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Florida to Review K-12 Testing Amid Growing Political Anxiety

After a year in which Florida became a focal point for a national debate about testing, state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced Dec. 22 that her department will study how many tests are given in Florida public schools and how they're used.

In addition, Stewart said that the state will create a new commission to reevaluate the state's approach to recommending instructional materials, and study its academic standards and how schools are implementing them.

The commissioner's announcement came two weeks after Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, a Republican, sent Stewart a letter in which he said that he's particularly concerned about advocates for accountability in the state who are worried about schools' testing load. In the letter, Gaetz asked Stewart and her department to do the following:

• "Evaluate tests required by the Department or the Board, including the array of state-required and authorized optional scores, assessments, courses, and programs that are currently available to students as substitutions to meet state requirements."

• "Fully explore and use options available through Florida's ESEA [the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act] waiver flexibilities, DOE's contracting authority, the Commissioner's planning and scheduling authority, and other statutorily-authorized means to relieve pressures placed upon Florida's students and families."

(Gaetz doesn't specifically mention English-language learners, but on the same day of Stewart's announcement about a review of testing, Florida received flexibility from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the testing of ELL students, as my colleague Corey Mitchell reported.)

Sen. John Legg, the chairman of the state Senate education committee, is also interested in reducing standardized testing without abandoning the state's accountability system, Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this month.  

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