ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In just weeks, the controversial, stressful, and laborious Florida Standards Assessments will be administered to students in the Sunshine State for the final time.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed SB 1048 — formally called the “Student Assessments” bill — into law, which eliminates the FSA after this school year and replaces them with a progress monitoring system starting in the 2022/23 academic year.
“Today we come, not to praise the FSA, but to bury it,” DeSantis said during a news conference in St. Petersburg.
Critics have long called for an end to the FSA, a multi-day series of high-stakes exams given at the end of every school year to students in third grade and above.
In addition to the stress and pressure it puts on children, the results of the FSA don’t typically come in until the summer, after the school year has ended with little opportunity for remediation, according to parents.
“We as parents don’t get those results until well into summer, which is too late to support any deficits and help our children wherever they may need it,” parent Laney Gibney said Tuesday. “The current testing schedule and environment negatively impacts children’s self esteem, mental health, and access to academic support.”
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Instead, under the new system approved by DeSantis, three rounds of progress monitoring exams will be given throughout the school year to help better track each student’s performance.
Supporters said this will dramatically reduce overall testing time.
The results are promised to come in faster, within two weeks for fall and winter exams, and within a week for the spring tests.
“Instead of having one major test at the end of the year which provided no feedback to students before the summer came, we would do progress monitoring that would monitor progress throughout the school year,” DeSantis said. “It would be shorter, it would be more individualized, and it would provide good feedback for students, for teachers, and for parents.”
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Calling it a “momentous” bill signing, DeSantis said Florida will become the first state in the nation to fully transition to progress monitoring.
“We want the parent to be able to be involved in this, to get that feedback alongside the teacher. And then both can work to help remediate if students, in fact, need that,” DeSantis said.
“It’s much more important to parents, and most importantly, it’s beneficial to students,” said outgoing Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “So in September when they do that initial progress monitoring, they can say, oh, Sally is struggling with conjunctions. We need to really focus with her on conjunctions. It’s very diagnostic and it’s very specific to the child.”
The Florida Education Association, however, is taking issue with the new progress monitoring system, saying in a statement it will not reduce the amount of standardized testing for students, “nor does it eliminate the big make-or-break test at the end of year.”
FEA President Andrew Spar said the bill “fails students” and may add more work for “already overwhelmed teachers.”
“SB 1048 increases the number of statewide assessments administered to students and shifts all current testing that is done with paper and pencil to computer-based testing,” Spar said in a written statement. “Because the bill deals with progress monitoring from prekindergarten through tenth grade, it requires even 4-year-old children to sit in front of a computer and take a statewide, standardized test. This is not what the governor promised, and it is not what is best for Florida’s students.”
Test results from the 2021 FSA and End-Of-Course Exams dropped significantly in math, science, and social studies from two years ago — before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — according to data from the Florida Department of Education.
The Florida Standards Assessments in English language arts, math, and science are scheduled to begin on April 4.