Less than a month after the Department of Education touted the validity of a new standardized test, Florida school superintendents issued a statement Friday saying they have “lost confidence” in the state’s public-school accountability system.
“We have witnessed the erosion of public support for an accountability system that was once a model for the nation,” the Florida Association of District School Superintendents said in the statement. “Florida school superintendents stand ready to work with all stakeholders and the Department of Education to develop a viable accountability system and regain the trust of our students, teachers, parents and communities.”
Superintendents took the stance after state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart met with the association during its fall conference this week in Tampa. The rebuke came after months of controversy about the new Florida Standards Assessment, which was plagued by technical problems this spring, including computer glitches and a cyberattack.
In addition to saying superintendents had lost confidence in the accountability system, the association also made a series of recommendations, including that the state should not apply the results of the spring 2015 test to students, teachers and schools.
“In this high stakes environment, students, teachers, and schools should not be impacted by a rushed and flawed administration of new, untried assessments,” the association said.
Stewart and other state officials this month touted a new study that said the Florida Standards Assessment is valid. The finding, in a study conducted by Alpine Testing Solutions and edCount, LLC, allows the Department of Education to begin using the test to calculate school grades and results that are incorporated into teacher evaluations under the state’s performance-pay laws.
“I think that we certainly can take away from this report that the FSA accurately measures the student’s knowledge of the Florida standards,” Stewart told reporters during a conference call after the study was released.
Some Republican legislative leaders also indicated the study effectively resolved the issue for them.
“This validity study, combined with the Legislature’s efforts during the 2015 session to reform student testing, have strengthened our school accountability system. … The Florida House will continue to support standards and accountability measures that provide our students with a first-rate education and prepare them for success in today’s world,” House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said in a prepared statement after the study was released.
But critics questioned the department’s rosy characterization of the study, and the superintendents’ statement Friday also raised questions about the conclusions being drawn.
The association, whose president and CEO is Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, called for an “extensive review of the accountability system, including the multiple changes that have been implemented over the last several years. Special attention needs to be given to learning gains so that a year’s growth in a year’s time is considered a learning gain.”
After the superintendents group issued the statement, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford also blasted the accountability system.
“Let’s be honest, the collapse of the testing system this spring proved that Florida’s accountability system is a house of cards,” Ford, whose teachers union has long criticized the system, said in a prepared statement.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida