Amidst More AIR Test Problems - Senator Hays Calls for Contract Cancellation & Seminole County Considers Opt-Out

April, 2015

In a carbon copy of the March disaster with the writing test, administration of the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) reading and math was another debacle on April 20th with thousands of students across the state locked out of actually taking the tests online for hours causing the larger districts like Miami Dade and Orange County to suspend testing for the day. This caused major disruptions and stress for students, teachers and staff trying to deal with an already full testing schedule.

The vendor, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), has taken responsibility for the problem which was caused by unauthorized technical changes they made over the weekend before testing was to begin. 

Allison Neilsen of Sunshine State News also brought up the major and lingering concern about these disruptions causing the tests to not be valid ( See our extensive discussion of the inherent lack of validity of the FSA/AIR test regardless of implementation problems HERE):

According to the FLDOE Spring 2015 FSA Computer-Based Test Administration Manual, if students are disrupted during testing due to a circumstance out of their control, test invalidation may be considered if a student "feels his or her performance was significantly affected by the disruption."
Just how many students may decide to invalidate their test results has yet to be determined, but problems with the FSA roll-out which locked students out of the test and prohibited them from finishing caused lots of problems for students statewide.
Parents have expressed concerns over the test, saying it threw their children for a loop when they were unexpectedly unable to take the test.
"The computer problems have created a lot of chaos in their school day and [are] a perfect reason for invalidation," said Beth Overholt, who has three school-aged children. Overholt said her children opted out of standardized testing but said her daughters were held in their classrooms for hours waiting for their fellow students to complete their tests.
"She missed three classes two days in a row," Overholt said. "I want her in front of a teacher learning something."
Students taking the test tweeted their anxieties over the test, many of whom didn't seem to be looking forward to completing it.

Senator Alan Hays again supported the call of FSCCC and many others to cancel the AIR testing contract during the Appropriations Committee meeting today which was repoted by AP's Gary Fineout:
The Seminole County School Board went a step farther , planning to draft a letter to the FLDOE asking to suspend testing for the rest of the year and use a nationally normed referenced test instead.  As reported by Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel:

The leaders of one of the state's top-performing school districts agreed Tuesday to ask if they can skip the new FSA next year and give their students national tests, such as the SAT, instead. Computer problems marred the debut of the FSA, which has more online tests than its predecessor. There were more problems Monday, which delayed testing for thousands of students and further frustrated Seminole officials.

"What are the consequences if Seminole County says, you know what state of Florida, until you get your act together, we're going to sit this one out?" asked board member Amy Lockhart. "We're getting off your crazy train...What happens?"

The board's attorney, Serita Beamon, said just skipping FSA wasn't a legal option since state law makes testing mandatory.

But Superintendent Walt Griffin suggested finding out if the district can opt out of FSA and give other tests, such as the Stanford-10 for elementary students and the PSAT and SAT for middle and high school students. Those exams, Griffin said, have been around for years, are considered reliable and are paper-and-pencil exams that take less time to administer than online exams.
AIR has had problems in many states both with their own tests and with the computer adaptive platform they did for SBAC.  Montana has made using the test results optional this year. 

These failures were predicted by many organizations, parents teachers, and superintendents.  This concept of a reliable nationally normed test offered on paper has been the subject of legislation or amendments offered by Reps. Debbie Mayfield, John Tobia, and Evan Jenne; and Senators Dwight Bullard, Alan Hays, Greg Evers, and Jeff Clemens.  There is also the adiditional major concern about the failure of the DOE to follow the load testing law and there were amendments to require independent verification of load testing and or paper testing at least until that load testing was verfied. Sadly for Florida's students, these bills and amendments were rejected by legislative leadership. Let us hope there are new amendments and or that Governor Scott does the right thing and at a minimum hold students harmless from the high stakes consequences of these invalid tests this year.

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