Florida Officials Work to Reduce Testing

Published March 17, 2015

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has issued an executive order that suspends one test in his state’s schools for 11th grade students and called for legislation to review and reduce other testing.

After an investigation into the frequency of testing done in Florida schools, state education officials determined schools were administering too many standardized tests. The state officials looked at the frequency of testing on the district level, the purpose of the tests, and whether there was redundancy.

“A quality education prepares students to succeed in college or a career so they can pursue their dreams,” Scott said in a February 24 press release. “It’s important to measure students’ progress and achievements, but we must not lose sight of our goal to provide every student with the very best education. As I have traveled the state, I have heard from parents and teachers that there are too many tests, and I agree.”

Scott’s decision is part of a national trend toward reducing testing. A U.S. Senate committee in January questioned whether the nation’s schoolchildren were taking too many tests.

Myths About Testing

The Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), based in Florida, defends testing and uses the motto “Fewer tests. Better tests.”

FEE says several myths about testing are prevalent in Florida. One myth is the state is requiring the administering of hundreds of additional tests due to a teacher evaluation law. On average, students spend only 1 percent or less of the school year’s 900 hours of instruction time taking statewide standardized tests.

Districts have to use student learning as part of teacher evaluations, but FEE says the districts have complete flexibility when determining how to measure student learning in subjects not mandated for statewide tests. Districts can create their own tests, such as a creative writing essay for a writing class or a piano recital for a music class, and refrain from using traditional paper-and-pencil exams.

“Testing that provides honest, helpful information on how a student is doing is important to teachers and parents, and, mostly importantly, to children, because we care,” said Allison Aubuchon, FEE’s director of state communications.

“We don’t want [children] falling through the cracks,” said Aubuchon. “Research shows the number of tests varies widely from district to district. There should be a look at the frequency of tests, particularly at the local level, as well as reducing duplicative tests and providing results in a timely manner to aid in classroom decisions.”

Push for More Testing

Kyle Olson, CEO of the Education Action Group, says Common Core standards have created a push for more testing. He says standardized testing is important but thinks there is too much of it.

“[Testing] can show how a school is doing and how a teacher is doing,” Olson said. “It gives parents an unbiased view of how their child is doing. But at the same time, in the zeal to figure out why schools aren’t doing as well as they should, there has been a move towards too much testing.”

“Is there too much testing? Yeah. I think there is,” Olson said.

Olson says more states may follow Florida’s example and reduce the amount of testing.

“A lot of parents are unhappy with the Common Core testing,” Olson said. “They are unhappy with the amount of data collection in those things. You have unions that don’t want teachers held accountable for their performances. One way to reduce the political pressure is for governors to cut down on testing.”

Tom Gantert ([email protected]) is senior capitol correspondent for Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Learn More:

Kimberly Hefling, “Too much testing in schools? Senate panel considers changes,” The Associated Press, January 21, 2015: http://www.komonews.com/news/national/Too-much-testing-in-schools-Senate-panel-considers-changes-289323401.html

“Governor Scott: We Must Reduce Testing in Florida Schools,” Governor Rick Scott’s Press Office, February 18, 2015: http://www.flgov.com/2015/02/18/governor-scott-we-must-reduce-testing-in-florida-schools/