Ron DeSantis just threw out more policies than Jeb Bush. Is this good news for education in Florida?

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Yesterday, the Florida governor called on lawmakers to drop the Florida state assessment, Florida’s big high-stakes year-end test. Here’s how the Florida Department of Education announced it.

On September 14, 2021, Governor DeSantis announced that the state would introduce legislation to eliminate the Florida core-based end-of-year assessment and create the new Florida Student Thinking Assessment (FAST ). By creating the FAST plan, Florida becomes the first state in the country to fully implement progress tracking instead of standardized year-end testing, and will eliminate Common Core altogether.

Is this a big deal? More importantly, is this an improvement?

Does it really kill Common Core?

Upon taking office, DeSantis announced that he would eliminate “all vestiges of the common core”. It certainly wasn’t going to happen; removing standards is like removing painted lines from a badly bumpy road, with many other factors keeping people where they were. Teaching materials, programs and tests were always aligned with the kernel.

It’s true, however, that the high-stakes Big Standardized Test was the biggest animator of Basic Zombie Standards. Removing it could help kill the core. Of course, many states have removed the Common Core standards along with other standards that are remarkably similar to the Core.

What about high stakes?

Removing the high stakes from a testing program would be of great help in getting education back on track. But education commissioner Richard Corcoran said all the big issues – school grades, third-year retention, recovery plans, test-based teacher assessments – will remain in place. The DOE website insists the new system “protects Florida’s # 1 educational responsibility in the country” (there is no national measure of educational responsibility, but if there was one). , it would be surprising to find Florida at the top of the list).

So all the stakes will be in place, just attached to something else. it would be FAST

Is FAST an improvement?

The new system is based on progress tracking, which essentially means that instead of taking a single high-stakes test at the end of the year, students will take smaller high-stakes assessments throughout the year. Lots of assessments mean students have a better chance of proving themselves, but that certainly doesn’t change the idea that the school will be organized around high-stakes testing.

Will local districts be able to design their own tests or, as is more likely, will the one-year test run be contracted out to a test manufacturing company? And what rules will be tied to the mountains of data that this one-year testing regime provides? Who can keep it, use it and sell it?

Some longtime Florida watchers see this as a step towards implementing skills-based education, which would open even more boxes filled with worms.

So, should people be happy about this?

Many teachers in Florida are, and that’s understandable, as FAST provides the ability to assess students in real time over the course of a year instead of slamming them down with a snapshot of a single test in the spring.

Longtime critics of Jeb Bush’s core test and punishment legacy appreciate the current administration’s continued rebuke of Bush’s policies. Florida’s political leaders have always been staunch members of the Cult of the Test; it was the state that once forced a terminally ill child to pretend to take the test and withheld third-graders who passed their classes but did not pass the large standardized test (arguing in court that “The transcripts did not make sense”). So to see the current group call the tests “archaic” and say “I want more learning and less test preparation” is a welcome change, and a continuing serious reversal of Bush’s policies (not to mention their own policies). ‘not so long ago). ). There is nothing like hearing your point of view taken from people who have been telling you for years that you are wrong.

Are there political angles here? Sure. DeSantis seemed to be aiming for national juice with aggressive anti-vaccine and anti-mask policies, but that strategy doesn’t look very good at the moment. High stakes tests are hated by parents and teachers of all political persuasions.

Wait and see

At this point, DeSantis has simply expressed his intention, and that means nothing until lawmakers make it law. The details will matter enormously, and we haven’t seen any yet. Will that kill the high stakes testing or just turn it into another equally malignant form? Will it be a boost for public education, or for profiteers looking to make money from education? Will the new version of the high-stakes judgment of schools, teachers and students be fairer or more disastrous? Stay tuned.

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