Back in the fall, Governor Ron DeSantis announced with great fanfare and glee that Florida was leading the way out of the testing wilderness into a new land of milk and honey, dripping with agricultural richness of three times a year progress monitoring but eliminating the environmental impact of once a year, high stakes, highly stressful annual testing. It was to be the end of the FSA, the Florida Standards Assessment.
Quote: Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced a legislative proposal that will eliminate the common-core based, end-of-year, high-stakes Florida Statewide Assessment and create the new Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (F.A.S.T) plan, which will monitor student progress and foster individual growth. By creating the F.A.S.T. Plan, Florida will become the first state in the nation to fully implement progress monitoring instead of end-of-year standardized testing, and fully eliminate common core.
First, let’s deal with the name change. Educational reform, including testing, changes names faster than a gangster like Al Capone changes aliases to avoid detection and arrest. FAST replaces FSA, which replaced FCAT 2.0, which replaced the original FCAT.
It’s only sleight of hand, like the new BEST standards, promoted by DeSantis and his allies as eliminating the dreaded Common Core from Florida. But the BEST standards replaced the Florida Standards, also promoted by then-Governor Rick Scott as eliminating the dreaded Common Core from Florida.
Neither set of standards eliminated Common Core. If we’re going to discuss education, can we agree not to lie to one another? No hope that either DeSantis or Scott will join us, but at least let’s have honesty among ourselves.
Both the BEST and the FSA standards changed some language, added some explanations, moved a few items up or down grade levels, but overall the Common Core approach remained: cram down performance demands to developmentally inappropriate ages and in the case of ELA, continue the emphasis on nonfiction, using four sources of information to answer questions and construct arguments.
Common Core is not gone although it has garnered a long list of A/K/As, especially from Florida.
But DeSantis promised that the end-of-the-year, high stakes test would be eliminated.
That did not happen.
Instead, Manny Diaz, a state senator from the Miami area, whose name is being bandied about as the successor to Richard Corcoran for state education commissioner, wrote a bill that kept the high-stakes, end-of-the-year test and added two additional state tests called progress monitoring.
Any governor, legislator, or person who says otherwise is lying. The FSA, maybe under a new name, is still very much in effect.
Which edu-testing business will get the call? While many speculate that NWEA will get the contract, others think that Cambium Assessment has the inside track.
That’s another name change that needs explaining with a brief look back at the phony claim of ditching Common Core.
When Rick Scott dumped the Core for the Florida Standards, he also removed Florida from the testing consortium led by Pearson. Although Florida planned to use the PARCC, in the directive to eliminate Common Core from the state, it switched abruptly to a test known as Smarter Balanced (SBAC). SBAC is also a Common Core test. It was the less popular alternative to PARCC.
Sleight of hand and three-card monte. The switch was so abrupt Florida ended up renting Utah’s test the first year. But a contract was entered with American Institutes of Research (AIR), which took on the job of providing the SBAC to states that wanted it.
Florida is still using the SBAC provided by AIR except that AIR sold its testing division to a stand-alone business named Cambium Learning Group. From their website, they announce that the testing has been rebranded as Cambium Assessment.
Are you getting it now?
For the last two years, the Florida Department of Education has required districts to submit rigorous progress monitoring data so it can determine if districts are failing to maintain learning in the pandemic mess we call Covid. For those districts unable to develop their own progress monitoring tests, the FLDOE has provided its version via the state testing platform operated by Cambium.
In other words, the tests are already there. All the new law does is to mandate that every district has to use them and assign penalties if the state decides it doesn’t like the results.
But we were supposed to ditch that end-of-the-year, high-stakes test, right?
Not going to happen. Grumpy Old Teacher suspects the reason is that Florida had no intention of ending the high-stakes nature of testing, including school grades, teacher evaluation, district penalties, school takeovers, and the like. But they couldn’t figure out how to keep the high-stakes without keeping the test that brings it on every year.
Call it what you will, the FSA (and Common Core) lives like the zombies of children’s imagination and games that come to suck your brains out.