Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

High-Stakes Glitches

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

High-Stakes Glitches

Article excerpt

In light of online-test breakdowns, Legislature should suspend penalties

The apparent has become obvious: Florida is not prepared to implement the latest, round of sweeping changes in public-education curriculum and testing.

When the Senate Education Committee meets today, making that recognition should he at the top of the agenda.

Statewide, online testing began Monday in Florida. The tests were part of the new Florida Standards Assessment regime, which is aligned with the state's version of the Common Core curriculum.

As Shelby Webb reported in Tuesday's Herald-Tribune: "At least 36 school districts, including those in Sarasota and Manatee counties - - reported slow service, students getting kicked off the software mid-test and an inability for some test administrators to log in."

The problems ranged widely in severity and volume. In Sarasota County, they affected a "small number" of student at four schools; elsewhere, the difficulties were severe enough for superintendents to suspend the testing.

Public-school officials and educators had voiced their concerns about a statewide shift to online exams without adequate tests of the system under real-world conditions, such as hundreds of thousands of students logging in at the same time.

Yet the high-stakes process, in which students' futures, teachers' pay and school grades are determined by test results -- kept on going.

Sen. John Legg, the Education Committee chairman, said about the computer-system troubles this week: "You're always going to have implementation issues. You can't just say we're going to do pencil and paper forever from now on."

Yes, program rollouts involving massive numbers of computers and humans often encounter "implementation issues" and no one expects the educators to test students without using technology in some forms.

But the concerns about the untested rollout are compounded by a greater problem -- Florida's excessive reliance on standardized tests as the most significant indicator of student achievement, and teacher and school performance. …

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