FORT MYERS (CBSMiami/AP) — Florida’s Lee County school board has done an about face when it comes to state standardized testing.
Last week, the county voted not to administer tests tied to the Common Core academic standards or any end-of-course exams. The decision reflected opposition from parents who were concerned that too much emphasis had been placed on standardized tests.
Superintendent Nancy Graham however warned the decision could hurt students and asked the board to change their vote. The Florida School Boards Association said students who didn’t take the state’s standardized tests won’t meet the requirements to earn a standard high school diploma.
On Tuesday, the board voted 3-2 in favor of resuming testing.
“We all know that there are downsides to standardized testing, that there have been some unintended consequences, but saying that we should stop testing entirely, that we shouldn’t even provide information to the public about results, is a very radical idea,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based think tank
Parents who had advocated for the opt-out expressed disappointment but vowed to continue pushing for fewer tests.
“All of us worked all of the long three-day weekend and will continue doing it,” said Lori Fayhee, a parent and leader of a group called Teaching Not Testing.
The events in Lee County, located in Florida’s southwest corridor, were a sort of touchstone to a growing sentiment among parents in many parts of the country. They believe children are given too many tests at the price of a narrowing curriculum and providing a less-than-comprehensive viewpoint of a student’s achievements.
“I think it is out of control,” said Raquel Regalado who is one school board member who will vote on a test schedule Wednesday. All of them with both arms tied behind their backs.
“Parents are right to believe that we are testing too much but what they need to understand is that this comes from the state and federal level and these tests are tied to our funding so as school board members, we are very limited in what we can do,” said Regalado.
The number of federally mandated tests has increased since No Child Left Behind was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002. While previously students were required to be tested once in elementary, middle and high school, No Child Left Behind requires annual assessments to determine proficiency in math and reading.
In some states, additional standardized tests are given in other subjects to evaluate teachers who do not instruct English or math.
In response, a number of districts have passed resolutions calling for standardized testing to be rolled back, but Lee County appeared to be the first to opt out altogether. Supporters said they received hundreds of emails and phone calls from people around the country wanting to know how they could follow suit.
“There is now a disconnect between public opinion and policymaker behavior,” Schaeffer said.
Forgoing the tests, however, carries a number of consequences: Districts could be at risk of losing state and federal funding. The tests also are also used to evaluate a wide range of criteria, from whether a student should advance to the next grade to whether a low-performing school is improving.
Petrilli said he did not expect to see many more districts following Lee’s initial decision.
“I think you might see some other symbolic actions form school boards around the country,” Petrilli said. “But at the end of the day as long as they need the funding and the public is demanding information about how schools are performing, I think we’re going to see districts administering the test.”
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