(The Center Square) – Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signed SB 1048 into law, which replaces the Florida Standards Assessment test, the major end-of-year exam students take with a new assessment called Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST).
He announced the new system at Florosa Elementary School in Okaloosa County along with parents and teachers. Okaloosa County was among the first where students attended in-person instruction while students throughout the country were still at home, DeSantis said.
The governor said keeping schools open was “to put our kids first. We have no tolerance for COVID theater in Florida. We are not going to be doing these destructive policies,” referring to other states requiring children to wear masks, get the COVID-19 vaccine or attend virtually as a condition to receive instruction.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr. and Rep. Rene Plasencia, replaces the end-of-year exam with progress monitoring that takes place throughout the year. Currently, students spend weeks preparing to pass the FSA and get their results in the summer after school is out.
Progress monitoring will take place in the fall, winter and spring, which will allow more time for teaching and for parents and teachers to address deficiencies throughout the year, DeSantis said. The change helps students “build a stronger foundation, not just studying weeks to pass a test.”
The change “gives parents more ability to help children improve their learning,” DeSantis said. “There’s not much you can do if you get the results in the summer after the school year is over.”
The FSA covers English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics, and end-of-course subjects. Currently, students in grades 3-10 take the ELA FSA and students in grades 3-8 take the math FSA at the end of the year. Additionally, students take the FSA in science (grades 5 and 8), Algebra 1, Geometry, Biology, U.S. History and Civics.
This school year will be the last year the FSA is administered. Beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, Florida students will take three FAST tests in the same subjects.
The new system “will benefit students, teachers, and parents by allowing for informed instruction in a timely manner, that can be tailored to each student’s individual needs,” DeSantis said.
“This has been the year of the parent, and parents have said that the FSA is not working for their students,” he added. “We heard the call and are replacing it with timely check-ins that show how students progress in real-time. This will inform instruction in the classroom and at home.”
Florida will be the first state to fully implement progress monitoring-based school accountability, he said. The 2022-2023 school year will provide the baseline for school accountability and school grades will resume the following year.
One Florosa Elementary School teacher, Monique Stinson, said, “Days like this are ones that are long awaited by not just educators in Florida but educators everywhere. A chance to do what we know is best for kids.”
The FSA, Stinson said, “determines the next step in students’ careers while completely ignoring every other factor.” In August 2020, she said, only 6% of her students were on grade level.
“At this point, there are only two things for me to fall back on, relationships and progress monitoring. These two things are the things that have carried me through my eight years of teaching no matter which state, district, school or subjects I taught,” she said.
Stinson began sharing the assessment data with her students to help them understand how they needed to improve and taught in ways to address their individual needs. By the time the winter test was taken, 47% of her students were on grade level. They then began to set weekly goals that gave her students the ability to succeed, she said.
“Progress monitoring isn’t just about an assessment three times a year. It’s not about the adults getting together to discuss the data. Progress monitoring is about communicating with all stakeholders, including the child, to create a plan to assist students in closing their learning gaps or accelerate their learning. It allows them to take full ownership of their goals and successes.”
By the spring, 76% of her students had reached proficiency, she said.
The Florida Education Association, however, argues the FSA overhaul “falls far short of what Gov. DeSantis promised before the start of the legislative session. … The bottom line is this: the law does not reduce testing, nor does it eliminate the big end of year test.
“Because this bill deals with progress monitoring from Prekindergarten through tenth grade, it requires even four-year old children to sit in front of a computer and take a statewide, standardized test. This is not what DeSantis promised, and most importantly it is not what is best for Florida’s students.”
The association provided a list of proposed changes to testing requirements. Under the new system, it states there will be “three statewide assessments each in grades 3-10 ELA and grade 3-8 math for a total of six statewide assessments in those subjects. That is in addition to the current statewide assessments in science (grades 5 and 8), Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, United States History and Civics.”
Of the Department of Education’s new system, it argues there’s “absolutely no guarantee that what they implement will result in reduced testing time. In fact, there is every reason to believe students will spend more time testing next school year.”