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DeSantis Wants To Drop Most Of Florida's Standardized Tests

DeSantis stands at a podium.
Wilfredo Lee
AP Photo
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaks alongside state legislators, parents and educators, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.

How Florida assesses K-12 students' academic progress may be changing. Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to eliminate most of the state's standardized tests, called Florida Standards Assessments (FSA). Instead, the state would rely on progress monitoring.

Ending FSA will be one of the governor's priorities for the 2022 legislative session. He says the tests are outdated. Students take the exams at the end of the year. Results often come back after school is out—rendering them mostly moot.

The state saw a decrease in student math and reading scores during the pandemic. And the lag time in receiving test results only sped up the state's decision to get rid of the FSA's says State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

"One of the silver linings of COVID was when we shut down the schools, and we got rid of the FSA for the remainder of the school year, because that's what we did, what we noticed by looking at the progress monitoring—something that's done in every single school district—we looked at the progress monitoring data because that's what we still had and what we noticed was as the governor said—that the FSA is kind of antiquated," Corcoran says.

By contrast, says DeSantis, progress monitoring can be done three times a year.

"It gives the ability to have timely data during the school year so you can make the necessary corrections," DeSantis says.

The Florida Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union, has long pushed to drop standardized testing. And the governor's announcement is a win, says union President Andrew Spar.

"We literally are eliminating a test, and we're not replacing it with something. We're actually just going to use what we're already doing," Spar says.

Spar says progress monitoring allows educators to focus on student growth, and his group wants to make sure that's what the state focuses on too.

"And that's why we're going to have a dialogue with the Department of Education, the Commissioner of Education, and lawmakers to make sure as we look at how progress monitoring is used as part of the accountability system, that it's done so in the best possible of ways," Spar says.

Still, the "win" comes with a catch. Education Commissioner Corcoran says Florida would have the exact same accountability system it has now when it drops FSA, meaning there will still be school and district grades, teacher evaluations tied to student progress, and the system that's in place for addressing failing and low performing schools. Spar says that leaves a lot of questions to be answered.

"So realistically, it's going to be how are we going to measure students at the end of the year and convert that into a measurement in which we grade schools, talk about student promotion, and talk about teacher evaluations," Spar says.

For now, teachers are hoping to get a seat at the legislative table when discussions begin on how a new assessment system will work.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.