What Families Need to Know About State Testing in 2021
On April 9th of this year, the Florida Department of Education issued an emergency order on testing. That order gives school districts much more flexibility in how they use the results of state tests. That includes the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) and the EOC (end-of-course) exams the state currently requires. Schools must still administer the tests, but we’ll be using the results in a very different way this year.
Most of the negative impacts of state testing have been eliminated. Instead, we’ll be able to use the results to drive instruction — in other words, to see how students are doing academically and what schools and teachers can do to get them where they need to be. Here is a list of the changes and how they will affect students, teachers and schools:
Students expected to graduate in the spring of 2021: On a case-by-case basis, seniors may not have to pass the FSA or EOC tests in order to graduate if they’ve met other graduation requirements, including the number of credits and the minimum grade point average (GPA). Instead, the teacher and school can look at the student’s performance in class.
It’s important to remember that testing requirements for graduation will go back into effect for students graduating after 2021.
End of Course Exams and Course Grades
Typically, the state mandates that a certain percentage of a student’s grade in a course with an associated EOC exam has to be based on the results of that exam. If students scored poorly on the test, the score could lower their course grade. This year, if a student has a low score or misses the EOC exam, it won’t hurt their grade. But if the EOC score will help their grade, we’ll use it.
Promotion and Retention
Schools now have the flexibility to look at factors besides the results of the FSA ELA to decide if a student can be promoted to fourth grade. The district will be able to use the results of the FSA to determine which students will benefit most from a summer learning program and to place them with a teacher who can best meet their needs.
Bright Futures/Florida Medallions/Gold Seal
For students expected to graduate in the spring of 2021: These are programs for graduates that offer scholarships and other benefits. Typically, students must have a certain number of volunteer service hours certified by their school counselors or other staff to qualify. This year, school staff can certify that a student qualifies if that student completed the hours or planned to complete them but couldn’t because of the pandemic.
The emergency order also extends the deadline for students to meet SAT and ACT test score requirements to December 1 of 2021.
Magnet Programs/Class Placements
Because we haven’t had up-to-date state testing information in two years, the district and schools have been using other student information to make decisions about placement in magnet programs and other classes. As part of the upcoming comprehensive reimagining of our schools, the district will be reviewing the process for placing students in classes and magnets.
In Florida, school grades are based in large part on the results of state tests. That’s especially true for elementary schools, whose grades are based entirely on test scores. School grades can have both positive and negative impacts.
For 2021, schools will keep the grades they earned before the pandemic unless a district requests an updated grade based on this year’s test scores. If a district chooses to ‘opt in’ a particular school and tests enough students, the updated grade would be used to determine if the school is named a school of excellence, is identified for school improvement or is classified as one of Florida’s ‘lowest-performing’ schools. The district will make those decisions after reviewing all the data and considering the effect on the school.
The state requires that districts use student data to evaluate teachers. Districts are still required to use such data, but we’ll be provided with more flexibility in how we do that.
If you have any questions about state testing and its impact on your child, please contact your child’s school.