State education leader vows new tests will be in place by fallby John Kennedy | January 8th, 2014
Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart tried to assure a Senate panel Wednesday that she will meet a tight deadline for rolling out new standardized tests for evaluating students next fall.
Education officials have been scrambling to devise a new test since Gov. Rick Scott in late September announced that Florida was abandoning a national evaluation system that was to accompany the Common Core State Standards.
Common Core include new student benchmarks adopted by 45 states that are expected to be fully implemented in Florida beginning this fall. The move has been battered by tea party groups and some parent organizations who say it undermines local control of schools and cements another phase of a teach-to-the-test approach in schools.
“It is important that we have an assessment in 2014-15 that is aligned with what students are being taught,” Stewart told the Senate Education Committee.
Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, was among a handful of senators who quizzed Stewart. He asked her to explain plans for what he called the Doomsday scenario, where effectively there is no test in place in time for the school year.
Stewart sidestepped. But she did acknowledge that it would be critical for Florida to have a test finalized and ready to go by June.
Five testing companies are seeking the contract. But not responding to the state’s “invitation to negotiate” was the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) that has fallen out of favor with Scott and other Florida Republican leaders
Stewart is to select a testing firm in March. But a bid challenge – a legal tie-up that is common in state contracting – could put the brakes on the state’s fast-track plans.
In two hours of testimony Wednesday, Stewart seemed to cast PARCC as possibly a fallback testing system, if major snags prohibit the state from settling on an alternate system.
But Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who sat in on the hearing, said he doesn’t want to see PARCC used in Florida.
“I just want to make sure PARCC is gone,” Gaetz said, adding, “All I know is the proposal that was in front of the state of Florida a year ago…had some serious flaws. We wanted Florida out of PARCC and we are.”