Local education officials to state: Give us time to absorb changes to new test

Katherine Rosenberg, (@NaplesEducation)

Crying fits, nose bleeds and vomit — Brevard County teacher Patricia Crutcher has seen the physical effects that anxiety from high stakes testing can have on her students.

Crutcher used part of her spring break to drive to Tallahassee to paint that image for members of the Florida House of Representatives’ Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and to speak against House Bill 7117, which later passed. Along with its companion, Senate Bill 1642, HB 7117 is proposed legislation that would establish a one-year period without repercussions for school districts as they transition away from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to a recently selected state assessment. The new test will debut in classrooms in the 2014-15 school year and it is generally expected that scores will drop across the board, because students have never been exposed to it and because it is meant to be more difficult than the FCAT.

The bills were based in part on recommendations made by Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, as she was in the process of selecting a testing company to create a new Florida assessment for the Florida standards. In March, Stewart selected not-for-profit developer American Institutes for Research, or AIR, for a $220 million, six-year contract with the state.

Legislators considering the “hold harmless” bills have heard from stakeholders including teachers like Crutcher who say any type of high stakes testing is harmful, and groups like the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, that say one year isn’t enough time and are asking for a longer transition period in which they aren’t held accountable for scores on relatively new standards.

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(Katherine Rosenberg is a Naples-based reporter for the Naples Daily News)

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