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Senate passes testing and accountability bill

Today the Florida Senate passed House Bill 7069 (Senate Bill 616) with a 32-4 vote. This highly debated bill calls for a reduction of state testing requirements and increased transparency in regard to time spent testing across the state.

The bill will:

  • Eliminate the 11th grade Florida Standards Assessment for English Language Arts
  • Prohibit a local assessment from being administered when a statewide standardized test is required for that subject area and grade level
  • Remove the mandate for locally administered end-of-course exams
  • Establish a 5% cap on the total school hours during which statewide assessments and district-required local assessments can be administered, per student, per school year
  • Decrease the amount of a teacher's performance evaluation, which is tied to student performance, adjusting the measure from approximately 50% to a third of the evaluation.
  • Promote transparency with the requirement of a published uniform calendar of testing by the state and by school districts and a timely reporting of assessment results within 30 days of test administration.

One of the most talked about provisions, however, were amendments, which passed with the bill today, will delay the release of school grades and the use of student performance data for evaluation purposes if an independent, third-party committee determines the new Florida statewide assessment is invalid. The committee has a deadline of September 1st to complete the independent review of validity for the assessment. This addition of a review of validity was largely in response to technical challenges with the implementation of the computer-based FSA writing assessment last month and growing concern about the new assessment currently being administered in grades 3-10 across the state.

Another adopted amendment allows for the school year to start no earlier than August 10th, which removes the school start date from being tied to Labor Day as was the case in previous school years.

There are still many lingering around the impact of this bill as it now moves back to the Florida House for review.

One question we have is in regard to the measurement of learning gains. Although ensuring test validity before using the results for accountability purposes is a step in the right direction, the measurement of learning gains still needs to be addressed. If the independent review committee determines that the FSAs themselves and their administration are valid and accurately measure what they say they do, it does not necessarily tell how well the FSA correlates with the FCAT 2.0 for predicting learning gains. This is an issue that will still need to be discussed as learning gains are a factor in the school grades as well as teacher evaluations.

Keep checking back here for more updates as this and other bills continue moving through this busy and critical legislative session. You can learn more about the testing issue in our new white paper here.

And don't forget - you can make your voice heard to lawmakers! Now is the time to tell House members especially your views on this issue. Use this easy tool to get started.

-- Kelly Scott