Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vitti Faces Obstacles in Quest to Cut Testing; State School Requirements Remain Same for This Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vitti Faces Obstacles in Quest to Cut Testing; State School Requirements Remain Same for This Year

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Smith Amos

Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti vowed this week to reduce the number of tests students take next school year by eliminating or making optional some district-wide assessments.

But Vitti said he can't eliminate as many as he'd like because of state requirements.

The state's annual FCAT and high school end-of-course exam schedules remain the same for now. But Florida plans to develop new state exams in the 2014-15 school year, so state and district exams in Duval will look substantially different next year, Vitti said.

"This is a revolution," he told board members. "We'll really be focusing our attention on what will be assessed next year."

Vitti promised in fall 2012 to reduce testing in Duval schools by five to 10 days a year, leaving more time for teaching. Since then, state requirements for reporting and developing student data have increased.

For instance, half of a teacher's annual evaluation is now based on student test score growth. For many courses, that means students must take at least two tests - a "pre" and "post" test - to measure academic progress.

Vitti said much of today's complaints about testing come from parents of students in primary grades - from kindergarten to third grade - where youngsters take a variety of tests serving distinct purposes, such as to pinpoint academic weaknesses, properly place students in reading groups, or to measure how well they are grasping new, Common Core materials.

"The complaint was, 'Some babies don't even know how to write,' so we've have taken some of that off the table," he said.

Older students had complaints, too.

They take multiple tests, called "curriculum guide assessments," every nine weeks throughout the school year. The tests measure how well they learned the previous nine weeks' lessons on various "core" subjects - such as reading, math, social studies and science - and whether students were on track to pass FCATs or end of course exams in spring.

Some students also took other tests to identify academic weaknesses or place them on a reading or math level.

Vitti cut out some of the curriculum tests and some similar tests for elective classes. …

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