DORAL, FL – This spring, students are scheduled to take the state’s annual standardized tests with a variation: they will have two more weeks to conclude the exams due to COVID-19 concerns.
The additional time frame was given after Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran, signed an emergency order yesterday to allow tests are taken in a more safely manner considering all of Florida’s annual standardized tests must be given in person.
The new decision means public schools can “spread out the testing sessions over a month or more” to guarantee critical measures to avoid the spread of the coronavirus are being followed such as, for example, allowing fewer people in a classroom simultaneously taking the exam, reported the Orlando Suntinel.
Typically, students from grades 3 through high school begin the evaluation period in April and end in June and each group of tests is administered during a two-week period. This, of course, didn’t happen in 2020 when standardized tests were canceled all together because of the pandemic.
But in 2021, an “in the middle” decision needed to be taken in order to reduce the achievement gap the coronavirus has brought within schools.
Florida education authorities are well aware of that reality, which is why it was even pointed out by Richard Corcoran in his emergency order when he stated there are “disproportionate numbers of educationally disadvantaged students learning off-campus or not attending school at all,” as reported by CBS4.
For this reason, the testing, required by both state and federal law is “now more critical than ever so that educators and parents can measure progress and determine what additional services and supports are needed to ensure that each student is given the services and supports they need to succeed in life,” just like Corcoran’s order says.
Some agree with the urgency to conduct tests, while others don’t. Those who are in the first group, such as the chancellor of K-12 education at the Florida Department of Education, argue Florida has already proven its capacity to do testing in a safely manner during the course of the pandemic.
“The fact is Florida’s school districts and schools have proven this can be done safely since last summer,” wrote Oliva in a Jan. 28 memo to school superintendents.
This was achieved because, just like now, with the summer and fall limited testing more time was given with even weekend and evening sessions allowed.
But parents who opted for the online learning model, which represents less than 35% of the total of students statewide according to the report of the Orlando Sentinel, are against in-person testing and have even requested Florida to cancel testing this school year once again.
“We are far more concerned about the physical and emotional well being of students rather than their standardized test scores,” reads one online petition with more than 12,600 signatures.
So far, there isn’t a clear consensus regarding if online students are required to take in-person tests in the spring such as FSA and EOC exams.
It is also unclear if the state will meet the federal requirement of having at least 95 percent of Florida students in grades 3-8 sit for math and English-language arts exams.
What it is clear, however, is that the two-weeks time extension will apply to subject tests in English-language arts and reading, writing, math and science, which are administered to students in grades 3-10.
Corcoran’s emergency order also gives school districts “flexibility for administering tests on nights and weekends,” a spokesman for the education department told The News Service of Florida in an email Monday as cited by CBS4. The extended testing window will also delay reporting of assessment results.