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Florida Votes to Cut Tests, Lower Exams' Weight in Teacher Evaluations

UPDATED

The Florida Legislature has agreed to scale back testing's footprint in schools, after it approved House Bill 7069 on April 9 and sent it to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. The Florida House passed a version of the legislation that had already been given the go-ahead by the Senate. UPDATED: Scott signed the bill into law on April 14, according to the Associated Press. 

Among other key provisions, the bill caps the amount of testing in a school year at 45 hours, eliminates the state's 11th grade exam in language arts (which Scott, a Republican, had suspended via an executive order earlier this year), and reduces the weight of student performance on tests from 50 percent to one-third of teachers' evaluations. It also gets rid of the state's Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, a college-placement exam.

In addition, the bill requires an independent panel to assess the validity of the new Florida Standards Assessment, the new state exam aligned to the Common Core State Standards, and whether scores from the test can be used to determine school performance on the state's signature A-F accountability system. Remember, last year, the state suspended sanctions tied to A-F school grades for the 2014-15 school year, although the grades themselves will still be reported for this year. 

The passage of the bill is the culmination of months of pressure in Florida to reduce the amount of testing, as well as to reduce the role of tests in accountability policies, at least temporarily. Last year, for example, the state's Lee County district became the first in the nation to opt out of administering state exams, a decision that school board members later reversed.

In addition the bill:

• Requires a uniform assessment calendar to be used by schools

• Allows districts flexibility in measuring student performance in subjects for which there is no state exam

• Bars schools from administering final exams in courses for which there are already standardized end-of-course tests

The bill passed the House overwhelmingly by a 105-6 vote, Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel reported. 

The Foundation for Florida's Future, a K-12 advocacy group founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who instituted a new regimen of standardized tests in the state as well as A-F accountability, praised the bill's passage, saying in a statement that, "Florida lawmakers have shown it's possible to achieve fewer, better tests while continuing to measure student success."

The Florida Education Association was more measured in its praise. FEA President Andy Ford said in a statement that while the bill "does reduce a small amount of standardized testing" and gives test scores a more appropriate weight in teacher evaluations, there are still too many tests in Florida schools, and that they are primarily used by adults to evaluate teachers and schools, but not enough to help students.

Read the full bill below:


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