The sentence that leapt out at Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) was this one: “The danger at the moment is that instead of trying to lift the state of student education, states, policy-makers and school districts will decide to put all their effort into raising test scores.“
While Florida has yet not put all their effort into raising test scores (they probably don’t have to–read on,) GOT knows that the test grind goes on, hand-in-hand with the pandemic and, unlike past years, there will be no waivers.
That is a point of confusion for some parents. For the senior classes who graduated in 2020 and 2021, Florida waived the requirement to pass the 10th grade FSA reading/writing test and the Algebra 1 End of Course exam. That made sense given that no exams were given in 2020 and many students were kept home in 2021 due to Covid concerns. Seniors missing out on their final chances to pass these tests were not prevented from graduating. The situation was not under their control.
BUT! For future graduating classes, 2022 and beyond, the requirements were not waived even though many of those students missed the opportunity to sit for the exam. Thus, while there is not overt pressure for raising scores*, we are still staring down the barrel of a cannon in that we have unusually large numbers of students needing to sit for and pass state assessments.
It is easy to imagine Florida’s Commissioner of Education, whom GOT will not name as he knows how to stay out of trouble, channeling the famous Soup Nazi from the TV show Seinfeld shouting, “No diploma for you!” to kids in future graduating classes.
Thus, as we have barely opened for the new school year, it is time for the Fall Retake window and students who have spent their summers doing what high school teenagers should be doing over the summer and that is not hitting the books to prep for state tests … need to sit for state tests.
Could we give the students a break and let this window stay closed? We could, but there are not many opportunities during the school year. Florida does not administer state assessments upon demand (there’s an idea for improvement.) There are only four opportunities for students to retake these crucial graduation-necessary exams: September, December, Spring, July.
Given the impact on the future of a young person who does not receive a diploma, we have no choice. When a test window opens, we have to schedule, pull from class, and sit students to take them.
That works against student learning. Those who struggle the most get pulled from the classes where they are learning what they need to know to pass the exam. Some students miss 12 or more days of vital instruction taking these retake exams, which have to take precedence over remaining in the classroom with their teachers.
You might be thinking, “That’s crazy! That’s stupid!”
GOT can only reply with a Forrest Gump quote: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
This is Florida after all.
*GOT is speaking from a high school perspective. Elementary and middle school teachers may be receiving pressure to raise scores due to Florida’s school grading scheme … oops, law.