Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Districts May Get Testing Flexibility | Legislation Advances to Allow SAT or ACT to Be Used Instead

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Districts May Get Testing Flexibility | Legislation Advances to Allow SAT or ACT to Be Used Instead

Article excerpt

FLORIDA LEGISLATURE

TALLAHASSEE -- School districts could opt to let their students take the ACT or SAT in place of the much-maligned Florida Standards Assessments now used across the state, under a bill approved Wednesday by a Senate committee.

Sen. Don Gaetz, a former Okaloosa County school superintendent and chairman of the Senate committee that oversees education funding, is the main proponent of the bill (SB 1360) that would let school districts continue to use the FSA or test their high school students using the ACT or SAT, with the ACT Aspire test used for students in grades 3 through 8.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, said allowing the national tests, which are used by most major colleges and universities as part of the admissions process, is not a retreat from Florida's longstanding effort to measure student, teacher and school performance through a testing system.

He called the proposal, which was unanimously endorsed by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, "a common sense approach to preserving and protecting accountability in education."

We're not pulling__ down the goal posts or__ the scoreboard. Standards__ remain high," Gaetz said.__ "If anything, measurement__ is more careful and__ more rigorous under this__ bill."__ Under the bill, school__ districts would have a__ choice between the testing__ schemes beginning__ with the start of the new__ school year in the fall. But__ Gaetz acknowledged that__ the timeline may have to__ be adjusted with more__ input from state education__ officials and local school__ districts.__ He also said he did not__ expect the optional testing__ plan to cost more than the__ current system, which he__ said exceeds more than__ $100 million a year.__ "My goal is a zero sum__ game where we don't__ spend any more money,"__ Gaetz said, adding he had__ no "guarantee" that would__ happen and that he would__ oppose the bill if there is a__ major increase.__ Some 79 percent of__ Florida high school gradu-ates__ took the ACT in 2015,__ according to data from__ ACT Inc.__ Jacqueline Twiggs, a__ lobbyist for the ACT, said__ 22 states use the test as a__ way to assess the college__ readiness of 11th-graders. …

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