Polk County Public Schools slash standardized testing

BARTOW, Fla. - The Polk County School District has drastically cut local mandated testing. Sliced by more than 75 percent, Polk County Schools have dropped 140 tests to only 20 this upcoming school year.

A result, parents have been asking for years. Polk County administration even admits to over-testing.

Dr. Michael Akes, the Chief Academic Officer for the district tells ABC Action News, many of the counties tests are taken, graded but never looked at again. When, in reality, they should be analyzed to see where students are in their learning and used to gear the progress to an appropriate level.

“If we can't answer that question with certainty what are you doing with those tests then it's not a relevant test,” Dr. Akes said.

Without the tests, Dr. Akes says the time will be filled with ‘actual learning’.

“Teachers will be able to teach longer and it will be less interruption for instruction,” Dr. Akes said.

Parents, although happy, still say they’d rather see their children learning than worrying about how they will perform on an exam.

“The truth is 20 standardized tests is still a lot, especially if they're not created by our teachers in a way that can inform our curriculum,” Jennifer Sabin said.

Sabin has been an active opt-out community member and hopes to work with the school district in eliminating even more unnecessary tests. One being, a highly debated End of Course Exam for third grade students.

”We cannot make three hours of testing more important than 180 days of classwork,” Sabin said.

Unlike locally-controlled testing, the school must force students to take the state-mandated test in third grade.
The test measures their reading level, but if they do not meet the state-standards they must be held back.

“They are getting pressure at six-years-old about a test they don't even have to take for two years,” Sabin said, outraged.

Even the Chief Academic Officer says the statute is ridiculous.

“By eight-years-old we need to have each student reading at grade level, therefore we don't get to the end of third grade and not able to pass that assessment,” Dr. Akes suggests.

The answer according to most parents and teachers is to monitor the progress of students at each grade level, so when the time comes for testing, they are not afraid of failing.

“If we don't know by third grade that a kid can't read we are doing something wrong,” Sabin said.

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