FairTest Statement to the Lee County FL School Board on the Reconsideration of the Vote to "Opt Out" of Standardized Exams.

                                                                                          

for further information:
Bob Schaeffer  (239) 395-6773 or cell (239) 699-0468                     
for immediate release Tuesday, September 2, 2014

STATEMENT OF ROBERT A. SCHAEFFER, PUBLIC EDUCATION DIRECTOR
NATIONAL CENTER FOR FAIR & OPEN TESTING (FAIRTEST)
BEFORE THE LEE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD

Like many other Lee County residents, I am very disappointed with this meeting’s unnecessarily rushed timing, which made it impossible for many parents, educators and students to participate. We do, however, recognize the commitment of all five Lee County School Board members to responsibly address the misuse and overuse of standardized exams in our public schools. Like you, we know that students, teachers, educational quality and equity suffer significant harm from Florida’s punitive testing mandates.

If, instead of launching a massive, taxpayer-funded disinformation campaign of exaggerated claims and hypothetical risks, the Superintendent had convened a Task Force of parents, teachers students, administrators and assessments experts, to address implementation of the "opt out" policy adopted last Wednesday, this session would not be necessary. Fortunately, the School Board can still assure that Lee County students and educators are protected both from standardized testing overkill and threats of state retaliation, without reversing its previous decision.

There is still time for a Task Force to evaluate testing requirements, lay out alternative policies, and produce a balanced analysis of “opting out” of state mandates. Among the tasks to address:

  • Compile a list of all standardized tests scheduled to be administered in Lee County Schools identifying which level of government mandates each exam;
     
  • Analyze the impact of suspending all district-mandated standardized exams;
     
  • Publish a guide to state and federal mandated testing that explains potential consequences and alternative assessments available for families who choose not to take part in each exam;
     
  • Rewrite the District’s Student Progression Plan to ensure that all non-test alternatives are identified and explained in easy-to-understand language.
     
  • Direct elementary school personnel to compile academic portfolios for all elementary school students so that they have an alternative to the state third-grade promotion test;
     
  • Determine the percentage of students who do not already take the ACT or SAT, therefore having an alternative test score for the graduation requirement, and estimate the cost of paying for their exams;
     
  • Provide educational programming during standardized tests periods to meet the academic needs of students whose families choose to opt out;
     
  • Set up procedures so that parents, educators, the media and taxpayers can review test items after exams have been administered;
     
  • Convene a public meeting to brief Lee County State Senators and Representatives on the damage done by current testing policies and determine what they will do to address the problems.

The Task Force should be instructed to report back with findings and recommendations in a short time period, no more than two months.   

My colleagues and I at the National Center for Fair & Open Testing stand ready to assist you in this important work.
 

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