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Florida Parents are in an Uproar Over Proficient 3rd Graders Who Are Being Retained for Not Taking Standardized Tests
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“Florida Parents are in an Uproar Over Proficient 3rd Graders Who Are Being Retained for Not Taking Standardized Tests”

A storm is brewing in Florida. In many districts, there are parents who are upset over their child(ren) being retained for choosing to not take the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) or an alternative assessment. The parents chose to “opt out” of these tests due to the high stakes involved as well as the stress that ensues from the pressure they are put under for these tests. In a lot of cases, the children are proficient and some are even honor roll or gifted students.

The FSA is a 4 hour long standardized test that is stretched out over a 4 day period at 1 hour increments. Reportedly they aren’t allowed to share any information from these tests, they aren’t allowed to ask for help and they aren’t allowed to do anything until the test is completed in its entirety.

What if a student is so nervous and has to use the restroom? I guess they have to wait.

Prior to the test, students are asked to sign a form stating that they will not share any information from this test. It’s apparently top secret because not even the teacher is allowed to see what is on it, only the student and the person/entity that grades it. It’s also reported that teacher evaluations are based on their students’ performance on this test. Essentially, a teacher could be fired or reprimanded in some form because of this one test. Let’s factor in those students who have test anxiety and may not perform to the best of their ability. Or maybe students who have test fatigue. Most of the time these tests are performed at the end of the year when everyone is exhausted and wants it to all be over with. This test would not accurately reflect a student’s academic gains or abilities if they are not tested at their peak in the school year.

In many districts in Florida, students who have opted out of these tests are being threatened with retention or have been retained (repeating the 3rd grade).

I know this because my son is one of those being retained.

My son has performed well all year long (180 days) and has shown that he has progressed academically throughout the year. This is reflected in his work, his report card and on his iReady scores along with other data. The DOE seems to be mostly concerned with reading and ensuring that students who are promoted are functioning on level before being promoted.

My son’s iReady scores are proof that he is doing just that and then some. His report card is predominantly B grades throughout the year, but yet, this isn’t enough. The district is saying that the law says that it is mandatory that all students participate in the FSA or be retained. If you read the statute, which is written in outline format, it does not say anything about retaining kids simply because they don’t participate in the test. The only section that has retention tied to this test is under the section for “Reading Deficiencies and Parental Notification.” My son does NOT have a documented reading deficiency, so that does not apply to him.

(5) READING DEFICIENCY AND PARENTAL NOTIFICATION.—

(a) Any student who exhibits a substantial deficiency in reading, based upon locally determined or statewide assessments conducted in kindergarten or grade 1, grade 2, or grade 3, or through teacher observations, must be given intensive reading instruction immediately following the identification of the reading deficiency. The student’s reading proficiency must be monitored and the intensive instruction must continue until the student demonstrates grade level proficiency in a manner determined by the district, which may include achieving a Level 3 on the statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment.
(b) To be promoted to grade 4, a student must score a Level 2 or higher on the statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment required under s. 1008.22 for grade 3. If a student’s reading deficiency is not remedied by the end of grade 3, as demonstrated by scoring Level 2 or higher on the statewide, standardized assessment required under s. 1008.22 for grade 3, the student must be retained.

You can view the entire statute here

As you can see, it referenced statute 1008.22 in that same subsection. Here is what that statute says about participation in section 1008.22 (3):

(3) STATEWIDE, STANDARDIZED ASSESSMENT PROGRAM.—The Commissioner of Education shall design and implement a statewide, standardized assessment program aligned to the core curricular content established in the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. The commissioner also must develop or select and implement a common battery of assessment tools that will be used in all juvenile justice education programs in the state. These tools must accurately measure the core curricular content established in the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all school districts and all students attending public schools, including adult students seeking a standard high school diploma under s. 1003.4282 and students in Department of Juvenile Justice education programs, except as otherwise provided by law. If a student does not participate in the assessment program, the school district must notify the student’s parent and provide the parent with information regarding the implications of such non participation. The statewide, standardized assessment program shall be designed and implemented as follows:[…]

In an article written by Jeffrey Solochek for The Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday, he writes,

“Florida school districts that are requiring third graders to have a test score to avoid repeating the grade have misunderstood state directives, a Department of Education spokeswoman told the Gradebook.

“Our primary guidance to the districts is to follow the law,” spokeswoman Meghan Collins said Tuesday. “Obviously, the law says participation on the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) is mandatory. But we never said you must retain a student who doesn’t have an FSA score.”

Even after this statement, some districts are still sticking by their stance on this matter and interpreting the law as they please. I know that many parents have sought legal counsel and have even hired attorneys to further deal with this.

I think Tracy Damron-Roelle, admin for Opt Out Sarasota, sums everything up nicely:

“Honestly, everyone. This is no joke. If you pay taxes in this state you should be knee deep in what your local school district is doing with your tax dollars. Unlike a lot of topics, this is absolutely something you don’t comment on with an opinion. EDUCATION is FACT based, my friends. 

16.2 million dollars to LEASE the Utah SAGE test questions for 3 years.

220 million to AIR – American Institute of Research to subcontract the FSA out to another company.

600,000.00 for a Validity test that was contractually supposed to have been done BEFORE our students ever had that test placed in front of them. It was never validated in Utah either.

As of early spring, we were at a little over 600 MILLION dollars in testing expenses.

Retaining a student who has worked hard all year, mastered the rubrics for the Florida State Standards to EARN an A in his report card, is absurd. We have standards based report cards. Each graded test or assignment has a rubric which the student has to perform specific, very specific functions in order to meet the highest level of scoring.  

A proficient reader has no need to prove that he’s not deficient. That’s absurd.  

If this is the case, we might as well just give kids the SAT10 in August and if they already mastered the standards, move them on to 4th grade, because right now, NOTHING a third grader does matters. 

The FSA, per Alpine Testing… DOES NOT MEASURE LEARNING GAINS.

Why are our kids taking these tests? To evaluate our teachers and set our property values.

Children should not be purveyors of property values. They do not work for the state of Florida and testing is NO WAY to evaluate a teacher when the circumstances behind every student is something that the teacher has no control over. 

ONE bad day IF you allow your kids to take this test…. and you’re sunk. As soon as you give them the data, they will lie and manipulate. We have highly gifted kids failing these tests.”

If a child has completed assignments in the classroom, has been tested on that work and proven that they are progressing and mastering the third grade, then why are districts saying that what really matters is this one test? Are they negating every bit of academic work this child has done throughout the year? 

The Opt Out movement is growing at a rapid pace. Just look at the numbers in New York. One Florida district group admin told me that she has added hundreds of new members in just the past few days. There are parents who are curious and have questions. There are taxpayers who want to know more about how all of this affects their property values.

For me personally, I have done the research and know that it will cost taxpayers $12,000 to retain my proficient 3rd grader. If you look at your property tax documents that you receive yearly, it will show how much of your property taxes go towards the school system. Right now, over half of mine do. I do not want them to continue to increase over something like this that is unacceptable and WRONG.

I also don’t want teacher and school evaluations and bonuses to be done at the expense of my son. That’s why I have taken a stand, educated myself on all of the details and joined this movement. 180 days of school should be of utmost importance in deciding whether a child – specifically, a 3rd grader – is promoted or not.

I wanted to bring awareness as a parent to all of you because I know that we all aim at doing what is best for our children. I know that I sat back and let them steer the wheel up until now, but now that I have been informed, I have taken over and have every right to do so as a parent. 

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