In a previous post, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) described Florida’s pell-mell rush into a new test: Fast Forward to F.A.S.T. Now, after two days of actually trying to run the new test in 9th and 10th grade ELA classes, GOT can report on how it went.

First off, kudos to the teachers who had to work through the confusion. Do not doubt that the shift to three-times-a-year ‘progress monitoring testing’ rather than the once a year summative testing was an adjustment in application and mindset. We simply weren’t in a state testing frame of mind.

Even GOT found himself on the first morning scrambling to print out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ and ‘No Electronics’ signs because he had forgotten they are needed for the teachers to post. Funny story from last year: the state updated the ‘No Electronics’ sign to show not only cell phones, but also smartwatches and air pods. A student asked one of his teachers why they couldn’t have hair dryers during the test.

An honest mistake.

Questions included the testing platform for the test, make-ups in the hall, and preparation of the rooms. GOT takes his hat off in admiration of these teachers who wanted to make sure all the students would be tested and wanting to make sure they were doing the right thing.

We didn’t know how the testing would run. GOT’s administration opted to have the students take the test throughout the day in their ELA classes with their ELA teachers. Timewise, that meant we had to hold over students who weren’t done by the bell.

It takes time to get a test running, especially when it’s new and the first time out of the gate. Some teachers get students working quickly and some take more time to organize things. But no one (except maybe state ed officials lost in their pipe dreams) can get a 90-minute test completed in a 90-minute period of time. Getting bodies in seats, computers booted up, and handing out materials while reading the script takes time.

So how did the timing go? The average time spent on the test was 63 minutes, not bad given the state’s estimate of time to schedule for the test of 60 minutes that they hedged by saying allow up to 90 minutes if needed. However, the median gives a better idea. It was 60 minutes. Before you celebrate, remember that means that half of the students taking the test needed more than the recommended time to complete the test.

LOL, for the first time ever, GOT found a use for the Box-and-Whiskers plot we force middle school and Algebra 1 students to learn so they can answer questions on the state test, the first and last time they will ever need to know what a B & W plot is.

Maybe there’s a better way to graphically display data.

The point is that 25% of test-takers needed more than 1 hour 6 minutes for test. Moreover, 7 1/2 % of students needed more than 1 hour 15 minutes (not seen in the plot) to finish. Given the time it takes to get the test underway, that means those students couldn’t finish before the bell.

In the end, only a few students didn’t finish. Their tests went into a status of ‘expired,’ which means that they did not get a score the next day. GOT’s district testing office has said that eventually, the state should report something based on what they did accomplish, but that remains to be seen.

What else can GOT share with you? The state will allow students to finish the test no matter how much time it takes, but they will not allow them to finish the next day if they run out of time and need to catch their bus.

The first Progress Monitoring test is more of a baseline than anything else. It covers all the benchmarks at a level expected at the end of the year. Nevertheless, the state is reporting a lot of students testing at grade level or higher because these results have been tied to previous FSA performance. Always remember that in a year when the test changes, the results are curved. Where a student is at in learning is not measured. All we know is how they compare to their peers given the previous version of the test.

Finally, teachers reported that the testing was hard on them and their students. They felt the strain of trying to measure up to the inaugural version and the expectations under which they work all year long. They observed the facial expressions and body language of the students and understood that the first F.A.S.T. event was taking a toll on them, too.

It was hard and exhausting. Maybe it will be easier in the winter when the next test event takes place because teachers and students will have a better idea of what to expect.

That remains to be seen.

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