Testing in our schools

One of the most frequent concerns we hear from parents and teachers is about testing in our schools. Our children take too many tests, and the stakes placed on those tests are too high. PTA advocates at the national, state and district level to reduce the number of tests our children are subject to, minimize the high stakes placed on those tests, and make sure families are informed about testing.

In order to better understand why our children take so many tests, it’s helpful to the reasons why.

National Testing Requirements (ESSA)
While standardized tests have been around for decades, the increased frequency and  high stakes originated with the federal government’s passing of No Child Left Behind in 2001. That act was reinstated in 2015 as ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). While testing was decreased somewhat through ESSA, it is still required yearly beginning in grade three. States have more flexibility now to determine what type of tests the students take and the way those tests are used.

State Testing Requirements
Florida statues require that students take the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) in grades 3 – 10. Students are also required to take certain end of course exams (EOC’s) in some grades and subjects. Districts must administer these tests in order to meet some graduation requirements, and to receive funding from the state.

The FSA is meant to measure students’ knowledge of the Florida Standards (required by the state), also known as common core. These standards determine what each student is supposed to learn in each grade.

District Testing Requirements
The state also requires that districts monitor progress and capture additional data, leading districts to have to implement additional tests on their own. In Alachua County, these district tests are called AIMS. and are administered each year for every subject. In addition to that, some courses require additional tests, such as for advanced placement. Coming soon: more information about how AIMS tests are used, and a full schedule of all tests administered in Alachua County.

View the 2018/2019 district progression plan here, which explains what is required for a student to progress to each grade.

High Stakes Testing
A large component of the accountability system in Florida includes using standardized tests to evaluate and measure school districts, administrators, teachers and students. The FSA is a major component of school grades, which can now make a difference between a school staying open or being closed or turned over to a external operator. Tests are also used as part of teacher evaluations, and four state-required tests are a graduation component for students in high school.

ACCPTA does not believe that standardized tests should be used for high stakes decisions such as is currently being done in our state. We believe in more authentic methods of holding our schools accountable that allow for flexibility, teacher autonomy and consideration of the whole child.

Third Grade FSA
After learning about the extreme anxiety that accompanies the FSA for third graders in our community, ACCPTA advocated for a change in the district communication that is distributed to families and created this flier for schools to distribute to help explain the process.

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