Florida scraps major year-end test to sharpen focus on student growth

Florida teachers union says move will free up time for 'genuine teaching and learning'
By: | September 14, 2021

Battles over mask mandates have dominated education news in Florida but the state is now making headlines for potentially groundbreaking testing reform.

Florida is moving to become the first state to scrap its high-stakes, end-of-year exam—the Florida Statewide Assessment—in favor of the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking program, which will allow educators and parents to monitor student progress more regularly.

“Florida’s education focus should be students’ growth and how we restore the conversation between parents and teachers in support of students’ growth,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in announcing the plan in Miami Tuesday (see video below).

“In this final step to eradicate Common Core from our assessments, our administration is implementing the lessons learned from progress monitoring both during the state’s recovery and from our districts and schools that were already showing how we can better support students reaching their own unique growth goals,” DeSantis said.

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Under the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking program, or F.A.S.T., students will take three shorter tests in the fall, winter and spring to measure growth.

The change—which must be approved by Florida’s legislature—should reduce time spent testing by 75%, give teachers and parents more impactful and timely input on student achievement, and fully eliminate the Common Core, DeSantis said.

While DeSantis has angered teachers’ unions with his stance on mask mandates, local and national educators Tuesday expressed support for the major shift on standardized testing.

“It will free up time for genuine teaching and learning, a move that the FEA, local unions and our 150,000 members have long advocated,” the Florida Education Association union said on Twitter.

“A student’s future shouldn’t hang on one high-stakes, make-or-break test, and one test shouldn’t dominate weeks that could otherwise be used for meaningful instruction,” Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar added in a statement.

The change will not only provide more time for classroom instruction but could also help reduce Florida’s massive shortages of teachers and support staff by improving job satisfaction, Spar said.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s reaction was somewhat more measured.

“As the #FSA and #FCAT eras come to an end, we will remain vigilant over their replacement and will participate aggressively in the legislative process that will enable it,” Carvalho tweeted.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called the Florida announcement “big news” on Twitter.