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Consequences Uncertain for First District to Opt Out of State-Required Tests

Two days after a Florida district became the first in the country to say no to all state-mandated tests, it is far from clear what consequences, if any, the school system will suffer as a result of its decision.

The state department of education has stayed curiously mum on the subject, referring calls to Gov. Rick Scott's office. And the Republican governor has been willing to say only this, in an email sent by his staff:

"We are absolutely against federal overreach into our school system and I understand the frustrations of parents in Lee County. Education is best run at the state and local level. That is why we signed a law against national curriculum, got out of PARCC, and created Florida Standards—instead of Common Core. We need to get more information, but Lee County's actions could have serious negative consequences that I am sure they did not intend."

Strong backers of accountability have lamented the decision, saying that standardized tests play a valuable role in reporting on student progress and holding schools responsible for doing their jobs.

This statement, from the Foundation for Excellence in Education, is an example:

"We are deeply disappointed by the Lee County School Board's vote to abandon Florida's academic tests and with it, their responsibility for the success of the community's students," said Patricia Levesque, the CEO of the Florida-based organization founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush. "Not only do these academic checkups provide an honest assessment to parents of how their children are progressing in school, they also prepare students for the future because tests are a part of life."

Levesque went on to suggest that instead of focusing its anger on "a small number of state tests which which actually provide taxpayers and the public with some meaningful measure of how schools and districts are performing across the state," the district should review the time it makes its students spend on locally administered tests.

"Last year, the county required more than 160 tests over and above state required assessments," Levesque said. "A better choice would be focusing on fewer and better tests in their own community instead of using the state as a scapegoat."

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