DORAL, Fla. – This school year could mark the end of the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA), with Gov. Ron DeSantis saying Tuesday that it will be a priority in the upcoming legislative session to replace the “outdated” standardized testing system.
His announcement was quickly met by support from school leaders and teachers.
Speaking from Doral Academy Preparatory School, DeSantis said the FSA testing “fails to provide timely information to parents,” finding students’ weaknesses at the end of the year instead of during instruction.
“We need to measure results, and we will continue to do it. We will continue to set high standards,” DeSantis said. “But we also have to recognize that it is the year 2021 and the FSA is, quite frankly, outdated.”
DeSantis said the plan is to replace it with a progress monitoring system called the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (F.A.S.T.). He says the new progress monitoring will take hours instead of days, calling for 75% less testing and allowing more time for learning.
“I think this is going to be more student-friendly, more parent-friendly and more teacher-friendly,” the governor said, noting that he expects legislative backing.
Support from the South Florida education community came swiftly.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who has clashed with DeSantis on face mask mandates, applauded the announcement.
“We have better ways through progress monitoring of using tools that produce data that throughout the year allow us to actually recalibrate the best teaching approaches to students,” he said.
Fewer, better state assessments with greater reliance on ongoing, real-time progress monitoring data enable timely academic recalibration opportunities that are right for Florida's kids. We applaud today's announcement by @GovRonDeSantis and commissioner @richardcorcoran. #FSA— Alberto M. Carvalho (@MiamiSup) September 14, 2021
Broward County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright is also on board, saying she looks forward to further details being ironed out.
“It is a very complex system,” Cartwright said. “The question is, with us moving away from FSA, how will that impact our overall grading accountability system? Those will be questions that we are looking very much forward to engaging with the state Department of Education.”
Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, is also in favor of ending the FSA, saying educators are “tired of being forced to just teach to take and pass this test.”
The United Teachers of Dade union also released a statement supporting the change.
“For 20 years, we have underscored the harmful effect that mandated tests have had on our students and educators’ ability to teach students in a rich and meaningful way,” the statement read. “We are glad that the Florida Department of Education has finally listened to the recommendations of education experts and concerned parents and has chosen to eliminate the FSA. Our educators have always provided progress monitoring and that effort should have always been supported. Welcome to holistic education.”
DeSantis praised Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran for working toward a new process for assessing learning across the state.
“This is a huge victory for the school system,” Corcoran said, adding that schools essentially shut down from April to May for testing. “When you eliminate or reduce testing guess what happens? That’s more teaching and more teaching means you’re giving those kids a better education.”
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DeSantis was also asked in his visit to Doral about the ongoing mask mandate legal battle.
DeSantis and Corcoran have been locked in a dispute with several school districts — including those in Miami-Dade and Broward — over face mask mandates that the state has tried to outlaw.
Miami-Dade and Broward have both said they will continue their face mask requirements at schools while the courts sort out the legality of DeSantis’ ban. It currently sits in a Florida court of appeals after a circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last month that the mask mandates are legal and that DeSantis overstepped his authority.
“As far as litigation, I think we’re going to win that in a slam dunk,” DeSantis said Tuesday.
DeSantis also defended his move from Monday, threatening local governments with $5,000 fines per violation for requiring their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, punishments that could total up to millions of dollars for cities.
He highlighted workers on the front lines such as police officers and firefighters, saying they don’t deserve to have their jobs threatened over their decision not to get vaccinated.
Have questions about the move away from the FSA? The Florida Education Association has posted an FAQ page.