High-Stakes Testing Overload about to Sink our Public Schools!

Former SAIL High School Principal of 32 years, Rosanne Wood, holds a sign outside of the Jeb Bush Education Summit at the FSU Alumni Center on Tuesday displaying the state’s standardized test schedule for Florida students with 154 out of 180 school days scheduled for mandated testing. Joe Rondone/ Tallahassee Democrat

Children are stressed out and parents are m ad enough to want their children to “Opt-Out” of all high-stakes testing. Frustrated teachers are leaving the profession and superintendents are demanding real change.  Lawmakers: how about some real relief?

Florida schools are about to hit the big testing/school grades accountability iceberg this spring. Why?  This year, instead of FCAT, all 3rd-11th grade students will be taking brand new tests on the extremely challenging Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), aka, Common Core Standards. Third graders who don’t score well on reading will be retained and high school students who don’t pass will not graduate. Schools will receive A-F school grades based on these scores.

Not to worry—districts have been assured by DOE that the scores will be “normed” (manipulated) to match last year’s scores. Somehow, that gives little comfort

Here’s a sample 3rd grade math problem A bakery uses 48 pounds of flour each day. It orders flour every 28 days. Create an equation that shows how many pounds of flour the bakery
needs to order every 28 days.

Any wonder many parents are having trouble helping their children with homework?

There are now 154 of the 180 days on the Florida State Testing Calendar devoted to a variety of required state assessments in grades K-12 that effect schools’ grades. Any wonder that schools are spending more and more time prepping and practicing for these tests?

Some in the Florida Legislature claim that school districts are at fault for so much testing. I find it incredible that the very folks who built the iceberg are seeking to blame the looming shipwreck on the victims.

To make matters worse, schools also have to implement Florida Statute 1012.34– requiring 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on “rigorous” tests for every subject/course taught. So, at great expense, school districts have been scrambling to create over 1200 tests on courses not covered by the required Florida Standards Assessments, FSA. These district assessments must cover quite the spectrum including art, physical ed., drama and guidance counselors.  By law, elementary students must take 6-7 end-of-course tests to prove their teachers did a good enough job to be eligible for a performance bonus.

The Legislature should deep-six the teacher performance pay law, NOW, and let principals do their jobs. What if FSU’s President Thrasher called the plays and picked the players from the sky-box instead of Jimbo Fisher on the field?

The fans would never stand for it. Neither should we.

Those closest to the action (principals) should pick their team (teachers), evaluate their contributions and be held accountable for their performance by Superintendents.  No federal or state interference (or high paid testing companies) needed—please.

The Florida Senate recently asked for a full accounting of how much testing is going on in Florida’s public schools. (Didn’t they know?) It reminds me of Captain Renault’s line in Casablanca, “Rick, I’m shocked, shocked that there’s gambling going on in this place.”

Jeb Bush’s Foundation of “‘Excellence” now wants “fewer better” tests while maintaining the same basic framework of school grades and teacher performance pay. These are the very “reforms” that have disrupted meaningful teaching and learning under the guise of accountability. Placating the parents without drastic changes to the high-stakes accountability system is merely rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. The iceberg cometh!

Seriously, if we want our public schools to be beehives of joy and learning, where teachers support each other to make sure that every student is challenged and honored, we need drastic changes in our laws and accountability system.

Meanwhile, the Legislature should at least listen to the state superintendents. As Escambia Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said, “The state of Florida is over-testing our students and it is too soon to use the new Florida Standards Assessment as an accountability tool. The state needs to use common sense and not use an assessment system that has so many unknown aspects in a way that could hurt our students, our teachers, or our schools.”  

Amen and pass the biscuits.

Same article (shortened) published on 2/12/15 in the Tallahassee Democrat.


Stress Rolls DownhillHeading Straight for the Testing Iceberg

Published by Rosanne Wood, Leon County School Board Member

Rosanne Wood was elected to the Leon County School Board, District 2 on August 30, 2016. She was a founding teacher and served as the principal of the award winning SAIL High School in Tallahassee, Florida for 32 years.

8 thoughts on “High-Stakes Testing Overload about to Sink our Public Schools!

  1. Impressive post. Keep ’em coming. I taught in Florida for nine years and continue to support literacy in schools there. This post is making a difference. Thank you!

  2. I completely agree that too much precious instructional time is being wasted in testing and test prep. My children attend school in North Carolina. In grade school, they would spend 7 weeks at the end of each year prepping and taking the End of Grade tests. These EOG’s were useless. My children didn’t learn from them, and they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. My children could have stopped going to school 7 weeks before the last day of the year, and they wouldn’t have missed anything. That’s absurd.

  3. Your “viewpoint” in the Pensacola News Journal today accurately describes some damage being done to our public school system by the expansion of testing. Thank you for correctly placing the responsibility for the damage where it belongs…on the politicians! Yes parents are angry, students are stressed, and the best teachers are leaving the profession in droves. My wife and I are both retired teachers and our two children both planned to become teachers but changed their minds because of the “madness” they saw and experienced.
    Another less obvious unintended consequence is the loss of electives and enrichment programs for the achievers. I was a music teacher and a wise principal once told me that any subject that is not included on “the test” will become less relevant. A study in 1988 by Madaus confirmed this by finding that “in every setting where a high-stakes test operates, the exam content eventually defines the curriculum.” Even where electives like music, art, and creative writing, among others still exist, schools often use them as a pull out, remediation time so the students get little benefit from the elective. So much time, energy, and money is invested in programs for the “lower quartile” programs for high achievers are often diminished. These might not be as obvious as some of the damages you correctly identified, but they are serious problems created and perpetuated by testing!
    Thank you again for your well written “viewpoint”. Let’s hope the ones who created the problems will finally take steps to fix them. Good first steps…”deep six the teacher performance pay law”, get the government out of the schools, and LISTEN TO EDUCATORS!!!!
    Joe Hooten

  4. Heads up! This topic will be discussed today on “The Diane Reihm Show” on NPR today (2.18). In Tallahassee that’s 11 a.m. on 88.9 FM.

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