Educators’ plea to lawmakers: Don’t bury us with new ‘progress monitoring’ tests

By: - February 23, 2022 6:20 pm

April Isaacs, with the Osceola County Education Association, provides public testimony in House committee on Feb 23, 2022. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

More than a dozen teachers pleaded with Florida lawmakers Wednesday to oppose an overhaul of the statewide testing system known as the Florida Standards Assessments, replacing it with statewide progress monitoring at three different points in the year.

The educators worry that the bill, HB 1193, would mean more testing and less time to educate students. The Senate version, SB 1048, is raising similar concerns.

Speaking before the House Education and Employment Subcommittee Wednesday, the teachers stressed how little time they have to complete all of the responsibilities of their jobs — such as grading papers, creating lesson plans, prepping for tests, and actually teaching.

“I teach fifth grade, I teach 10-year-olds — 57 progress monitoring tests. It’s February. That’s how many tests we’ve given — 57,”  Emily Gorentz said. “Reading, writing, math, science, progress monitoring weekly, progress monitoring quarterly, progress monitoring for the semester. We haven’t hit testing season yet.”

Gorentz is a member of the Osceola County Education Association.

She continued: “These kids, by the time they leave fifth grade, have done more testing than any of us have ever done in our lives.”

April Isaacs, a ninth grade intensive-reading teacher, took more than six minutes to outline her typical day: She works on weekends and gets to work early to grade students’ work, has little time to use the restroom or eat during the school day, and often has to fill in for other teachers during her planning period.

“I am here right now and I know that when I go back I have 185 students with packets that are going to be due, and they’re going to want those grades,” Isaacs told the committee. “In fact, I had a student actually call me, text me: ‘Ms. Isaacs, are you getting in here to grade my late work? Because I can’t play baseball.’ Well, oh my goodness — no. Not because I don’t want to, but because there’s not enough time.”

Isaacs is also with Osceola County Education Association.

Notwithstanding such concerns, the committee passed the bill on a 13-5 vote. It’s next stop is the full House floor.

Under existing law, the state requires a roster of statewide exams, called Florida Standards Assessments (FSA), covering reading and math in various grades, plus end-of-year exams.

On Sept. 14, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced a proposal to phase out the FSA and move towards progress monitoring, holding two press conferences that day on the topic.

The new progress-monitoring assessments — if approved this session — would keep tabs on how a student progresses over time and monitor the effectiveness of instruction.

There would be three exams throughout the school year, with the bill stating that “the coordinated screening and progress monitoring system must be administered at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year.”

Teachers would be given the results within one week of testing, with the intention that they analyze students’ progress adjust their instruction plans accordingly.

Many teachers were skeptical during the committee meeting about whether they’ll have time to analyze the results of the assessments and implement changes to instruction effectively.

“There is no real time to plan. There is no real time to look at data,” Isaacs said.

Most school districts already have progress monitoring systems and the educators worried that the three phases of state monitoring will only add to the district-level burden, leaving more time devoted to testing, not less.

Catherine Boehme, with the statewide teacher union Florida Education Association, said: “Whether we call the test progress monitoring or cumulative assessments, the bill, by design, increases the amount of time students spend, including our youngest children, at a computer screen with a series of standardized assessments from the state, because it does not remove the duplicative district assessments.”

The bill does not address what districts should do with local-level assessments, meaning some districts may keep their own tests in addition to the three required statewide assessments.

That raises a question that has been debated for the past two years about who has ultimate authority over how schools operate in the state: locally elected constitutional education officers or state officials?

Following the public testimony, some committee members noted that most of the teachers’ concerns seemed to be not with state-level monitoring but with district-level monitoring.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.

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