Florida State Board Extremely Selective on Implementation of Testing Law

November, 2015

On October 28th Florida State School Board member Gary Chartrand solemnly intoned to the parents, school board members and superintendents that had traveled from all over the state to Orlando to so eloquently express concerns and to the public watching that the board had no choice. They "were required to follow the law" saying they needed to issue school grades based on the FSA.  This is despite the misalignment between standards & test questions, the FSA being based on the Utah test and SBAC, both of which are completely devoid of validity evidence, the intentional lack of accommodations for special need students, and the myriad technical problems.   Senator John Legg & Representative Marlene O'Toole, who chair their respective education policy committees, have made similar pronouncements.

Their hypocritically selective view of which testing statutes they are supposed to follow is not only frustrating, it is abusive and damaging to the students, teachers and taxpayers of Florida.  Here are two important examples of key statutes requiring reasoned implementation of the new tests that the legislature, the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) and the State Board ignored.

1)Budget Bill Requiring District Readiness to Give Assessments Online [Chapter No. 2013-27, (See enrolled version of SB 1076), lines 2057-2065]
The State Board of Education shall adopt rules establishing an implementation schedule to transition from FCAT Reading, FCAT Writing, FCAT Mathematics, and Algebra I and Geometry EOC assessments to common core assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics. The schedule must take into consideration funding, sufficient field and baseline data, access to assessments, instructional alignment, and school district readiness to administer the common core assessments online.  (Emphasis added).
2)Load Testing Law
[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).
Dozens of superintendents warned that the load testing had failed, that they did not have enough computers, and that they were not ready for the 2015 assessments.  Here are some examples:
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."

The Department of Education completely ignored these and many other concerns in flagrant violation of both of those statutes. So, we find it very difficult to believe that there is urgency to follow the statute regarding the release of school grades before the legislature meets in January.

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