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Florida Halts State Reading Tests for Grades K-2

Florida has suspended its online reading test for children in grades kindergarten through 2, deciding instead to have its teachers size up their students' reading abilities through observation.

The decision came in a memo from Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to district superintendents on Monday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Criticism of the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading, or FAIR, mounted in recent months, sparked in part by one Alachua County kindergarten teacher's public refusal to give the test to her students. The tests are given three times a year to gauge students' progress, but don't carry any consequences for students, the Times said.

The online assessment used to be given with paper and pencil, but since it went online this year, it's been plagued with technological problems. That was the reason cited for the test's suspension, although teachers have argued that it isn't developmentally appropriate for young children and have complained that it eats up too much classroom time, according to the Gainesville Sun.

"With the implementation of new technology this year related to FAIR in grades K-2, some districts have experienced challenges,"  Joe Follick, Department of Education communications director, wrote in an emailed statement. "The technology issue only affected the K-2 FAIR assessments. Because of this technological glitch and based on the input of superintendents, Commissioner Stewart took action on this matter."

Anti-testing sentiment has been on the rise in Florida; Lee County became the first district in the country to opt out of all state-mandated testing, although it rescinded that decision less than a week later and is now studying its options. A handful of other Florida districts are reportedly studying ways they can ease their state testing burdens as well.

Some superintendents are starting to express opposition to adding more tests for the sole purpose of creating data to use in teacher evaluations, the Times reported. Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for re-election, has called for an examination of the state's standardized testing program.

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