The superintendent of the nation’s fourth largest school district, Alberto Carvalho of Miami-Dade public schools in Florida, just announced what he called “the most aggressive decommissioning of testing in the state of Florida, if not in the country.” He said on Thursday that he was cutting the number of district-developed end-of-course exams from 300 to 10 — including all for elementary school — to “restore teaching time” and “respect the educational environment.”
Other districts in Florida are doing the same thing, a reaction to a new law signed last week by Gov. Rick Scott, which was meant to reduce the number of standardized tests given to students. The law was seen as a response to a parent- and educator-led anti-standardized testing movement in the state, part of a movement to protest excessive high-stakes standardized testing that has led to continuous test prep and a narrowing of curriculum.
Florida has been at the forefront of the rise of high-stakes standardized testing, with former governor Jeb Bush instituting test-based accountability system when he was governor from 1999-2007. With Bush expected to announce that he is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, anything that affects his legacy has resonance beyond the state.
The Florida law eliminated the 11th grade English Language Arts exam (already suspended by Scott earlier in the school year), and gave districts leeway to get rid of others — which is what is happening now. The law also reduced the weight of student test scores on teacher evaluations, from 50 percent to a third, and mandated that a commission assess the validity of the Florida Standards Assessment, the new exam aligned to the state’s standards. (Florida dropped the Common Core and the Core-aligned PARCC aligned and designed its own standards which critics say are similar to the Common Core.)
Carvalho, who was the 2014 National Superintendent of the Year, has been increasingly vocal with criticism about the impact that high-stakes standardized tests are having on students and the learning process. This past Monday, when computers crashed, not allowing many students to start state-mandated standardized tests, he tweeted that the validity of the exams was being compromised.
On Thursday, he made the announcement about the elimination of most end-of-course exams and then put it on Twitter and Facebook:
We are eliminating ALL elementary end-of-course exams. Need to respect the educational environment & restore teaching time. #studentsfirst
— Alberto M. Carvalho (@MiamiSup) April 23, 2015
On Facebook, he wrote:
Today, @MDCPS announced the elimination of nearly 300 District-Developed end-of-course (EOC) exams, including all elementary school EOC exams. We have taken a responsible and logical approach to assessing students, in order to restore valuable teaching and learning time. We were joined by UTD and PTA/PTSA leadership, who were instrumental in voicing the concerns from students, parents and teachers.
Other districts in Florida are doing the same thing. This letter was sent to all teachers in Brevard County from Associate Superintendent Cyndi Van Meter:
April 20, 2015
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: All Teachers
FROM: Cyndi Van Meter, Associate Superintendent
Division of Curriculum and Instruction
RE: District End-of-Course Exams (DEOC Exams)
On April 13, 2015, Governor Scott signed HB7069 into law. This legislation has far reaching impact on assessments for all Florida school districts.
The following is the original language in Florida law that required EOC exams:
Measurement of student performance in all subjects and grade levels except those subjects and grade levels measured under the statewide, standardized assessment program described in this section is the responsibility of the school districts. F.S. 1012.34
This language has been changed to:
Measurement of student performance is the responsibility of the school districts except in those subjects and grade levels measured under the statewide standardized assessment program described in this section. When available, instructional personnel must be provided with information on student achievement of standards and benchmarks in order to improve instruction.
One key component of this legislation is the removal of the requirement for districts to have an end-of-course exam in every subject in grades K-12 in 2014-15. However, the legislature is still requiring local assessment of student performance on state standards. Knowing we will not have guidance from DOE regarding implementation of this legislation in the next few weeks, we have decided to postpone the administration of most district-created EOC exams for the 2014-15 school year, as follows:
The changes in language will allow elementary schools to administer only those assessments that have routinely been administered at the end of the school year. These include:
• ELA and math at grades K-2
• Science at grades K-4 and 6
• Social studies at grades K-6
A DEOC exam for M/J Comprehensive PE 7-8 is available for administration this year. However, this will be a school-based decision. If the Physical Education Department within the school chooses to use this DEOC exam, it is available through the assistant principal for curriculum. Schools are still required to have a TEOC (final exam) for all courses not assessed by state, national or industry certification assessments.
HB 7069 provides districts greater leeway on how to measure student performance. So for this year, teachers will administer TEOC exams for all courses in place of the following DEOC exams. We will reserve these common assessments for possible implementation next year. Schools are still required to have a TEOC (final exam) for all courses not assessed by state, national or industry certification assessments.
• Integrated Science I • Pre-Calculus • Spanish 1
• Integrated Science 2 • World History • H.O.P.E.
• Chemistry • Economics • English IV
• Physics • Government • Weight Training
Science Research teachers in both middle and high schools have been implementing a common rubric throughout the school year and will continue to utilize this rubric for the remainder of the year in lieu of their semester exam.
The changes in language will allow schools to administer only those assessments that have routinely been administered at the end of the school year. If there is an identified industry certification test for a course, this will remain their final exam. Schools are still required to have a TEOC (final exam) for all courses not assessed by state, national or industry certification assessments.
Music DEOC exams are now optional. This is a school-based decision. Schools are still required to have a TEOC (final exam) for all courses not assessed by state, national or industry certification assessments.
The changes in language will allow schools to administer only those assessments that have been routinely administered. Tests administered include math and ELA through the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA) grades 3 through 10 and science grades 5, 8 and 11 through the FAA. DEOC exams that have been distributed to the schools in core content areas are optional. DEOC exams for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language therapy are no longer required.
House Bill 7069 states: “For grades and subjects not assessed by statewide, standardized assessments each school district shall measure student performance using a methodology determined by the district.” We will determine how best to do that for the 2015-2016 school year and communicate it to you and your teachers at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.
Please direct all questions to Cynthia Rayen, Project Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Clarification: Changed headline to make it clear that eliminated tests were standardized district-created exams)