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Concerns grow over in-person state testing in Florida schools amid COVID-19

FSA testing retakes are happening now
Help your kids handle the stress of FSA tests
Posted at 6:20 AM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 09:21:46-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Concerns are growing for some teachers and families over FSA testing resuming in Florida school districts as coronavirus cases continue to emerge in classrooms across the state.

One mother reached out to ABC Action News, concerned that her daughter, now an 11th-grade student in Hillsborough County Schools, is being asked to come in-person to sit for the FSA exam, despite the family choosing eLearning as her school option. She asked her name not be published in order to protect her daughter's privacy.

Options for Parents

  • 3rd through 8th graders do not need to have an FSA score on file to advance from one grade-level to the next. For third graders, if they do not an FSA score on record, they would need to use other measures to show that they can be promoted into 4th grade, such as a portfolio of work.
  • Otherwise, if a student doesn't have an FSA score, it is left as a blank on their record.
  • For parents, the FSA assessment helps show the trend-data for their child so you have a true picture of your child's academic progress.
  • For schools, the FSA is an accountability measure to ensure they are growing academically.

Public school students are required to take the FSA test per state statute. However, a student will not be penalized if they do not have a score.

There is a multitude of opportunities for students to pass the graduation requirements for the FSA. In order to meet graduation requirements, a student would have to have a passing, grade-10 ELA score on file, a passing Algebra I EOC score on file, or would to pass an equivalent test by taking the PSAT, ACT, or SAT.

The test is paper and pencil for grades 3, 4, 5 and 6. For 7th grade and above, all course assessments are conducted on the computer. However, per state rules, these are secure assessments and cannot be conducted remotely. The FSA must be taken in-person.

FSA testing was suspended at the end of the 2019-2020 school year after schools shifted to virtual learning due to coronavirus. While graduating seniors had the FSA testing requirement waived, that was not the case for younger students.

The FSA, or Florida Standards Assessment, is a K-12 state test administered in school districts across the state and overseen by the Florida Department of Education. It replaced the FCAT several years ago.

School districts started resuming FSA testing from last year in the middle of September, despite students being away from regular instruction for several months.

In Hillsborough County Schools, the FSA retakes that are happening right now are only for students who need that requirement to graduate, according to the district.

For those students, a PSAT, SAT, or ACT score would allow them to waive the FSA test. A guidance counselor would be able to tell your student if they have a score on file, according to the district.

Hillsborough County Schools is already thinking toward the spring when more students typically test. They are considering adding a Saturday testing date to be able to better space out students.

In the meantime, all students who come to the school to test in-person this fall will continue to follow the safety precautions in place for brick-and-mortar students, such as mask mandates and social distancing requirements, according to Hillsborough County Schools.

This comes as one Florida Public School teacher based in Port Saint Lucie posted an email on her Facebook page that she wrote to Richard Corcoran, the Florida Commissioner of Education, in response to having students do FSA testing now.

Good evening,

I am outraged that Florida students are being asked to take Florida State Assessments this month! I am referencing the ELA FSA and Algebra 1 EOC. There are countless reasons that testing only weeks into the school year is ridiculous, but a few main points come to mind:

1) Students have not received a proper in-person, brick and mortar education since last March - 6 months ago. How will the results of these assessments be an accurate reflection of student content knowledge?

2) Students have just returned from one of the most stressful summers of their educational career. Many have had to deal with illness and death due to COVID 19. To add the stress of state exams at all this year is completely unnecessary; let alone just weeks into the year.

3) Virtual students are being asked to take these tests in person. Most families made the decision to have their child begin the school virtually to avoid any exposure to people outside of their home. It is not right to ask these same families to send their child to a brick and mortar school setting for up to 3 days. They have the right to keep their child at home in an environment that they can control. Additionally, transportation will need to be provided for many of these students. Is the state providing this?

If the argument to be made is that these tests are graduation requirements, then it is not a valid argument. Because testing these students at this time will NOT produce valid results.

To test these students now is cruel and unusual punishment and as a registered voter I will not forget the fact that this state is choosing money and testing over student mental and physical health. If this state had any compassion and empathy for our children, you would NOT follow through on this month's state testing.

Thank you,
Karen Maxwell Florida Public School Teacher

ABC Action News has been asking the Florida Department of Education if a student will be penalized for not sitting for the FSA due to COVID-19 or other concerns. State officials have yet to respond to our request.