Educators Across the State Have Little Faith in Reliability of FSA


The 2014-15 school year served a decisive role in relation to statewide testing; it was the first year to see the new Florida Standards Assessments in action, as opposed to its predecessor, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Florida students and parents were certainly accustomed to problem-ridden testing, as the FCAT was plagued with controversial standards and difficulty. According to The Washington Post, Rick Roach, a 63-year-old educator with multiple master’s degrees, failed an FCAT administered for tenth graders, scoring 62 percent on reading and a meager 17 percent on math. That same year, 73 percent of fourth grade testers failed their FCAT. If the FCAT was too hard for an established teacher, then the test is clearly asking too much of students as well.

Searching for a solution to the problem, state officials turned to Utah’s SAGE test as a replacement for the FCAT. The SAGE test, which was failed by approximately half of Utah’s students who took it, was adopted and transformed into Florida’s current FSA test. Now, a year after its introduction, both school officials and teachers have begun to lose hope in the FSA.

The large proportion of students who failed the then SAGE test was the first red flag for the FSA. Understandably, no one liked the idea of introducing a brand new test that is potentially too difficult for the students taking it. Similarly, teachers around the state felt that the test was being so rushed that the students wouldn’t have enough time to properly learn the materials being tested.

Students were given just a few months to master new reading and math concepts, a new testing regimen that was now completely electronic, and new writing precedents that were almost entirely unseen in the past.

A major issue for many teachers, including English Honors I and AP Language teacher Ms. Deborah Posner, is that the scoring of the test isn’t broken down in a logical fashion. Instead of receiving scores for each individual section, students will supposedly receive one composite score for English and math; this method of scoring keeps students and teachers in the dark when it comes to any academic strengths and weaknesses.

Moreover, the overwhelming distrust of the FSA may be attributed to the fact that teachers and students statewide were left wholly in the dark about the test’s formalities. Little information was revealed about the administration or grading of the test. Additionally, the minimum requirement to earn a passing score was never even released prior to testing. Teachers were giving a miniscule amount of material to base their test preparation, so most just quickly touched on as much as possible and hoped for the best.

Students certainly have a lot to lose if they fail the FSA, such as being given remedial classes or even denied a diploma. However, the entire school staff can face repercussions if students earn poor testing grades.

The Tampa Bay Times stresses that school superintendents have “little confidence” in this year’s FSA’s, and also have a huge aversion to the state’s reliance on an “accountability system.” This system emphasizes that teachers will receive evaluations founded on their students’ FSA grades, and the school as a whole will be given letter grades based on their testing performance. With the apparent issues that surround the FSA, it’s entirely possible that testing scores can be responsible for both baseless poor teacher and school evaluations.

While it is certainly noteworthy that the new test’s first year was not a complete success, there is no doubt that the FSA will see a variety of improvements this upcoming year. Undoubtedly, the prolonged release of test scores results from the thorough analysis of students’ scores, which primarily aims to produce higher scores and a more efficient test for this year’s students. However, the question remains as if the test scores will be an reliable indicator of student learning.