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Florida Looks To Utah As A Guide When It Comes To AIR Test

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says the American Institutes for Research or A-I-R will design the exams replacing Florida’s outgoing Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Getting lost  in the transition is the ability to compare Florida public school kids with their counterparts in other states. Still, Florida can at least look to Utah as it’s guide.

A-I-R based exams will be appearing before Florida kids in the Spring of 2015 but kids in Utah are already taking tests designed by the company. Utah partnered with A-I-R last year after pulling away from the common core aligned Smarter Balanced consortium—a counterpart to the one Florida was in, which is called PARCC.

Utah was an early adopter of Smarter Balanced, much like Florida was the lead agent for PARCC, but Utah pulled out of the consortium last year. Utah Associate Superintendent Judi Park says even though A-I-R has done work for Smarter Balanced, that’s not trickling down to Utah students:

“In Utah, we develop all out own testing questions using our own educators, our own stakeholders, our own expertise. We’ve always had a contractor that assists us with that process.” 

Utah did as Florida is doing now and tweaked its standards, though both are still based on common core. One thing Utah is losing is the ability to compare its students with those in other states.  Florida Department of Education Chancellor Pam Stewart admitted as much during Tuesday’s State Board of Education meeting, but also said there could be a way.

“AIR has provided us with options for making state comparisons. How many states and which states is still to be determined. And when I know that information, I will share it,” she told the board.

Florida had signed on with a coalition of states for the common-core aligned PARCC exams but rejected the tests late last year amid growing backlash to the standards.

A-I-R exams have been field-tested in Utah, and Florida Department of Education Chancellor Pam Stewart has said the work already done in that state is fine for Florida students.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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