FSA results mean stress for students and parents

Posted at 4:42 PM, May 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-20 17:53:04-04
Shelly Discepola spent months agonizing over whether her 9-year-old son Carmen should take the Florida Standards Assessment test.
“It’s a lot of pressure to put on him. He wants to know if he passed. Is he going to have to repeat third grade?” she said.
Carmen excels in most subjects, but because of dyslexia, he struggles with reading. That’s the part of the FSA third graders needed to pass to move on.
“He’s good in all other areas, and to hold him back only because he’s lacking a little bit in one area. I don’t think it’s right,” Discepola said.
Third graders all around Florida had trouble passing the reading portion of the FSA.
Almost half failed to meet a satisfactory level. But education commissioner Pam Stewart doesn’t seem concerned. In an email to superintendents, she wrote:
“I am pleased to share that our students’ grade 3 performance in English language arts increased by 1 percentage point over the 2015 baseline administration.”
Discepola said the statistics shows a flaw in the testing system and the type of questions that are asked.
“Some of them were hard. He was bringing stuff home. And I was helping him, and I wasn’t sure what the right answer was,” she said.
The FSA started last year, replacing the FCAT. It’s led to a growing but still small percentage of parents who choose to opt their children out of testing.
That’s what Discepola had planned. But in the end she let Carmen take the test, and this morning she found out he passed.
“I was crying I was so happy. He’s known some kids that have had to repeat third grade, so he’s going to be pretty ecstatic. We are going out of town this weekend so it’s going to be a big celebration,” she said.
Even with the good news, Carmen’s mother does plan on opting out of testing next year, when the results aren’t tied to advancement.
Fifty-four percent of third graders passed the FSA Language Arts test, a 1 percent improvement from a year ago.
Locally, Hillsborough saw only 52 percent score a satisfactory performance on the test.
In Polk County, only 51 percent passed.
Pasco saw 57 percent pass and Pinellas County had 53 percent pass.
Sarasota was tops in the area with 68 percent passing.