Recently, the Department of Education rolled out 276 pages of guidelines for the administration of the 2020 Florida Standards Assessment. They represent a Catch-22 “dilemma from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.” These guidelines paint a DOE so pathologically obsessed with the notion of “unfair advantage,” that it directs teachers/test administrators to completely ignore the humanity of our children in the name of standardization.
Mistakes on the part of teacher or student come with high stakes consequences ranging from a revoked teaching certificate to mandatory grade retention. These conditions look way too much like the forced malpractice of a Catch-22 where there is no escape for teacher or student.
These latest standards mean teachers must let students sleep through the FSA, knowing they will fail. The comments of Florida teacher Jamie Huslander Williams, Florida school psychologist Lois Horn-Diaz and Florida Title 1 teacher Ashlyn Cobb Morton clearly express why this latest directive from the Florida Department of Education is so alarming and wrong. Many thanks to these professionals for speaking up!
Florida teacher Jamie Huslander Williams poignantly describes her reaction to the new FSA administrative guidelines:
“I am a teacher in a school where 100% of our student population qualifies for free breakfast and lunch. Some of our students are homeless, ninety-two percent speak English as a second language, many do not have enough to eat on a day-to-day basis. Many perform at “below grade-level-expectations”.
These students come to school with a desire to graduate. Those students who succeed are often the first in their families to earn a high school diploma. They work hard to meet graduation requirements set forth by the State of Florida. However, my students’ dreams of graduation are being made increasingly more difficult to attain.
Today, during a staff meeting, teachers were introduced to the “Spring 2020 Test Administrator Prohibited Activities”. What follows is taken from the transcript of the training: The Florida Department of Education’s Bureau of K-12 Assessments updated the agreement, which is in effect for all spring 2020 state testing.
They put these requirements in place to address inappropriate practices they found during their Spring 2019 test monitoring pilot. They went to classrooms around the state and observed assessments actually being given.
The pilot identified test strategies and practices that reduced the standardization of assessments. The concern expressed by the FDOE was that that these practices can give some students, classroom or schools an “unfair advantage.”
What unfair “practices” were giving students an “unfair” advantage? Teachers are no longer permitted to offer students peppermints or bottled water.
In addition, “A test administrator CANNOT remind students to use a strategy, such as underlining key words in passages, before the test begins.”
New policy: During the test administration, do not instruct individual students to go back and check his/her work once finished.
- It must be the student’s decision to check work.
New Policy: Do not instruct students to write down formulas, acronyms, or other strategies on test materials [once they are distributed but] before testing begins.
Note that it is not prohibited for students to choose to jot down formulas or other information onto their test booklet on their own, but the decision to do so, or to write any other notes, marks, or work must be independent and not influenced by a test administrator, proctor or other school staff.
We are testing children not adults! In my opinion, the unfair advantages could be whether a student has eaten prior to testing – which is why teachers offered peppermints and water, to stave off hunger pangs. Reminders to use strategies just prior to testing help to ease the stress of test-taking. Reminders to go back and check work helps students make sure they have answered all questions before submitting.
Where is the humanity and compassion in testing?
People, especially parents, need to know how teachers feel about the harm this is doing to children. I am heartbroken that as an educator I am mandated to impart inhumane treatment on children.”
Florida school psychologist Lois Horn-Diaz explains her professional concerns about banning encouragement while administering the FSA:
“As a school psychologist trained to administer standardized tests, I think it’s outrageous to hear of “encouragement” during the FSA being outlawed for any of our students. I have always utilized a ‘pat on the back’, a quick ‘do your best’ or ‘now go back and check your work’ as I have circulated around the room during FSA testing.
My professional training emphasized the need to avoid any ‘hints’ or break in standardization during test administration, but that in no way precludes efforts to create a comfortable and stress-free test environment. If I notice a child being stressed during an IQ test, I will pause (as long it is not a timed section) and chat with them about how they are feeling before continuing.
To do otherwise would create an invalid assessment, since the test scores will reflect their emotional state rather than their best ability.”
Florida Title 1 Teacher Ashlyn Cobb Morton had this reaction to question 7 on a Florida DOE sheet regarding FSA administration guidelines:
7. If a student has verbal encouragement on his/her IEP section 504 plan, does that student need to be tested in a small group so its not seen as an unfair advantage?
“Teachers are not allowed to verbally encourage students during standardized tests anymore. What they’re doing isn’t right and people need to know. When I read question 7 (above) I see so much more than the words written by the DOE.
- I see the face of the student who’s unsure of himself because you’re his 4th teacher this year because every time the rent is due the family moves.
- I see the sad eyes of a child who’s dad just lost his battle to cancer.
- I see the puzzled expression on the face of a student who didn’t have a bed to sleep on because 12 people share a 2 bedroom house and they have to take turns sleeping in the beds.
- I see the gifted child who’s already struggling with self-harm because his parents act like he doesn’t exist and now he thinks the teacher doesn’t notice him.
- I see the child who tries so hard in school and then goes home to care for younger siblings so her mom can head to a 2nd job.
- I see the confusion on my own daughter’s face when I have to explain to her that she may see other students receive encouragement but her teacher will not be allowed to praise her no matter how well she’s doing.
How do we tell these children that they are unworthy of basic human interaction because they don’t have the ‘right paper-work?’ Equating encouragement to an IEP accommodation is essentially saying that the need for encouragement is a disability.
Everyone needs encouragement, everyone goes through days when they may need just a little more support. As teachers and as parents we need to stand up to a system that treats children as testing machines.
Children that don’t have disabilities are also worthy of encouragement!
As an educator in a Title 1 school, I see on a daily basis what these children face. With the menial salary my district pays sometimes encouragement is all I have to offer and often-times it’s all students need.”
Here are some of the policies found on page 30 of the New Standardization Policies for the Spring 2020 test administration:
These add specific prohibited behaviors, in addition to those previously listed in the prohibited activities agreement. While it is your responsibility to monitor the testing room at all times to ensure that students are working independently and do not access any unauthorized aids or electronic devices, during testing you may not:
- Offer incentives, use checklists, or monitor students for use of testing strategies. While you may prepare students for testing using strategies, such as underlining key words in passages or items, you may not actively monitor them to ensure they are using certain strategies. You may not offer incentives or rewards for using strategies during testing. Student work during testing must be independent of any influence or incentives. Once testing begins, students must work on their own with the understanding that they are being monitored for independent work only.
- Instruct a student to return to check his or her work once they have finished. While you may reread portions of the script during the break, including the section about checking their work once students have finished, you may not approach individual students who appear to have finished and instruct them to go back to their test materials and check their work. This includes individual inquiries, such as “Are you sure you are finished?” or “Did you answer every item?”
- Instruct students to “brain dump” formulas or strategies once they receive materials but before testing begins. Once test materials are in the room, you are prohibited from interfering with students’ use of those materials, even before testing begins. This includes telling students to list formulas or strategy acronyms on their materials. Any student notes, marks, or other work must be independent and not influenced by a test administrator or proctor.
Read more from blogger Billy Townsend here: