In the fight surrounding standardized testing, Gov. Rick Scott may prove to be an ally to activists.
A press release sent out by the governor’s office Feb. 18 outlined Scott’s plan to issue an executive action reducing the number of tests students in Florida are required to take.
“It’s important to measure students’ progress and achievements, but we must not lose sight of our goal to provide every student with the very best education,” Scott said in the release.
The executive action would suspend the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) exam for all 11th grade English students.
Subsequent legislation would eliminate progress-monitoring requirements, make certain exams optional and reassess how to evaluate teachers in public schools, according to Scott and education commissioner Pam Stewart.
Students and education professionals in north central Florida are feeling the pressure of excessive testing. Marion County public schools superintendent George Tomyn said he thinks the state depends too much on standardized testing.
Tomyn said he thinks the executive action and legislation are good choices for the future of education in the state.
“We are essentially punishing students by using one test,” he said. “They were never meant to be an evaluative tool.”
Assessments in Florida, such as the FCAT and later the FSA, were originally used as prescriptive tests, according to Tomyn.
He proposes other methods to track student and teacher progress, such as portfolios of student work.
“We are in favor of accountability,” he said, “but a school system is not like a business. We don’t take a natural resource and turn it into a product. We work with students, but they achieve at different levels.”
Students in Florida high schools are expected to complete classroom tests, end of course exams, state assessments and additional tests for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.
Cary Emerson and Haley MacCallum are 11th graders at Santa Fe High School in High Springs. The two students said they have felt the strain of required testing.
MacCallum said she thinks the pressure negatively affects teachers.
“I would like to see more teachers actually being able to teach and not have to follow the curriculum so strictly,” she said.
Emerson agreed and said she is concerned that students are overwhelmed.
“Those alternative tests, such as AP exams, are still measuring what the student knows and has learned in his or her classes, so why is there a need for multiple assessments?”