Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that ends Florida Statewide Assessments. This FSA testing is performed annually at the end of each school year. DeSantis has actively been working to end them in favor of more individualized progress monitoring throughout the year.
He traveled to St. Petersburg Collegiate High School to celebrate this legislative measure. He got up to give a speech before students and teachers, proud to end FSA testing, and declared, “If you look at all that we’ve done in education over the last three years, four years, it’s been huge, over this session, there are things being done that nobody’s even noticed.”
The podium held a sign that said, “Florida the Education State.” It set the tone for his speech, where DeSantis directly addressed his concerns over the state of public education and FSA testing. He stated, “Today, we come to not praise the FSA but to bury it,” and then went on to explain, “We are here today with legislative leaders to eliminate the FSA from the state of Florida. Six months ago I announced a legislative proposal to replace the FSA with progress monitoring. Instead of having one major test at the very end of the year, which provided no feedback to students before the summer came, we would do progress monitoring that would monitor progress through the school year. It would be shorter, it would be individualized, it would provide good feedback for students, for teachers, and for parents.”
Commissioner Richard Corcoran was mentioned for bringing attention to the need for changes regarding FSA testing, and Governor DeSantis also mentioned how these kinds of assessments only encourage children to “study for weeks,” to get “all the marbles on the last test” before breaking for the summer.
This sentiment doesn’t stop and start with FSA testing. Across the nation, other districts utilize similar assessments that are just as concerning for students, teachers, and parents. In many states, the Measures of Academic Progress tests, also known as MAP testing host a similar structure as FSA testing does. Whatever the name, or the acronym, they become the main focus of public schools across the nation toward the end of the school year. Students are encouraged to study and cram until they finally take these tests, and they are so demanding that their validity has been a cause of complaint for some time now.
FSA testing and all assessments of this kind have been known to mainly determine which students are good at taking tests instead of indicating their level of understanding. There is no known link to high test scores leading to future successes in life. Most adults are not offered career positions or pay raises on test-taking skills. Furthermore, teachers themselves often express that low test scores penalize educators who are often following the curriculum given to them and that the results should not reflect on them poorly.
Because this has been a point of contention for some time, DeSantis has sought to seek a different path. His new initiative is focused on less pressuring practices that focus on monitoring progress throughout many periods of the school year, thus hopefully relaying a more realistic measurement of what students are learning. He went on to appeal to parents who have witnessed the effects of FSA testing with his hopes for the new system, “By eliminating FSA and transitioning to progress monitoring, we are really going to help bolster the conversations between parents and teachers so they can work together to make sure our kids succeed.”
The debate over whether or not standardized assessments like FSA testing truly benefit students and their learning process has raged on for decades. For years students’ progress has been measured by a single end-of-year test score, and teachers have been directed to teach only what material will be on the test, further narrowing their ability to impart knowledge on an individualized level.
DeSantis looked forward to a year without FSA testing, and said, “Next year, Florida will become the first state in the nation to do a full transition to progress monitoring to inform school accountability. The 2022-2023 school year will serve as a new baseline for school accountability. A ‘hold harmless’ transition year, and school grades will resume the following year.” The removal of FSA testing will serve as an example to public schools across the nation. How students, teachers, and parents adjust is of much interest and has the potential to lay a new foundation for how children’s progress is measured and encouraged.