March, 2015

We are incredibly grateful to Senator Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) for offering an excellent amendment to SB 616, the bill on testing sponsored by Pre-K 12 Education Committee Chairman John Legg. This bill will be heard TOMORROW, March 25, starting sometime after 9:00 AM on a long agenda of many other bills.  The amendment, coded 637822, requires both independent verification of validity of the tests and independent verification of the load testing that is currently in law but was basically ignored by the FL DOE along with many warnings by superintendents leading to the disastrous roll-out of the FSA writing test.  Here is the language:

1         Senate Amendment (with title amendment)
    3         Delete lines 525 - 529
    4  and insert:
    5         (c) The statewide, standardized assessments may not be used
    6  to determine grade 3 retention pursuant to s. 1008.25(3); high
    7  school graduation pursuant to s. 1003.4282; personnel
    8  evaluations pursuant to s. 1012.34; and school grades pursuant
    9  to s. 1008.34 until:
   10         1. A report showing their psychometric validity, the
   11  coefficient alpha reliability, the content description validity,
   12  the differential item functional analysis, the criterion
   13  prediction validity, standard error of measurement, and the
   14  construct identification validity is produced and verified by
   15  the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation, the
   16  American Educational Research Association, American
   17  Psychological Association, or the National Council on
   18  Measurement in Education. Once an independent organization
   19  certifies the assessment as psychometrically sound, the test
   20  item specifications must be published on the department's
   21  website and be reported to the President of the Senate and the
   22  Speaker of the House of Representatives; and
   23         2. Until the technology infrastructure, connectivity, and
   24  capacity of all public schools and school districts has been
   25  load tested and independently verified by either the Joint
   26  Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation or one of the
   27  member professional associations as appropriate, adequate,
   28  efficient, sustainable, and ready for successful deployment and
   29  implementation of online assessments For purposes of determining
   30  grade 3 retention pursuant to s. 1008.25(5) and high school
   31  graduation pursuant to s. 1003.4282, student performance on the
   32  2014-2015 statewide, standardized assessments shall be linked to
   33  2013-2014 student performance expectations.
Senator Hays is offering this amendment in light of his own well-documented concerns about Common Core and hearing about Commissioner Stewart's and the FLDOE's failure to provide adequate, factual response to Senate Rules Committee Chairman and attorney David Simmons excellent and very important questions (starting at 56:00) about the validity of Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) that was field tested in Utah. Senator Simmons cited a legal decision requiring evidence of validity of the tests before high stakes decisions can be made.  Commissioner stated that the FSA was psychometrically evaluated to be valid and reliable in Utah.  Dr. Effrem and others will be presenting evidence that there is no such study and that requiring the very invalid, unreliable FSA to be used for high stakes decisions, besides profoundly and unnecessarily hurting children, teachers, administrator and districts will open the state to great legal jeopardy at the taxpayer's expense.

Senator Hays is also offering an amendment on reading, coded 282382.  Our last report on this bill mentioned this problematic language now imposing the highly subjective Pearson Work Sampling System for kindergarten and the developmentally inappropriate and computer adaptive Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) for kindergarten, first, second, and third grades.  What we did not make as clear is that the bill language eliminates local district and teacher reading assessments.  Senator Hays amendment restores the observations of the teachers who see the children every day and local control of the district assessments which was eliminated in what hopefully was a drafting error.

  1. Personally call or email every member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, whose contact information is at these links with the following points:
  1. While we would prefer Senator Bullard's (SB 1450) or Senator Evers' (SB 1496) bills on testing and standards, the Hays amendment 637822 is the very minimum you must do to protect our children, teachers, administrators and schools from grave harm and the taxpayers and budget of Florida from great loss due to lawsuits.  There is no evidence of validity or reliability of the FSA from Utah or anywhere else.  Many states including most recently California and Vermont have suspended the high stakes effects of their Common Core tests.  Utah has suspended the high stakes consequences and is looking to shed the AIR test being used to provide Florida's test questions. You will be putting Florida's education system in great ethical and legal jeopardy if you do not pass this amendment.
  2. While sure that the omission was an accident, Senator Hays amendment on reading, 282382, simply restores local and teacher involvement in the assessment of reading that is critical to our students and required under the Article IX, section 4b of the Florida Constitution.

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