the logical next step in Florida’s efforts to continue to improve our statewide assessments. These recommendations enjoy broad, public support according to recently conducted surveys at the national level and in Florida.
- Provide teachers with more time to teach; minimize disruption to student and school schedules by moving the state assessment to the last three weeks of school (include an exception for third-grade reading); and shorten the state testing window from nine weeks to three weeks.
- One of the biggest issues facing classrooms teachers is the limited amount of time they have to teach the necessary material before the state assessment, which often leads to “cramming” and “teaching to the test.”
- Another issue facing our schools and teachers is the extended periods of time spent on testing. This disrupts classroom instruction as well as school scheduling due to the long-term use of common areas such as the media center/libraries and computer labs.
78 percent of Florida teachers surveyed said it would be more beneficial to their students if state tests were moved later in the school year to give teachers more teaching time, even if it meant they wouldn’t see student score reports until the summer.
- Provide teachers with the results of the state assessment for their current and incoming students to help teachers tailor their instruction.
87 percent of Florida teachers surveyed said that receiving copies of the state assessment results for both their current and incoming students would help them prepare instruction tailored to each student.
- Provide teachers with the results of the district assessments in a timely manner (within one week) to better inform instruction.
- Teachers need the results from district assessments in a timely manner so that these results can be used as a valuable tool to improve instruction.
88 percent of Florida teachers surveyed said that they need to receive the results of district-required assessments in two weeks or less; about half of those responding said they needed the results in one week or less.
- Require easy-to-understand, parent-friendly score reports that include:
- A clear explanation of the student’s performance;
- Information on the student’s areas of strengths and areas for improvement;
- Specific actions and resources to assist parents;
- Longitudinal information, if available; and
- Information comparing the student’s score to all students in district, state or other states.
State assessment results are the sole piece of information the state provides directly to parents. We need to make sure that these score reports provide helpful information to parents about their child.
More than 80 percent of Florida parents surveyed believe the components listed above are important to include on a student score report.
- Authorize the Department of Education to make achievement level three mean that a student is proficient and able to succeed in the next grade.
- Currently, achievement level three means “satisfactory” or “passing,” but it also means that the student may need additional support for the next grade level. Florida needs to be honest with parents on whether their child is working on-grade level and able to excel in the next grade.
36 states have set rigorous proficiency scores for their state assessments.
- As a first step toward considering nationally-recognized assessments such as the SAT or ACT in high school, require the Commissioner of Education to conduct an independent review of these assessments to determine level of alignment to Florida standards.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—the new federal school accountability law—gives states the flexibility to allow the use of these exams in the high school grades if they meet the certain criteria, one of which is alignment with the state’s standards.