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Fla. Senate OKs Testing Reduction; State Common-Core Exam's Validity Questioned

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is well-known for saying, as justification for the testing and accountability system he helped create in the Sunshine State, "What gets measured gets done." But this month, the Florida Senate has approved a bill that would reduce testing's footprint for the state's students.

On April 3, senators voted to place a 45-hour cap on the amount of time students could spend on state-authorized, standardized tests every year. And it also eliminates the 11th grade test in language arts, which in February GOP Gov. Rick Scott suspended for this year. The Associated Press reported that the bill also eliminates some tests designed to help evaluate teachers. (I wrote about a testing-reduction plan by Sen. John Legg, the chairman of the Senate education committee, back in February.)

There's been significant pushback building against standardized tests over the last several months in Florida. GOP Sen. Tom Lee captured many of the frustrations expressed by critics of the state's regimen of tests by blasting not just the test, but those who support them. 

"I'm done with the testing program in the state of Florida. I'm done with the accountability system. Whoever those people are out there, from whatever foundation they may be from, whatever testing groups they may be supporting, I'm over you. You've lost my confidence."

Here's a video of him excoriating the state's testing system:

Lee said those who support the current testing system "don't have a shred of common sense left." The reason? Lee argued it's not fair to force students to take a test in order to measure teachers and schools as part of a testing regimen that has become a "behemoth."

Last month, the Florida House approved its own testing-reduction bill that may ultimately become part of legislation that's sent to Scott for his signature. Among other provisions, the House bill bars the use of final exams for courses in which students already take end-of-course tests. 

That's not the only testing issue roiling the waters in Florida. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the same testing-reduction bill approved by the state Senate would also suspend the state's A-F accountability system until an independent study of the Florida Standards Assessment, the state's brand newexam that's aligned to the Common Core State Standards, is completed. (Last year, the state agreed to still report A-F school grades for the 2014-15 school year, but suspend any associated consequences for schools.) The start of the exam was marred by technical problems and clearly officials are worried that school grades may be impacted. 

Some background on the FSA test: Originally, Florida had planned to administer the common-core test from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) until 2013, when Scott required the state to begin looking for a new testing provider. Eventually, in 2014, the state selected the American Institutes for Research to develop its new common-core exam, and gave it a six-year, $220 million contract to do so. The Florida Standards Assessment is the result.  

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