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Superintendent Oliva Scraps 28 End-Of-Course Exams in Lower Grades in 1st Step of Broad Testing Revamp

| May 6, 2015

flagler schools superintendent jacob oliva end of course exams

Superintendent Jacob Oliva. (© FlaglerLive)

Mitzi Gee’s 7th grade daughter came home with some disturbing observations about today’s End of Course Exam in her Flagler school. “She said there were kids that were crying before, during and after the test,” Gee said. “Some kids had panic attacks and had to go to the nurse, she said there was a kid who was praying out loud, there were kids who were holding their head.”

“Some of these kids stayed, taking that test all day, from 7:30 to 1:30, and they also said if you stay and take it, you don’t get lunch,” Gee said, or at least not until they were done and could catch the last lunch period. “These weren’t average kids, these were the super advanced classes. She says two of her friends stayed up all night long studying for the test. Then to get in there and realize what you did study for is not on the test, it’s just so disheartening for them.”

When Gee posted her daughter’s experience on her Facebook page, she generated an outpouring of similar complaints and disgust with the End of Course exams, which are a form of standardized final exam for each course. Gee’s daughter says she has one for every course but lunch, and jokes that that can’t be far ahead.

Actually, the reverse may be true.

In a stunningly low-key announcement toward the end of Tuesday’s Flagler County School Board meeting, Superintendent Jacob Oliva said the district was scrapping 28 end-of-course exams in kindergarten through 3rd grade this year. Those exams would have been for science, social studies and special areas.

That’s just the first step. Over the next months and year, Oliva’s administration is reevaluating what tests are given in higher grades, including middle school, what tests may be eliminated, and how best to evaluate student growth and provide feedback to parents.

A first step toward eliminating testing for testing’s sake.

“The number of exams are going to be reduced,” Oliva said this afternoon in an interview. But he stressed to counter “this notion that testing and assessment is a bad thing.” There will always be some testing because it serves necessary ends. The aim, however, is to ensure that there’s no testing just for the sake of testing, and to ensure that students and teachers can use testing to figure out how best to improve and grow.

The changes were enabled by a substantial change in law.

House Bill 7069 passed the House and Senate this spring and was signed into law before the Legislature dissolved in recriminations. The law reformed numerous school district rules, including moving back the earliest school starting date to Aug. 10.

Its testing reforms are significant. It eliminates the 11th grade English Language Arts (ELA) assessment and eliminates required administration of the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT). The bill also allows districts to choose how to measure student performance in courses not associated with state assessments, it prohibits doubling up final exams with state end-of-course assessments while limiting all testing, state or local, to no more than 5 percent of a student’s total school hours. (In a 180-day instructional year, that nevertheless still adds up to nine days of testing.) Districts may exceed the cap, but only with written approval from parents whose children are affected.

The changes will also affect how faculty members are evaluated annually for their job performance. Currently, exam results account for 50 percent of a faculty member’s evaluation. That’s been controversial, because there’s a direct link between evaluations and merit pay, which can be diminished or increased based on students’ performances. Starting with the 2015-16 school year, the weight of student performances will be reduced to one third of a faculty member’s evaluation.

And school grades as well as teacher evaluations are suspended for the 2014-15 school year at least until an independent panel confirms the validity of state assessments taken for the first time this year.

“Everything tends to swing in extremes with the Legislature,” Board Member Andy Dance said today, “so with the accountability process what we’ve witnessed is just an extreme in the accountability process to testing and data and getting away from true instruction, so I think it’s a swing back that was necessary in order to eliminate the focus on testing, and a call from parents and educators to return the focus on true instruction.”

School boards don’t have to ratify what amounts to administrative decisions that comply with the law. But the board will be rewriting policy to bring those–again–in line with state law, Dance said.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Oliva summed up to the board, in a brief outline, what the new law meant and how he was implementing it in light of numerous complaints about the toll the tests were taking, especially on younger children: even kindergarteners, under the old law, were required to take a series of end-of-course exams.

“This legislation gives us some flexibility and the requirement of having an end-of-course exam for every single class with a course code,” Oliva said. “I know there’s a lot of concern, especially at the primary level, in kindergarten through third grade, where students were being tasked to take up to seven end-of-course exams, specifically in kindergarten, and these exams were pretty much given for the reason of offering an exam. It wasn’t an exam that tied back to improve instruction or feedback for the parent. So we’re moving forward. It’s a process, we have a team in place, we have an evaluation committee team that looks at how the assessment aligns with the teacher evaluations and how it aligns with the curriculum department.”

He described the elimination of 28 tests in the lower grades. The Stanford 10 achievement test in kindergarten, first and second grade will still be administered and will provide the necessary data the district needs to measure growth and evaluations. In third grade the district will continue to administer the Florida Standards Assessment.

“So this will be the first step in scaling back on a lot of the testing mandates that we’ve been facing in public education in meeting the requirements,” Oliva said, “and we’re very appreciative of the governor and the Legislature for giving this flexibility back to the school board. I think there’s still more work to do in this arena. But it’s a step in the right direction, and I think it’s going to guide future discussions and possible outcomes in the future.”

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34 Responses for “Superintendent Oliva Scraps 28 End-Of-Course Exams in Lower Grades in 1st Step of Broad Testing Revamp”

  1. AMEN….poor Abbey was so stressed out this morning …she on the brink of tears all the way to school…all she kept repeating was
    What if I fail …what if I fail…? She is a really smart kid and she does not usually get rattled by tests….bit there is so much pressure put on them about that these tests..

  2. My son is in FPC has an end of course exam Scheduled at Indian trail. He came to me yesterday telling me he needs to find a way there. What? This county is messed up if they schedule a test in a different location and tell the students they need to find a way there themselves. What if he doesn’t does he fail?

  3. My son has been so stressed over the Algebra EOC he had to take today and tomorrow. I got asked “what if I fail” plenty of times. She said he has a headache after he finished.

  4. Woooooo hoooooooo Mitzi !!!!

  5. Amanda Cerda says:

    I think districts are watching what neighboring districts do. Volusia ended the same EOC exams last week after parental outcry. It’s PARENTS, not teachers, who the districts are listening to. Patents need to keep voicing their concerns because they are being heard! :D

  6. The law also allows the elimination of SAT10 but the administration must not trust the teachers to evaluate the students for the data necessary. Instead let’s keep torturing these young children further since they are not the most vulnerable ones. We should keep the pressure on the 5,6,7,8 years old kids. And for all the complacent parents….time to speak up!

  7. My kids have been so stressed out. It’s disgusting.

  8. Remember folks….this is only for K-3 students.

    My daughter had to take the Algebra EOC this week, even though she had the class during the first semester. If it’s an end of course exam, went wasn’t it given at the end of the course?

    • starbright says:

      I asked the same question! That was before winter break. The children had a blitz last Saturday to go over everything they were taught the first semester only to find out when they took the test, IT WAS NOTHING they had been taught. She actually said she probably failed it. This class was Algebra 2 Honors. Now with that being said, she now will probably have a low grade. This also happened in Marine Science Honors too! Had straight A’s, took the test the county makes up and got a C. So since A’s are 89.50% and up. She ended with an 89.35%. The teacher spoke with my daughter and aked her how the test was. My daughter told her it was nothing they had been taught. The teacher apologized and said they did not even get to see the test. This whole class went in on a Sunday for 3 hrs too, just to find out they did not know half of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      That makes no since…it is given at the end of the course

  9. trish says:

    our kids need to learn coping skills… that starts at home… not everything is easy or fun…

    Having said that I grew up taking one test at the end of the year, made it through college, and taught for 30 years…

    all this testing is not needed… after you give one test you can do the math and figure that student will average that same score on all the rest… it’s over kill and does not drive instruction… it stops instruction…

    time to get back to basics… and let teachers teach…

  10. Mary Murphy says:

    Thank god. I hope they follow thru!!!!

  11. Yeah but what about the 3 grade common core test they have to pass to go to 4th grade. What is kids don’t pass but have passing grades

    • According to the new law (HB 7069) the 3rd grade FSA test results can not be used to determine whether a student can be promoted to fourth grade until outside experts review the tests validity.Hope it helps.

  12. Hope they end some of these for middle school. Kids are stressed, teachers are stressed. Not sure who approves these tests when they add them but not thinking long term. 30% of your grade? Heard won’t get test results until after school ends and grades are posted. WTH?

  13. Tom Kingsley says:

    In regard to Common Core. “Education Secretary Arne Duncan has no problems slinging those around in his disdain for people who disagree with him on Common Core. You may recall that he dismissed them as “white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” So only white moms hate crappy curriculum?”…/top-ten-things-parents-hate… I want to note. I am not a supporter of Common Core, and I am pretty good at math. I just think a traditional approach would be more beneficial to children. Let older kids have the challenge to develop more sophisticated cognitive skills while the children learn to understand the fundamentals.

  14. Bethechange says:

    Too much politics at the heart of it all and at the expense of our country’s most precious asset: our children; our future. The dreams that have been extinguished because of unrealized accomplishment when students give up is the most heartbreaking commentary of all. Evaluation is where curriculum design springs from and when the construct is valid can provide incredibly powerful feedback to enhance learning gains. But the design of the tool or test, especially in light of the fact that what is being measured is an unobservable first hand – thought – is extraordinarily complex and perhaps should not be tied to the market. Seriously folks, we can all agree that we pay dearly for our youth to receive the very best education possible, but we’re making rocket science out of paper airplanes.

  15. turtle says:

    Way to go Mr. Oliva!!! It’s about time someone stood up and cried “Uncle” for our kids! Yes, testing is a part of school, but so many high stakes tests are too taxing on the kids, and they limit the scope of the teachers as they are pushed to teach to the tests.

    I am looking forward to any and all UNNECESSARY testing being eliminated from 4th-12th grade, as well. Thank you, again, Mr. Oliva!!

    • lion says:

      Not sure if you read the article. The Superintendent did not eliminate any high stake exams. Only end of course exams for K-3 , leaving the SAT10. He could’ve eliminated all EOC exams for all grades but chose not to. The law allows them(School District) to get rid of all district created exams.
      Don’t be too excited. They could’ve done a lot more but probably it’s hard for them to part from their corporate buddies.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks lion…I did see that it is currently only K-3 whose EOC tests have been eliminated, but the article also states that “over the next months and year, Oliva’s administration is reevaluating what tests are given in higher grades, including middle school, what tests may be eliminated, and how best to evaluate student growth and provide feedback to parents” so I am being optimistic that Mr. Oliva will make the right choice again, in regards to EOC tests in higher grades : )

  16. Diana Lemon says:

    Hooray! Bout’ time!

  17. Joanne says:

    Lets get rd of the Sat 10 for k-2. Let the children be children. Our education system is a mess. All we do is test. When I was a child I enjoyed school. I would hate to be a kid now. Please, let our voices be heard loud and clear. No more testing for our kids. I have grandchildren that live in Palm Coast, I have already told their parents do not put your child in Flagler Schools. They are listening.They will not put them in the Charter Schools, because there is not much difference. They will be paying, as they pay their taxes also for our schools. Very sad the state of affairs.

  18. Nancy N. says:

    High stakes testing tests only one thing – how well a child performs under high pressure on a standardized test. It doesn’t truly measure their grasp of material.

    My 6th grade daughter is autistic and doesn’t test well on these long standardized tests. She has had a grade in math all year of 99-100%. But because she tested poorly on one single day last year on one test – her FCAT – she has to devote the equivalent of a half school day per week doing a state mandated remedial math course for kids who didn’t achieve satisfactory scores on the FCAT. This is about the equivalent of a dozen full days of school that could have been spent on doing things that were actually helpful, like improving her severely compromised language arts skills. But no, instead she is stuck doing busywork because of the damn FCAT.

    To the commenter who says that teaching coping starts at home, all I can say is that I reject the premise entirely that kids should need to be taught to cope with this level of pressure and stress from a young age. THEY’RE KIDS. Let them be kids. We’re not training firefighters here….we’re teaching algebra and Keats.

  19. Layla says:

    Really proud of the parents posting here. What Common Core standards are doing to our children is unforgivable and it’s all in the name of profits. Fight for your children, that is why the good lord gave them to you!

    Thank you, Superintendent Oliva, it is a good start.

  20. airgarcia says:

    Cant wait for these kids to start working and tell their boss a certain assignment stresses them out to much so they dont think they should have to do it. Children in the USA are falling so far behind kids in the rest of the world and its because we allow them to just slide by.

  21. Screwed Up Mess says:

    If you have a child in middle school in Flagler County and you keep up with their progress you are most likely flabbergasted by the amount of SLACK offered to students: Failed a test? You can retake it but 80% will be max credit; failed to do classwork and home work? That’s OK – just turn it in before the grading period ends. What ever happened to go to class and (participate), do your home work and turn it in on the due date, take a test and what you get is what you get??? PERIOD. We are creating a generation of coddled, over-tested people who are in for a big surprise later in life (my project is late boss – can I turn it in next month? No but you can hit the bricks). Why is all of this happening? MONEY. It’s not about educating our children, it about gaining FEDERAL DOLLARS to fund our “education” system. Tell the Feds we do not want their money – Florida is going teach our kids in a manner that will make them Prepared. For Life.

    • Alexia says:

      I used to think re-taking tests was sort of like cheating. But what it actually does is forces the student to learn the material. If you don’t understand it the first time, study harder until you get it right. I think that is a great way to learn.

    • Marvelous says:

      I have kids in three different schools. They all have different re-take policy. I don’t think the district has a unified policy. One of the schools only puts in the best grade. One averages them. and the other doesn’t have a school wide policy and it is left to each teacher. I was very frustrated that one of the kids fails most tests the first time, then goes over the test, and retakes it with the teacher for only the best grade in the grade book. It is getting kids pushed to the next grade even though they are not ready.

  22. Teacher says:

    In some cases here in Flagler County schools, students will be taking a test that was created somewhere in Florida but their teachers have no idea what will that test contain: people that created the test use a different textbook, a different curriculum, and they are allowed to create the EOC from a questions bank for their students. The Flagler County administrator insist that the teachers here should not have knowledge of the content of the test, we have people in the GSB creating tests for subjects that they have no idea how to teach. Some students have been working hard all year to maintain good grades, now they fear that a single test could ruin their hard earned GPA. Rick Scott has signed a bill eliminating EOCs in every subject, but Flagler County is going to do what they want.

  23. Nancy N. says:

    Airgarcia – how come all I hear lately about our schools is that we have to treat little kids horrendously to “prepare them for the work world”? Really, is it all that imperative to teach 10 year olds to wear polo shirts and handle puke inducing stress so they are “ready to work?” It can’t wait until they are 17 or 18 or even in college?

    Next thing you know resume and interview skills will be mandatory curriculum for 6th graders too.

    • heyo says:

      whats wrong with teaching them how to create a resume in 6th grade – or interview skills? there are high school kids throughout the country who are running their own businesses by the time they’re 18 from some mobile device app they created.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Teacher, I couldn’t agree more. The tests that our kids are being given are unvetted and unproven tests written by someone who has never stepped foot in the child’s classroom. Why not let the teachers make the tests for the courses they teach, like they used to do? They don’t because then they wouldn’t be able to judge every sixth-grader in the county against every other sixth-grader in the county, which is a ridiculous goal in the first place.

    Give a standardized test every couple of years, but use them not as a pass/fail test, but rather as a tool to see where each child might need a little extra help, then tailor their class schedules to accommodate that. For example, the kids who need a little extra help in math might spend every other day of their wheel classes getting additional instruction in math. If you have a teacher that continually has students falling short in a particular subject, then that could be addressed as well.

    These tests try to pigeon hole every student and every teacher to the same learning style and level of learning in every subject, but that is not how it is in the real world. In the real world there are engineers (great at math and science) and authors (great at language arts), etc. Yes, they all need a good basis of knowledge in all subjects, but trying to make them all learn exactly the same way, and achieve the same level of learning as everyone else in every subject is unrealistic.

  25. Heather Beaven says:

    Superintendent Oliva and Shawn Schmidly – an inside look on testing. It’s more complicated than it looks.

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