A bill that would allow school districts to opt to take other tests instead of the recently-adopted Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) isn’t finding much love in the Orlando area.
The bill is SB-1360, and it’s the latest in the battleground over standardized testing in Florida. If it is passed, it proposes to allow districts, parents and students to opt for “rigorous alternative assessments” such as the SAT or the ACT over the currently mandated FSA test, which was widely panned for a shaky start-up last year, riddled with technological glitches.
The measure was introduced by Niceville Republican Don Gaetz , who has said it is “not the bill” for those who don’t want an assessment for students. He just wants school districts to be able to choose a “nationally validated, well recognized, statistically reliable” exam like the SAT or the ACT over the problematic FSA. It’s based on the “Seminole Solution,” a push by the Seminole County School District for more options for standardized testing, according to Gaetz’s comment in an Orlando Sentinel article.
Filed Jan. 5, the bill is currently still circulating in the Senate. In Orlando, it has found only opposition thus far from those invested in education.
Cindy Hamilton is a former teacher herself and currently the leader of Opt Out Orlando, a Facebook group where opponents of the FSA voice concerns and attempt to change the education system. She said she is not supporting SB-1360.
“We are not supporting this,” she wrote in a Facebook message. “It is the continued misuse of a test and leaves all of the high stakes in place. The stakes are what changes everything in our classrooms. This Bill also does not have a companion Bill in the House and will die without it. We will have to watch for bits and pieces to show up in other legislation.”
Opt Out Orlando’s position is that the FSA is too high-stakes, and penalizes children too harshly. They don’t want a complete removal of standardized tests, Hamilton says — they just want more control over their children’s educations, and less reliance on only one source to grade their kids. They want multiple ways to assess their children’s abilities.
Meanwhile, Shari Bobinski, Senior Media Relations Manager with the OCPS, said OCPS would not be diverting from the FSA because of this bill. Instead, they want it to go further.
“That sounds like the ‘Seminole Solution,’ I’ve heard it termed,” she wrote in an email. “OCPS is not following in the same direction. However, we do support Seminole and other districts’ desire to come up with an alternative.”
Bobinski said Superintendent Barbara Jenkins supports “a comprehensive review of the entire state accountability system.”
Jenkins is the president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. Last September, they issued a news release saying they had “lost confidence in the current accountability system for the students of the State of Florida.”
It goes on to decry the rollout of the FSA as “rushed and flawed administration of new, untried assessments,” and states that the FADSS is ready to work with the state to overhaul the accountability system in Florida schools.