Major Florida school district dumps almost all yearend testing

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 23, 2015 12:38 PM

By David Adams and Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - The nation's fourth largest school district in south Florida announced on Thursday it is eliminating most end-of-course exams, including all those for elementary students, the latest blow to much-maligned standardized testing in the state.

The superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Alberto Carvalho, made the announcement on Facebook saying: "We have taken a responsible and logical approach to assessing students, in order to restore valuable teaching and learning time."

The move comes amid mounting statewide pressure to roll back standardized testing in Florida public schools, as well as recent computer glitches on computerized tests.

It is also puts a dent in the educational legacy of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a possible Republican presidential candidate, who championed standardized testing while in office to grade schools and teachers based on student achievement.

Because of the Miami school district's size the decision could have an impact on other districts, said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a nonprofit group focused on limiting the use of standardized tests.

"This appears to be the most significant in terms of the number of tests involved and the size of the district," he said.

"It will certainly be a precedent for other districts in Florida which are equally fed up," he added.

The Miami school district decision eliminates all 23 elementary yearend tests, and cuts middle school tests from 77 to four and high school tests from 186 to six, Carvalho's office said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed legislation last month to reduce testing that canceled the requirement of final exams in all courses.

The law also limits most testing to 45 hours per school year, responding to an outcry by parents and school administrators who said students lost classroom time and tied up computer laboratories with marathon testing.

Scott, also a Republican, has said the law was no rebuke to Bush's record as governor between 1999 and 2007.

"I think everybody in the system believes in accountability, believes in measurement, but we want learning - we don’t just want tests," Scott told reporters at the state capitol after signing the measure.

As governor Bush created a controversial grading system for public schools, along with teacher evaluations based on student achievement. Legislators have added to the testing requirements since he left office in 2007.

The parental and teacher backlash grew louder recently when technical glitches disrupted the already heavy testing regimen.

(Reporting by David Adams and Zachary Fagenson Writing by David Adams; Editing by Lisa Lambert)