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Decision by School Board of Lee County to ‘opt out’

September 10, 2014
By MARY FISCHER , Lehigh Acres Citizen

On Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 the Lee County School Board voted 3-2 to "opt out" of state mandated standardized testing. This decision was a statement, a statement on behalf of the 86,000 students, their families and their teachers opposing the misuse and overuse of standardized tests to judge students, teachers and schools.

Hopefully, this has begun a serious dialogue that will effect change to benefit the students and teachers of Lee County and the state of Florida!

We do need assessment. It is critical to educators to both inform and guide instruction. It allows a teacher to determine which instructional strategies are effective and which need to be modified. Assessment data can also be used by a school district to measure student achievement, examine the opportunity for children to learn, and provide the basis for the evaluation of the district's programs. Assessment must have purpose and impact, validity and fairness, reliability, significance and provide useful feedback. However, one size does not fit all!

We did not opt out of teaching and learning! We will continue to teach the standards. Lee County students have experienced academic growth despite higher standards and benchmarks dictated by the state. What goes on in our schools every day is amazing! We have teachers who are state certified professionals, whose hands are tied by state mandates and too much testing.

Standardized testing is required under Florida law. Florida statute reads, "Participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all school districts."

Florida DOE said it would create its own standardized test to measure teaching and learning of the standards, and they entered into a six-year $220 million contract with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to develop new tests. When Miami Superintendent Carvel asked about field testing, he got a surprising answer. Most states field test their standardized tests in their own state. Not Florida. Florida's new tests are being field tested in, of all places, Utah, where the demographics are hardly representative of those in Florida! (Washington Post)

The Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) passed a resolution in June calling on Governor Scott, state lawmakers and the state Board of Education to hire an independent authority to review the state's testing system. The FSBA represents all 67 school districts in the state. This resolution included the following points:

- Revise the accountability system to include data from multiple forms of assessment and limited standardized testing to more accurately reflect student learning gains and identify learning weaknesses;

- Eliminate the practice of using student performance on standardized tests as the primary basis for evaluating teacher, administrator, school, and district performance

Following the vote to "opt out" we faced more questions which increased the need to provide answers. We must listen to and represent all constituents!

That is why I requested to meet to move to rescind the vote! We did need to revisit the decision to clearly define and to clarify the possible repercussions and to protect the children, which is always the priority for the board, staff and parents, as well as the business community.

We have asked Superintendent Graham to work with staff and bring information with clear identification of all state mandated tests and a plan for assessment and moving forward. Frequent updates will be provided to all. I am confident that the results will be positive. I continue to encourage all stakeholders to continue to contact our Legislators to advocate for their position on high stakes testing. Together, we can make a difference!

With much to celebrate in the way of progress during this past year, and a good, strong Strategic Plan, ready to be adopted, we WILL move forward and continue to do what is best for the students of Lee County and the community.

Mary Fischer is District 1 representative on the School Board of Lee County.



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