FL DOE Ignored Warnings & Appears to have Broken the Law on FSA Load Test

March, 2015

Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director
Administration of the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA)  by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to measure learning under the Common Core (deceptively rebranded as the Florida Standards) standards was an unmitigated disaster over the first two days of administration. Thirty nine districts reported problems after they were unable to log into the system and many students were unable to complete the writing test on line.  At least five school districts - Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Volusia, Pasco and Broward - suspended testing for Tuesday.  Two Democrat senators, Jeff Clemmons and Dwight Bullard, the senate co-author (SB 1406) of HB 877 by Rep. Mayfield, wrote a letter of Governor Scott asking that high stakes testing be immediately  suspended.
It appears that Commissioner Stewart bullied and badgered superintendents into saying that they were technologically ready or "load tested" when there were not and the warnings issued by others before testing began about the coming debacle were unheeded.  Clearly, the very good law authored by Senator John Legg requiring the systemic and uniform testing of the computerized testing infrastructure, independent verification, and not proceeding with the testing until every district was ready was not followed.  Here is what should have happened (see emphasized language):

[Footnote to 1003.41] Section 6, ch. 2013-250, provides that "[f]ull implementation of online assessments for Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in English/language arts and mathematics adopted under s. 1003.41, Florida Statutes, for all kindergarten through grade 12 public school students shall occur only after the technology infrastructure, connectivity, and capacity of all public schools and school districts have been load tested and independently verified as ready for successful deployment and implementation." (Emphasis added).

[Footnote to 1008.22] Section 7, "The technology infrastructure, connectivity, and capacity of all public schools and school districts that administer statewide standardized assessments pursuant to s. 1008.22, Florida Statutes, including online assessments, shall be load tested and independently verified as appropriate, adequate, efficient, and sustainable." (Emphasis added).

This clearly did not happen as evidenced by these superintendent quotes from the above linked article:
Highlands superintendent Wally Cox
Can our district/state withstand the load for technology that FSA testing requires? We will be conducting an infrastucture trial, but it will be at a minimum, one lab per school, potentially fifteen to twenty labs, seventy five labs that will be utilized across the district during testing. We had inadequate time to perform district infrastructure trial before FSA survey is due. ... Does a successful lab, school or district infrastructure trial really measure the state's network to handle the capacity of test day? The stakes are too high to find this out during testing."

Sarasota superintendent Lori White
"There is great concern about completing the magnitude of computer based tests given the short timeframe. Further we are not confident in the AIR FSA testing platform, which relies on a constant connection to the internet. Finally, we are not convinced there is adequate internet capacity to support the number of simultaneous test takers within and across districts."

Baker superintendent Sherrie Raulerson
"We have additional concerns regarding the readiness of the state's infrastructure due to the additional statewide computer-based testing."

Bradford superintendent Chad Farnsworth
"The superintendent's signature verifies the readiness of technology. However, this does not verify Bradford's readiness to take the FSA assessment. There are many concerns related to adequate time to teach the new standards, question formats, scheduling issues and the state's readiness for testing."

Collier superintendent Kamela Patton
" It is being administered for the first time as a computer-based assessment, when neither the assessment or the state and local infrastructure to administer the assessment have been thoroughly field tested."

Lake superintendent Susan Moxley
"This district will always put forth every effort to meet assessment administration requirements as demonstrated by meeting the online certification requirements. It is important to recognize that the computer based assessment certification tool confirms that our district has the number of computers meeting specifications are available to rotate students through testing in order to complete the state required assessments. It does not reflect the adverse impact created in the areas of infrastructure, time, limited number of devices and disruption to instructional time."
In addition and sadly, the revisor of statutes inserted this excellent language into the statute books as a footnote instead of regular law, probably causing the department and districts to think they did not have to carefully follow it or follow it at all.
This situation is yet another black mark on AIR, which:
  • Is about to be dumped by the Utah, the state leasing test questions to Florida
  • Develops the computer adaptive testing platform for the federal SBAC test
  • Admits that computer adaptive testing is more for district and teacher accountability than for academic improvement of the child
  • Cannot keep their own employees' data secure
  • Admits they are data mining individual Florida students and teachers
  • Admits Common Core is a national curriculum
  • Promotes testing and research on controversial social issues instead of academics
  • Has a founder who was involved in racial eugenics experiments
All of this shows that it is the department and commissioner that need "accountability" even more than students, teachers and districts; that Florida should not have to suffer under federally mandated state tests and that the Mayfield /Bullard bill to allow paper and pencil testing and for districts and parents choose a pre-Common Core nationally normed test is the best solution to this situation.

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