House Passes Senate Version of Testing Bill - Urge Governor Scott to Veto HB 7069!

April, 2015

In a surprise move, on April 9th, instead of negotiating with the Senate, the House decided to accept the Senate version of HB 7069, the education testing bill.  This was very unexpected.  Even K-12 subcommittee chairwoman Janet Adkins said on her Facebook page that the House was still considering its options only hours before the House vote.

TESTING UPDATE: This past week the senate did a strikeall amendment to the HB 7069 and inserted SB 616 with some...

Posted by Janet Adkins on Thursday, April 9, 2015

Our summary of that bill and its Senate debate is HERE.
A more detailed report of the final House debate follows. The bottom line, however, is that this bill does nothing to deal with the inferior, inappropriate, and manipulative Common Core/Florida standards and even for a testing bill, still holds Florida students, teachers and schools "accountable" to invalid tests and will result in massive lawsuits for which we, the Florida taxpayers will pay dearly. The only thing left is to ask Governor Scott for a veto.  The ethical, legal, and financial risks of this bill are too great.  Please urge Governor Scott to veto HB 7069, to truly hold students harmless from retention until the test is truly independently validated, and to deal with testing as was recommended in the HB 877 (Mayfield)/ SB 1450 (Bullard) or HB 1121 (Tobia)/SB 1496 (Evers). You may reach the governor by email or at 850-488-7146.


Final House Debate
The bill does a few good things. It does reduce some testing.  It gets rid of the eleventh grade English test, which was largely superfluous and not even required by No Child Left Behind; makes the PERT college entrance test optional, and eliminates the local end of course exams (EOCs) in every course and every grade, which should have never have been put into statute in the first place, particularly for younger children. Chairman Legg should be commended for getting rid of the requirement in previous versions for only the highly subjective, computer-adaptive FAIR reading test for grades K-3 and the subjective, psychologically invasive Pearson Work Sampling System for kindergarten instead of local and teacher derived assessments. The Senate bill also walks back some of the damaging third grade retention language from the House bill, but certainly not all of it.
However, HB 7069 does nothing to deal with the two most critical education issues facing our state.  It does nothing to walk back the academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, psychologically manipulative Common Core/Florida Standards.  Even Senator Hays much appreciated amendment dealing with standards was rejected by Senator Legg and the leadership.  The amendment required, instead of currently leaving optional the critically important teaching of America's Founding principles and other vitally important historical information about American exceptionalism, the Holocaust, etc. listed in statute 1003.42, the teaching of which is being lost through the radical religious and historical revisionism of the Common Core's English literacy standards for social studies.  These social studies literacy standards are what is leading to the radical AP US history guidelines being fought all over the nation.
 The key issue related to testing is holding students, teachers, and schools accountable to life changing decisions based on invalid tests.  Our summaries explain Senator Hays excellent original amendment after Senator Simmons' very good and important questions, the dilution of that amendment by leadership during the Appropriations Committee hearing, efforts to re-strengthen the amendment on the Senate floor and the thwarting of those efforts in final debate.

The final House debate was mostly a formality. The final vote was 105 6.  As in the Senate, all of the "no" votes were by Democrats Pafford, Pritchett, Richardson, Rodriguez, Stafford, and Watson. Here are some important highlights.

Education Committee Chairwoman Marlene O'Toole admitted during final House debate that the validity language in the Senate bill did not protect third grade students from retention by an invalid test when she said starting at 6:24:

It requires third grade students who receive scores in the bottom quintile of 2014-15 ELA assessments to be identified as at risk of retention.  Until the validity of the assessments is confirmed, these students will receive intensive instruction and support. Members! Members! To be clear, this does not restore social promotion.  Scores will be linked and the third grade retention policy was not changed. (Emphasis added).
During debate several statements were made in an effort to "be clear and set the record straight." While the desire appears to be to take heat off of the commissioner and the Department for all of the problems with validity and the rollout, these cannot go without a response
First, in response to the validity concern, it was said, "All assessments including the FSA go through multiple independent third party analyses."
If that was the case, then where are those analyses? Dr. Effrem's testimony starting at (5:02:11) for the Senate Appropriations Committee documented the lack of evidence of validity before the test administration gathered by researchers, teachers, experts, and education officials in two states that caused the validity amendment language in the first place:
In addition, the Department of Education has admitted that the validity of the FCAT, the scores ofwhich they are temporarily tying highschool grauation decisions are not all that valid either:

Less strong is the empirical evidence for extrapolation and implication. This is due in part to the absence of criterion studies. Because an ideal criterion for the FCAT 2.0 or EOC assessments probably cannot be found, empirical evidence for the extrapolation argument may need to come from several studies showing convergent validity evidence. Further studies are also needed to verify some implication arguments. This is especially true for the inference that the state's accountability program is making a positive impact on student proficiency and school accountability without causing unintended negative consequences. (Emphasis added)

Secondly, in response to the very valid concern that the FSA was field tested in Utah with a very different demographic group using the Utah test, it was said, "Florida educators and Department staff were closely involved in all test development activities throughout the entire process from the development to administration to ensure that questions meet Florida's quality standards, reflect community standards, and are free from any type of bias."
  • That statement has nothing to change the frequently documented and repeated statements that the test was in fact field tested in Utah, including testimony (starting at 56:00) by the commissioner
Senator Simmons: Were they Florida students?
Commissioner Stewart:  That I can answer, no they were not.
Senator Simmons:  They were not Florida students?
Commissioner Stewart:  That's correct.
Senator Simmons: Are these the Utah students
Commissioner Stewart:  Yes Utah students did to experience these some of these questions and it was field-tested there.
  • Here is information from the Utah legislative website showing that Florida rented test questions from Utah at a cost of an additional $16.2 million, which is on top of the $220 million main contract:
The State of Florida has requested to use Utah's SAGE (Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence) test questions for the next three years.  Florida is in the process of developing an online computer-adaptive assessment system similar to SAGE and will use Utah's questions until their system is fully developed.  Utah and Florida are using the same contractor, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), to assist in the development of both systems...Through the agreement, Utah will provide AIR with the rights to use the Utah owned questions in Florida.  Utah will receive $1.50 per student for each question used in Florida.  Based on current estimates, Utah may receive approximately $5.4 million a year, or $16.2 million over the three-year contract.
Finally, this legislator discussed "the claim that students were told that they were not allowed to discuss the test with their parents." The response was, "The test administration script does not say anything about parents.  Students are only prohibited from revealing specific details about test items. And Members, this helps maintain the validity of the test, something I think we are all concerned about."
Here is the relevant part of the letter that parents of third grade students received regarding the FSA testing procedures:

There are two major problems with this approach.  First, while the legislator is technically correct that parents are not mentioned, the document clearly says, "After the test, you may not reveal details about the passages or items to anyone." (Emphasis added). The clear meaning of "anyone" would include parents.  We have reports of many teachers saying to students that this does include parents.  This is creating great stress and anxiety in especially younger children who are conflicted between honoring the two major authority figures in their lives.
Secondly, the "testing agreement" is for all intents and purposes a contract that every student taking the test must sign.  This cannot work because minors cannot enter into binding contracts.  This is another extremely serious legal issue raised by the FSA and its implementation.
Although some superintendents and education leaders have expressed support of some provisions of the bill, it is no wonder that all of the comments on Speaker Crisafulli's Facebook page from parents are and have remained negative:

Today, the Florida House sent priority Work Plan 2015 school testing reform legislation to Governor Scott for his...

Posted by Steve Crisafulli on Thursday, April 9, 2015

The ethical, legal, and financial risks of this bill are too great.  Please urge Governor Scott to veto HB 7069, to truly hold students harmless from retention until the test is truly independently validated, and to deal with testing as was recommended in HB 877 (Mayfield)/ SB 1450 (Bullard) or HB 1121 (Tobia)/SB 1496 (Evers). You may reach the governor by email or at 850-488-7146.

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