Algebra 1 EOC: Ridiculously High Stakes

5/22/2016, ACCOUNTABALONEY UPDATE:

At the 2016 Spring FOIL Conference (Florida Organization of Instructional Leaders), The FLDOE gave a presentation on the details contained in HB 7029:School Choice, one of the two long “train bills” from the 2016 session. To give you an idea of the bill’s complexity, the FLDOE summary presented was 135 pages long! It included this good news:

Section 27. Amends s. 1011.61, F.S…to “Delete the provisions requiring an FTE adjustment when a student does not pass an end-of-course exam required to earn a high school diploma. The FTE adjustment was scheduled to begin in the 2016-17 school year.”

In other words, the Algebra 1 Performance Based Funding, discussed in this blog, has been repealed. The other high stakes attached to the Algebra 1 EOC remain in place.


Occasionally, reformers will dismiss concerns regarding the high stakes attached to standardized testing in our schools by comparing these state mandated tests to the test you must pass to get your driver’s license. For example, in 2015, current Senate President, Andy Gardiner told an Orange County Legislative Delegation (read about it here):  “My driver’s test was high-stakes, because I didn’t want my parents driving me around anymore.” Yes, being driven around by your parents is terrible…

The stakes attached to the Algebra 1 EOC recently got quite a bit higher, so we decided this was a good time to compare the consequences of the current state mandated Algebra 1 End of Course exam (EOC), which we will argue has the highest stakes of all of Florida’s state mandated assessments, with having your parents drive you around when you are 16.

The current Algebra 1 EOC was created by AIR, the same company that created the Florida Standards Assessment or FSA and first administered in 2015.  Cut scores for the 2015 administration were finally set in January 2016, resulting in an overall FAILURE RATE of 44% (with some schools and districts having worse performance than others).

Passing the Algebra 1 EOC is a high school graduation requirement. Students who fail the 3 hour, computer based assessment must either retake and pass the exam or earn a concordant score on the PERT exam.

A student’s score on the Algebra 1 EOC, like all of Florida’s EOCs, is worth 30% of the students grade. Some Magnet Schools require the completion of Algebra 1 before a student can gain admission to their programs. Students failing Algebra 1 will be ineligible for admission to these highly sought after programs.

Student scores on the Algebra 1 EOC are used to calculate their teacher’s VAM score, which affects their teacher’s effectiveness rating and merit pay. Teachers receiving multiple ineffective ratings may lose their jobs.

Student scores on the Algebra 1 EOC are a major component of the Middle School A-F School Grade calculation, making up at least 11% of the possible points. Middle schools are rated on the percentage of eligible students who pass a high school EOC (most often Algebra 1, though occasionally students will be offered other courses with EOCs) or earn an industry certification.

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The number of eligible students is determined by the number of students in the class AND all 8th graders who scored a 3 or higher on EITHER Reading or Math in their 7th grade state assessment. To be clear, the number of students deemed eligible to take a high school level Algebra 1 course in 8th grade is NOT determined by their performance on any Algebra readiness standards but on their previous year’s FSA Math and Reading scores.

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Performance on all of the State mandated Math EOCs, including the Algebra 1 EOC, along with calculated learning gains, also represent 30% of the calculation of High School A-F grades.

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Schools achieving high letter grades receive extra funding while school’s receiving failing grades can be threatened with take-over or closure.

Performance on the Algebra 1 EOC is also calculated into the School District’s overall grade calculation.

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As if the stakes described above weren’t high enough, there is now a thing called “Algebra 1 Performance Based Funding”, described in this slide from the DOE:

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So, yes, you read that right. Beginning in 2016-17, if a student takes an Algebra 1 class and then, at year’s end, fails the mandated EOC, that student’s school must return 1/6 (representing the cost of one out of 6 classes) of the FTE money (this is the money the school receives to educate each student) back to the state. The money (amounting to over $1000 per student who fails the EOC) must be returned after a student has been taught by a teacher, in a classroom, for an entire school year… Schools in low income areas, with lower passing rates, will be hit particularly hard.

Apparently, schools will not be penalized if the student “subsequently enrolls in a segmented remedial course delivered online.”  I called my daughter’s middle school and, at this point in time, they have been given no direction from the DOE as to what a “segmented remedial course” looks like, but they are scrambling to assure it will be available to their students by the end of next school year.

So, yes, the stakes attached to the Algebra 1 EOC (high school graduation, 30% of course grade, Magnet School eligibility, teacher’s evaluation and job security, school and district grades and school funding) are ridiculously high and, I think we can all agree, are significantly worse than being dropped off at a high school dance by your parents.

The high stakes attached to the Algebra 1 EOC (and the rest of Florida’s state mandated assessments) are real, they lack common sense and, unless they are addressed, Florida will never have a valid accountability system.

In the meantime, all comparisons to getting your driver’s license are baloney.

 

Addendum: All images are from a FLDOE presentation entitled “School Accountability and State Assessments” at the Fall 2105 FOIL conference and can be found, along with lots of other great information, in their archived materials.

 

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SB1360: Baloney on Rye is Still Full of Baloney

On 1/20/2015, 10:32am, an addendum was published to this blog.  You can find it here.

“A Baloney Sandwich on Rye, is still full of baloney. Changing the bread doesn’t make it roast beef.”     – Sue Woltanski

Florida’s Legislature has created a massive Education Accountability system that is based on the (flawed) assumption that standardized test scores are an accurate measure of education quality.  The performance of young students on an annual test of grade level proficiency is used to evaluate teachers, administrators, schools and districts. Performance on these tests can result in retention, remediation and, possibly, failure to graduate with little or no input from classroom teachers. This test-focused system has led to a significant narrowing of curriculum with some schools being little more than test preparation factories. Florida’s test-and-punish accountability system is resulting in the destruction of the very public education system it was designed to monitor.

More than 3,000 people marched in Tallahassee last week (1/14/16), drawing attention to the failed accountability system, claiming “Enough is Enough.” The denouncement of Florida’s test-obsessed accountability system did not mean the marchers were “anti-test.” As FEA President Joanne McCall pointed out: “Teachers are not opposed to testing. Heck, we invented it.” Virtually every taxpayer believes there should be fiscal accountability in our schools, but the current system is destroying, not evaluating, our schools.

Test focused accountability is Accountabaloney.

Peter Greene wrote an excellent blog describing “The Test-Centered School” where “regardless of what its mission or vision statement may say, test results are the guiding force.” (Read it here.)

“And that ultimately is the problem with test-centered schools; the relationship between the school and the student is turned upside down. Instead of asking, “How does this help us meet the educational needs of our students,” administrators ask, “How will this affect our test scores?” In a test-centered school, the school is not there to serve the students– the students are there to meet the needs of the school. And no– there isn’t a scintilla of evidence that test prep serves student needs, nor that test results are an important indicator of their education.”

Florida’s parents will immediately find his descriptions familiar (for some Florida examples, read here and here).

Last summer, a coalition from Seminole County proposed a “solution” to Florida’s testing woes: change the test. Our inaugural blog questioned this “solution”, (read it here) suggesting that the “Sunshine Solution” ignored the bigger issue regarding how test scores are currently used, and misused, in Florida.

Senator Gaetz, who sits on the Senate Education PreK-12 Committee and chairs the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee, must not have read our blog because he has turned the “Sunshine Solution” into SB1360, a bill that allows districts to choose from an approved list of alternatives to the $300 million Florida State Assessment (FSA) AND to allow students passing certain exams with high enough scores to be exempt from taking other state required assessments. (You can read the entire 52 page bill here)

Senator Gaetz says he favors “choice”, not doing away with the accountability system. For the record, this bill allows districts to choose an alternative assessment to the FSA but, if the district chooses to stick with the FSA, it will NOT allow students to choose one of the alternative assessments.

“It’s not going to be what the anti-assessment people want,” Gaetz acknowledged (in this article). “This bill is not an answer to those who say. ‘let’s take down the goal posts and not measure progress at all.’ ”

For the record, we are NOT against assessment. We are against accountabaloney and SB1360 is full of it. This bill does nothing to address the USE (or better, mis-use) of standardized test scores in Florida and will only complicate, confuse and disrupt an already overly complicated system.

Under SB 1360, districts will be allowed to choose the ACT Aspire assessment in place of the current 3rd to 8th grade FSA. ACT Aspire was launched in April 2014 and is currently in use, or planned for use, for grade level testing in 6 states (info here).  The exam is computer based, but offers a pencil/paper option. Total testing time, per student, is estimated to be 4 hours (significantly less than the FSA), and includes Math, Reading, Writing and Science. As a norm-referenced test it, like the ACT and SAT, is technically not the appropriate assessment for the standards based curriculum we are trying to assess in Florida. Use of the ACT Aspire would require another Board of Education cut score process to determine passing levels in Florida. We wonder whether our senators are having second thoughts about the decision to hire AIR as the creator of the FSA, given that ACT was in the final group of vendors vying for the top assessment spot in Florida back in 2014 (when Florida dropped out of the PARCC, more here)?

Currently, passing the Algebra 1 FSA End of Course exam (EOC) is a Florida high school graduation requirement. In addition, a student’s score on the Algebra 1 EOC counts for 30% of the student’s course grade and is used to evaluate the teacher’s effectiveness, as well as the school and district’s grades. There is no reported evidence that the Algebra 1 FSA EOC has ever been shown to be fair, valid or reliable for assessing at-risk sub populations of students. Additionally, there is no evidence that the EOC has been show to be a valid assessment for the myriad of ways it is used.

Under SB1360, a student’s Algebra 1 EOC graduation requirement could be satisfied by obtaining specific score on the EOC, ACT Aspire, ACT, PSAT or SAT, OR by passing certain “rigorous” industry certifications including Associate Level Certified Electronic Technician, Cisco Certified Network Professional, FAA Ground School, FAA Aviation Mechanic Technician-Airframe, FAA Aviation Maintenance Technician-Powerplant, ComTIA A+, Global Logistics Associate, MSSC Certified Production Technician and Oracle Certified Associates: Database. What is ComTIA A+ and why is it, or FAA Ground School, an appropriate substitute for Algebra instruction? What was the purpose of adding the Algebra graduation requirement in the first place?  Do these certifications options fulfill the initial legislative intent?

Under SB 1360, students who earn appropriate scores or certifications are also exempt from having to take the EOC (worth 30% of their course grade) when enrolled in the Algebra 1 course. How will the state use EOC scores to assess teacher effectiveness or school grade when only some of the students are taking the EOC? What will happen to a class that requires some students to take an exam worth 30% of their grade while exempting others? How will it affect a student’s attentiveness and diligence in a class, when they know they have already passed the final before the course has even begun?

Additionally, SB1360 defines the Math SAT score necessary to be exempt from the Algebra 1 EOC as 420. According to the College Board, this score represents the 6th percentile, meaning 94% of students would be able to achieve this score on the SAT. Keep in mind only 77.8% of Florida’s student graduate high school and, last year, only 56% passed the Algebra 1 FSA EOC, making a SAT score of 420 hardly seem “rigorous”. (data from https://www.collegeboard.org)

Similar situations will occur for the Geometry and Algebra 2 EOC. In 2015, 53% of Geometry students passed the FSA EOC, yet the SAT score required for exemption in SB 1360 will be 450, or 10th percentile. In 2015 only 36% of Algebra 2 students passed the new, clearly flawed FSA EOC (read about it here), but the SAT score required for exemption in SB 1360 will only be 500, representing the 18th percentile. What is the point of even giving the Algebra 2 EOC if the state plans on offering an exemption to as many as 82% of the students?

Most interesting may be the US History EOC. Under SB1360, if a student scores a 1200 on the SAT (sum of Critical Reading, Writing and Mathematics scores) they are exempt from taking the U.S. History EOC. This score represents the 15th percentile, meaning 85% of students would score at or above it. Why even have a U.S. History EOC if 85% of the students would be exempt from it because of basic math, reading and writing skills? Wasn’t the intent of the U.S. History EOC to assure students had a basic knowledge of U.S. History? Apparently, that is no longer a priority.

In Florida’s test-centered schools it is easy to imagine what will happen if SB 1360 were to pass. Already students are being placed in AP courses they don’t want and, perhaps, are not interested in, to boost their high school’s grade. If SB 1360 passes, schools and districts should be anticipated to choose the assessments that are most likely to give their schools the best school grades and students will be pushed into certifications and alternate tests based not on the students interests but, rather, on what is perceived to be in the best interest of the school’s grade. Expect an increased number of low performing math students placed in industry certification programs whether they want them or not. Districts will be working furiously to ensure they offer the certifications that are easiest to pass.

Last Wednesday, the Senate Education Appropriations Committee held a workshop focused on Alternative Assessments. The details of SB 1360 were presented and committee members heard testimony from officials from testing companies (you can watch the meeting here). The overwhelming response from the participating senators was very positive. Senator Legg had concerns regarding the timeline but said “I think this is great stuff.” Senator Montford said “I guess the question then is, well, why didn’t we do this already, or why are we even questioning doing it now?”

This overwhelmingly positive response makes us wonder if these senators, who have been the major designers of Florida’s failed test-focused Accountability system, even understand how the system works. Student performance on state tests is used to promote, retain and remediate students; teacher evaluations and pay depends to a large part on student test scores, school grades and property values depend on a grading system essentially entirely based on test scores. Our accountability system depends on having a valid metric. The flawed rollout of the 2015 highlighted this: superintendents lost faith in the FSA and its administration; they complained about the State’s inability to measure learning gains; they questioned the validity of the FSA and the results of the “independent” Alpine Validity study (which only bothered to assess a narrow definition of “validity” for 6 of the 17 new FSA exams, full report here); they called for a complete review of the entire system. SB 1360 seems to address the superintendents’ concerns by saying “any test score will do, as long as it is a test score.”

Senator Gaetz summarized the 2015 FSA fiasco this way (read more here): “When all the players on the field and all the coaches on the sidelines no longer believe that the game is being called according to fair rules, it’s very, very difficult to have a meaningful experience.” It IS difficult to have any “meaningful experience”, or trust in the current accountability system but, by proposing SB 1360, Senator Gaetz proposes to keep the same unfair rules but, using his analogy, to allow each district to decide what sport they are playing! This is accountabaloney.

Florida’s Accountability system is broken. The foundation is crumbling. Superficial fixes that fail to address, or even consider, the basic structure of the system, are not useful. SB 1360, with its array of tests and exemptions, will serve only to highlight to parents and students that, in Florida, test scores are king. It will be clear that Florida schools no longer serve the needs of our students. In Florida, the students (and their test scores) will be used, only, to serve the needs of the school.

“When your foundation is shaky, you don’t keep building on top of it, you knock it down and start over.”  – Mike Rowe

It’s time for policy makers to listen to the superintendents, parents and teachers, from across the state, who can see through all the baloney and just want a sound and respected accountability system in place.  The current foundation is shaky. Is it time to knock it down and start over or will they allow it to collapse under its own weight?

A Long and Rather Scary List of the Ingredients in Florida’s Accountabaloney System

ingredients

SPOILER ALERT: You will not find a lot of reason or common sense.

Parents and taxpayers agree there should be accountability in our school system, but the current test-and-punish accountability system is Accountabaloney; policies put in place are destroying, not evaluating, our schools.

Here, in list form, are the basic ingredients we have discovered in #accountabaloney. We plan to expand on individual accountabaloney ingredients in upcoming blogs.

The primary stated purpose of Florida’s student assessment program is “to provide student academic achievement and learning gains data to students, parents, teachers, school administrators and school district staff.” How well do they achieve that goal?

  • Much of the school year revolves around preparing for state assessments that will only be validated after the students have taken them, if ever. Learn more here.
  • During the Summer of 2015, Alpine Testing Solutions was hired to provide an independent validity assessment of the new FSA tests before the scores could be used. The report only evaluated 5 of 14 grade level tests (grades 3, 6 and 10 ELA and grades 4 and 7 Math) and one of three new math EOCs (algebra 1). This leaves 9 of 14 grade level assessments and two new math EOC unvalidated.  Read the Alpine Report here.
  • Ordinarily, FCAT/FSA results arrive at or after the end of the school year. There is no feedback to students as to what they missed, no time for teachers to correct deficiencies in the school year. These tests DO NOT inform instruction.
  • FCAT/FSA is NOT nationally normed, so results provide parents little information on how their child might perform at a national level. Also, the state test primarily assesses grade level proficiency so performance on the FSA/FCAT not helpful in assessing student performing significantly above or below grade level.
  • Achievement levels change annually, making it nearly impossible for the average parent to understand year-to-year variations in their student’s scores.
  • Achievement levels on the FCAT/FSA are determined by a politically motivated “cut score” process and may have little relationship to developmentally appropriate achievement levels at each grade level. For example, the score required to pass the 3rd grade Reading (ELA) FSA was not determined by assessing what performance would reflect whether a child was reading at grade level prior to administering the exam, but rather by evaluating how students performed on the exam after it was administered.
  • The “cut score” process is politicized to the extent that, for the last week, The Foundation for Florida’s Future, a highly influential, non-profit education reform advocacy group which promotes the expansion of vouchers and the privatization of public schools, has been nearly constantly advertising on social media, encouraging citizens to contact the Florida DOE and influence the cut score process. Specifically, the Foundation wants the cut scores raised, increasing the required passing scores which will result in dramatic increases in the number of children who will fail the state tests. Conveniently, high failure rates for students on state testing will lead to even worse school grades, further supporting the Foundation’s assertion that schools are failing and, therefore, need to be privatized.  Read about it here.
  • The state assessment is a criterion-based test, designed to test how well the specific state standards were taught/learned in each grade. Since the standards vary by grade level, one should question how performance in sequential years actually measures learning gains.

The A-F grading system

  • Central to Florida’s Education Reform agenda was the institution of the A-F School Grade program. Presumably, school grades are calculated so parents and taxpayers can learn how their schools are “doing”. Property values are highly influenced by the local school’s grade. Do these grades reflect what actually constitutes a quality education?
  • By and large, parents do not choose their child’s school based on the “learning gains of the lowest quartile.” According to the August 2015 Phi Delta Kappa International poll, the factors most important to a parent’s school choice include quality of teaching staff, curriculum, student discipline, class size, variety of extra curricular activities, school reputations, proximity to home and school size. None of these things are reflected in Florida’s A-F grades yet, according to decision makers, are all more important to parents than student test scores.   Read the PDKI poll here.
  • Florida’s current school grade calculation is based almost exclusively on test scores in grade level FSA Math and Language Arts and, 5th and 8th grade FCAT Science. Learning gains on Math and ELA FSA are also calculated and represent half of the school’s grade. High Schools score points for graduation rates and student performance of college readiness exams.
  • Because 2015 was the first administration of the FSA, learning gains cannot be calculated this year, leaving half of the school grading calculation without data. Despite calls from Florida’s Superintendents to hold school grades, the DOE is “moving forward” towards issuing school grades based on only half of the grading formula.
  • Extra points are given to Middle Schools who place more students in Advanced Math classes (Algebra or Geometry) and High Schools who place more students in AP, IB, AICE, Industry Certifications and Dual Enrollment courses. Middle Schools and High Schools can also score points if students pass advance course exams, like Math EOCs or AP tests, respectively. This has lead to more students being placed in advanced classes, whether they are prepared or not, sometimes against their will and even against parents’ wishes. In Monroe County, school administrators are paid bonuses to place students in certain AP classes and teachers and students are paid bonuses when students pass the class. In Orange County, middle school students in Honors Math classes found themselves also enrolled in Remedial Math, to allow extra test preparation for the EOC.  Learn about School Grade calculations here.
  • Test scores reflect little more than socioeconomic status. Researchers have been able to predict school grades based on US census data alone. Chris Tienken and colleagues “predicted the percentage of students at the district and school levels who score proficient or above on their state’s mandated standardized tests, without using any school-specific information” making the need for testing obsolete!  For more information, click here.

Costs of Accountabaloney

  • State Assessment data is to be used by the public to assess the cost benefit of the expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
  • Recent estimates by teachers, suggest that at least 25% of the school year is spent in test preparation and test administration.
  • Parents question whether test prep, which pushes out more creative and authentic learning experiences, represents a “free and appropriate education.”
  • The costs of testing and test preparation have increased exponentially yet have demonstrated little positive impact on measures of nationally respected academic achievement (SAT and ACT scores have barely budged during the last 15 years of reform and remain below the national average).  For more information on the decrease of SAT scores, click here.  For more information on ACT scores, click here
  • Test developers, like AIR, have been paid massive amounts of money to develop tests without documented validity or reliability. The state’s contract with AIR required validity testing to be done by the test developer. Commissioner Stewart reported, in March 2015, that the FSA was field tested in Utah and its validity confirmed at that time. Copies of the Utah Field test/validity report have been requested by the Florida Senate but, to date, are not available.
  • Follow the Money: The cost of this year’s FSA test is about $40 per student every time they take it. There is a financial incentive for test developers to fail students requiring retakes. The same companies that make the tests help set the pass/fail rate, create the test prep and remediation programs and publish the curriculum.
  • Large amounts of taxpayer dollars are spent on the technology required for administration of computer based testing. Computer centers created to be used for state mandated testing are, for significant portions of the year, inaccessible to students, including those enrolled in computer science courses. Taxpayers should question whether funding computer labs for the purpose of testing and test preparation, rather than computer education, is an appropriate use of tax dollars.
  • The indirect costs of test focused education are enormous and should also be considered when calculating the appropriate use of taxpayer dollars: lost instructional time, narrowed curriculum, misuse of resources, time spent in test prep, etc. etc.
  • Quality Preschool and Testing Preschoolers: Play based preschools  have lasting benefits when compared to academic preschools, yet the state requires frequent academic assessments in VPK and requires administration of FLCKRS/Kindergarten readiness, which has the primary purpose of rating VPK programs, and is more likely to reward academic preschools.  For more information on the psychological harm done to our youngest learners, please click here.  For more information on the decline of play, please click here.

Testing our youngest learners:

  • Current Florida standards require children learn to read in kindergarten, even though this has been shown to be developmentally inappropriate for many kindergarten aged students and can cause lasting harm for those students. For more info, click here.
  • In order to provide more time for test preparation, many schools across the state have eliminated or curtailed recess, music and art, all known to be critical to early childhood development. For more Info, click here.
  • HB7069 Removed the requirement that each elementary school regularly assess the reading ability of each K‐3 student but still requires districts “to establish a student progression plan that emphasizes reading proficiency in K‐3 and progression based on mastery of the standards “. Though there is no requirement that determination of reading proficiency must be by standardized assessment, when combined with the state’s requirement to evaluate teacher’s based on objective student data, this often results in the administration of multiple standardized assessments throughout the K-2 school years, often computer based, even though such standardized tests in children so young have been demonstrated to be un-valid, unreliable and developmentally inappropriate.  For more info, click here.

3rd grade retention

  • Florida mandates passing the 3rd grade state reading assessment before promotion to 4th grade, even though the preponderance of the evidence show that grade level retention (at any grade level) causes lasting harm to children, decreasing their likelihood of graduating high school by 60% each time they are retained. In Florida, mandatory 3rd grade retention has lead to an increased number of student retention at grade levels leading up to and including 3rd grade. Low income children and children of color are disproportionately affected by these retention practices. Education research provides multiple examples of effective interventions for struggling readers who do not require retention to be successful.  For more information on the impact of retention, click here.
  • Florida loves to celebrate their nation leading 4th grade NAEP scores, which should be considered a direct reflection of the high number of 3rd grade retentions in the state. When you retain the worst readers in 3rd grade, you should expect reading scores in 4th grade to rise, as been demonstrated in other states when similar mandatory 3rd grade retention policies have been enacted.

Intensive Reading:

  • Students with low ELA test scores are placed in Intensive reading interventions, which in many if not most situations involves assigning students to a state approved computer reading program, often remaining on the same or similar programs for years in a row whether the program is helping or not. Districts appear to place students in these classes to provide additional test prep to students they fear will perform poorly on the state assessment. Read about IR here.
  • Across the State, Honors students and those in Advanced Placement literature classes, are simultaneously placed in Intensive Reading Classes. One should question how having “Intensive Reading” on a college bound student’s transcript affects their admissions chances at competitive universities.  Watch here.

Graduation requirements

  • Passing the Algebra 1 End Of Course exam is required for high school graduation even if a student passed his Algebra 1 class and went on to take and pass advanced math classes. A student who passed high school Calculus still requires a passing score on the Algebra 1 EOC to graduate.
  • Passing the 10th grade reading FSA/FCAT is required for high school graduation even if a child passed Advance Placement Literature exams.

State Mandated End Of Course Exams

  • The state requires participation in state-developed End of Course exams in Civics, US History, Biology, Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2. In each case, the test is mandated to be worth 30% of the student’s course grade, and may have a significant impact of a students resulting GPA. Teachers are not allowed to view the tests questions and students and parents cannot review the student’s performance following the test.
  • While all students must take these assessments, districts have tremendous leeway in the interpretation of the leveled test scores (i.e. 1 through 5) and their application to the final course grade. While all districts must calculate the score as 30% of the final grade, the numerical score assigned to individual performance level varies by county… in some districts a level “3” might be worth a B+, in other districts the same level three might be worth a low B or C. Given that the mandated 30% weight can significantly affect a students final grade, students with similar performance in their class and on the EOC may have significantly different course grades due to their geographic location. A district with a more “punitive” calculation of EOC scores could significantly impact a child’s high school GPA, when compared to a child from a neighboring district with a more realistic calculation of EOC scores.

Teacher Pay

  • In 2011, in order to qualify Race to the Top Federal Funding, Governor Scott signed SB736 which required tying teacher pay to test scores., even though studies show that more than 80% of the variation in a student’s tests score is NOT dependent on teacher performance, but rather on circumstances outside the teacher and the school control.  more here.
  • The need for objective test scores for teacher evaluation has led to routine progress monitoring of all students in many districts, even though the state only requires such monitoring for certain struggling students.

Accountability is not uniform across different types of schools: The rules and requirements of testing and accountability vary between types of schools: Traditional Public, Magnets, Charters, Vouchers, Private, Virtual, Duel Enrollments and homeschool, all have varying degrees of test score based accountability.

  • State funded voucher students are required to take some sort of state approved annual assessment, yet need not take the FSA/FCAT/EOC to receive credit for courses, be promoted or graduate.
  • Public school students must pass the Algebra 1 EOC for graduation but, publicly funded voucher students can graduate without fulfilling this requirement.

Impact of state testing on Special Needs Students

  • The developmental age of a child is largely now ignored, even with the support from an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) in place.  The focus, even for the most disabled children, is on grade level proficiency.  One size does not fit all and this is especially true of special needs children. These children encounter a spectrum of difficulties; children with physical disabilities, like spina bifida or cerebral palsy,  require a very different set of accommodations from an autistic child, for example, yet they are all held to the same standard.
  • Accommodations are not the almighty fix.  IEPs are supposed to be individualized and should serve to put in place whatever supports are necessary for that child to succeed.  Success should be measured very differently from child to child.  You cannot even compare a high functioning autistic child with a child that is lower on the autistic spectrum. The reality is that due to budget cuts, may services/accommodations are not provided or limited. The notion that accommodations alone can solve the issue of a child meeting grade level proficiency is ridiculous.
  • Recent policies from the USDOE defy all common sense and reason, suggesting that all special needs children should be held to the same grade level proficiency standards as their able bodied/minded peers and that the new tests are valid for ALL students with ALL learning needs. Following these policies, only 6% of New York’s special needs children passed their state’s assessment last year. Florida should expect similar results for our most vulnerable children.
    For more information on the current policy implemented for SPED students and the enormous impact on this population, please click here. Or here.
  • Florida law requires families of significantly impaired or terminally ill children to petition the state for a waiver from these tests, which may or may not be granted.  Nobody is exempt from state testing because, as Jeb Bush said, “I think if you don’t measure, you don’t really care.”  Bush goes on to say, “I think you have to assess where students are.”  I guess ignoring a child’s developmental level/age is not part of his equation.  He expects that all children must meet grade level proficiency against all the odds (as long as you have accommodations!)

Congratulations. You have reached the end of our long and scary ingredient list.  If you encounter more #accountabaloney ingredients, and we are certain there are more to be discovered, please share with us in the comments and we will add them to our list.

Accountabaloney cannot be cured by changing from one standardized test to another. We must change the way the test scores are used to create a high quality and just education system. We will be exploring alternatives to test-and-punish accountabaloney in upcoming posts. The first step towards the cure for #accountabaloney is recognizing the extent of the problem.