Alachua Kindergarten Teacher’s Brave Stand Stops Invasive FAIR Testing from K-2

September, 2014

The courageous efforts of twenty-six veteran Alachua teacher Susan Bowles to risk her job in order to protect her kindergarten students from the losing 6 weeks of precious instructional time taking a computerized test called the FAIR test (Florida Assessment of Instruction in Reading) have paid off.  Today, the superintendent received word from Commissioner Pam Stewart that the FAIR test would no longer be required in grades K-2 in the entire state.  While this is likely a political move to help the governor who is taking significant political heat over Common Core and testing, it is a welcome relief.

As reported by the Gainesville Sun last week, this test used to be given on paper, but now is given online requiring one on one help from the teacher that takes up to an hour per student. The paper inaccurately reported that the test was required "per state law, three times a year" in kindergarten through second grade. The truth is that all kindergarten students are required to be screened in the first thirty days of school. (F.S. 1002.69), but the FAIR test is not mentioned.  This is also contrary to statements made by Dr. Owen Roberts that by law, the FAIR test in particular must be used to screen kindergarten students in the first thirty days.

This issue received coverage by papers across the state including the Tampa Bay Times, the Sarasota Herald Tribune, and across the nation in the Washington Post.

Bowles had significant concerns about the FAIR in regard to the excessive number of tests and the lost instructional time.  However, this email by a reading specialist who requested anonymity and who used to administer the test brings up frightening concerns about the validity, developmental inappropriateness, data collection, data security, and indoctrination of older students with the reading passages:

The FAIR is administered without parental notification or controls. Children log on to the internet with a daily code. This is not a program aka software. This is an internet website. All answers are recorded in perpetuity. 
They all wear headsets - earbuds not allowed. The teachers know not what or how the children are responding....the test is computer adaptive. No two students are taking the same test. The answer to the previous question determines the selection the next question. The teacher is simply in the room to monitor technological aberrations. 
There is a letter to parents informing them of the assessment withi the system.. Few districts send them.
The test at the high school level is divided into three parts - comprehension, fluency, word analysis (real - spelling.) The fluency is timed. the reading comprehension is composed of a number of reading passages on a number of different subjects. The intent or persuasion is unknown to the teacher and the parents.
The results are reported in a print-out to monitor progress AKA "progress monitoring." Having witnessed the process for a number of years and as a certified reading specialist, the results are inaccurate and misleading. Many, many inconsistencies have been reported. Parents are confused and disillusioned, teachers are intimidated, and students are short-changed. Most teachers disregard the results as most are simply inaccurate, ludicrous and an impediment to realistic quality instruction.
The whole initiative/program is folly. However, perhaps most egregious, is the data mining (no one knows what is in those comprehension passages and how the children respond what they respond/what they're answers are the teachers/parents never see the test questions and the student responses) is pervasive and the ultimate objective is suspect. To what end? Are students being taught how to read? Or perhaps the objective is to teach students how to interpret what they read. 
Finally, the student is logged into the system via social security #. Responses that are recorded are aligned to social security number a very slippery slope. Are most parents even aware?!
I saw it all happen sheeple carry it out. As a professional, I objected to not fully informing parents and giving them the option to "opt out."  I was silenced.

This momentum against the tides of state and federal interference in education needs to continue to the point where districts choose their own standards and tests, accountable to the parents and duly elected school boards, not the state or federal governments.

Those of you in the Gainesville area can go to the September 16th Alachua County School Board meeting, wear red, and urge them to roll back the testing in the district, and inform parents of their legal opportunities to opt out of these tests and to control the standards and tests at the local level as provided in Article IX, Section 4b of the Florida Constitution:

Meeting at:   Kirby-Smith Center | 620 East University Avenue | Gainesville, FL 32601-5498 | 352-955-7300
Time : 6:00 PM



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