Standardized Test in Florida
StandardizedTest in Florida
Themost commonly used system of educational assessment in the UnitedStates is the standardized testing (Grant, 2014). It is used todetermine the growth, achievement, and progress of students. Sincethe establishment of public education in the country, standardizedtesting has experienced significant changes. In fact, some analystsargue that it was not primarily used for the same purposes it isbeing used for currently (Urbina, 2014). More so, it was notsignificant and as heavily relied on by the education system as it isin the current world. The success of a country is closely related tothe quality of teaching, and therefore the school system needs to beperfect. Standardized tests are not in themselves high-stakes.However, they are used for high-stakes reasons like determining thenumber of students that are expected to pass. Fewer discussions andattention has been directed towards the effects of such tests on thelearning of students. This article will discuss the various changesthat have taken place regarding the tests and their consequences onteaching and learning. Lastly, it will provide policy recommendationsthat may help reduce the adverse effects of the same.
NoChild Left Behind Statute
TheNo Child Left Behind Act was created in 2001, and it placed a greatemphasis on Standardized Testing (Vinovskis, 2015). It is now animportant aspect of the success of American students. It criticallyexamines the system of testing and makes amendments if any flaws aredetected. NCLB has played a significant role in reforming publiceducation by endeavoring to meet its primary goal: attaining a 100%proficiency of all groups of learners in the US.
Purposeof the Standardized Tests
Themain purpose of standardized tests in Florida is to measure theachievement of students in regard to the State`s set standards ofeducation. These Standards were established and implemented to makesure that all high school graduates were ready to succeed in college,life, and career. Results from these assessments help the State`sadministration to determine whether the goals of the education systemare being met and if these students are well equipped with theknowledge and skills they need in their lives after graduating.Florida`s educational tests also provide the basis for schools` anddistricts` accountability systems. Citizens can determine the State`sprogress in regard to education using a standardized approach.
Florida`sStatewide standardized testing is primarily composed of an adequatetesting in grades 3-11 of English language arts, full testing inmathematics in grades 3-8 and End of Course (EOC) assessment inGeometry, Biology, American History, Algebra 1 and 2. In addition,the assessments include the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA) whichmeasures the performance of students who have cognitive disabilities.The tests are summative since they are used to evaluate learnermastery of the state`s academic standards.
State-required,Locally Determined Tests
Asrequired by the state, districts administer local tests whichdetermine student mastery of the content of the courses theyundertake in school. Tests are conducted for all subjects that arenot measured under the state-level standardized assessment program.In some cases, the tests factor into the course grades of thestudents.
Districtrequired, Locally-determined Assessments
Districtsmay require additional assessments that are not called for in statelaws. They may be interim assessments which are administered aftersome predetermined time intervals during the academic years.Consequently, they are used to diagnose the gaps that exist in thestudent learning process. More so, interim assessments are used tomonitor the progress of student learning, the rate of improvement,and the effectiveness of the learning.
Historyof Florida`s Testing Program
Florida`sinvolvement in academic testing and accountability kicked off beforethe initial administration of the FCAT in 1998. The summary belowoutlines the student assessment origin in the state and how it hasexperienced significant changes over time
State-wideassessments began in the 1970s. The authorization of graduation teststook place in 1976. However, the first implementation was during thegraduation of the 1983 class. In 1992, the first Florida WritingAssessment was implemented to fourth-graders. It extended to eighthgraders in 1993. After two years, the identification of schools thatwere poor performers began on the basis of norm-referenced scoreresults for the 4th, 8th and 10th grades scores in writing and theCompetency Test high school results. FCAT was implemented inMathematics (5th, 8th and 10th grades) and Reading (4th, 8th and 10thgrades) in 1998. In 1999, A-F School Grades were issued for the firsttime. This was done based on the FCAT performance in the grade levelsand subjects that were tested.
From1999 to 2001 information about the learning gains was not yetavailable. Student learning gains began to be calculated after theFCAT Mathematics and Reading were extended to the 3rd and 10th gradesin 2001. The student learning gains were incorporated into thecriteria for School Grades. FCAT Science was implemented for thefirst time in 2003. Grades were expanded on 2007 to include theperformance in science. High school grades were developed in 2010 toallow for the inclusion of graduation rates, acceleration and collegereadiness. The state switched to FCAT 2.0 in 2011. Consequently, thetests that were developed determined the Next Generation SunshineState Standards understanding. EOC assessment in Florida began in2011 in Algebra 1. It extended to Biology 1 and Geometry thefollowing year. It expanded to the US History in 2013 and eventuallyto Civics in 2014. In 2012, the incorporation of FCAT and EOCsperformance in school grades began. During the 2014-2015 time frame,Florida switched to the Florida Standards Assessments (FAA).
HowStandardized Tests Affect Student Learning
Changingthe Nature of Teaching
Standardizedtests have changed the roles played by teachers. Their tasks haveincreased since they have to take up testing-related work in additionto their duties. These Tasks include collection, organization andanalysis of test-related data, grouping students in terms of academicperformance based on the tests, and coordinating the assignmentspresented to the students, based on the assessment score (Kline,2013). Consequently, teachers have limited time for teaching. Moreso, instruction has been diminished by curricula that have beenimplemented to prepare learners for the tests. Teachers are requiredto use prepared materials which may be unavailable or may not addressthe specific needs of the students. Sometimes the curricular areaccompanied with scripted lessons and guidelines that determine thetimeframe within which a particular content should be taught. As aresult, teachers are left with limited opportunities to come up withdecisions.
Manyschools have to deal with a narrowed curricula due to standardizedtests. The assessments squeeze out subjects such as foreignlanguages, music art and social studies since they are not part ofthe tests. For ELA teachers, subject-specific narrowing occurs due tothe tests. The teachers are expected to offer instructions related toliteracy skills measured on standardized assessments. Reading is moreprominent as compared to writing in most of these tests. Therefore,the teachers direct more of their focus on reading than writing,usually spending more time on comprehension and not critical readingskills.
Thetype of writing that students do is significantly limited bystandardized tests. Most writing tests have significant portionmeasures such as multiple choices which are indirect and do notrequire the learners to write extended prose. Consequently, teachersemphasize more on the test-based methodology and as a result theknowledge that students gain regarding the process of composing islimited. Increased reliance on the tests on machine scoringexacerbates the drawback.
Studentlearning is sometimes diminished by computer scoring systems sincethey prioritize features like sentence length and mechanicalcorrectness instead of more extensive writing dimensions. Thesituation is worsened by the fact that some mechanical errors areidentified by the automated systems erroneously. ELA students aremore affected since they do less regarding high-level learning in thecapricious environment.
Standardizedtests focus primarily on cognitive dimensions and ignore factors thatare essential to the students. Studies have shown that GED studentsperform better than high school graduates on the assessments but lackessential qualities such as sociability, curiosity, and perseverance(Rutschow & Crary-Ross, 2014). If teachers did not have toconcentrate on the drills for tests, they would be in a betterposition to help more learners to develop cognitive abilities.However, they have to, for example, reduce the number of literarytexts, and as a result, the development of student curiosity islimited.
Inflexiblegrouping of students into proficient and non-proficient categoriesalso limits student learning. It is sometimes hard for students whoare categorized as not proficient to believe that they can read andwrite effectively.
Thenegative effects of standardized tests can be reduced by employingtests of student achievement to enable the administration of thetests is alongside a wider and more comprehensive measure of thelearning. Students need to understand how the standardized testsystem works. Standardized tests should be valid and efficient forthe student populations that are being tested to ensure that they areeffective. They should offer special accommodations like allowingdictation, translators for ELL students and extra time.
Standardizedtesting is the primary form of testing that is used in manycountries. Its primary purpose has changed over time, and more so, ithas experienced many changes. A significant emphasis was placed onthis type of testing by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Mostpeople have focused on the tests` ability to determine the progressof the students but have failed to discuss the effect thatassessments have had on learners and teachers. The major limitationsinclude curriculum narrowing, changing the nature of teaching andlimited learning. The Florida`s education department needs to makesure that students understand the standardized test system to make itmore useful. In addition, it should offer special accommodations.
Grant,S. G. (2014). Historylessons: Teaching, learning, and testing in US high schoolclassrooms.Routledge.
Kline,P. (2013). Handbookof psychological testing.Routledge.
Rutschow,E. Z., & Crary-Ross, S. (2014). Beyond the GED: Promising Modelsfor Moving High School Dropouts to College. MDRC.
Urbina,S. (2014). Essentialsof psychological testing.John Wiley & Sons.
Vinovskis,M. (2015). FromA Nation at Risk to No Child Left Behind: National education goalsand the creation of federal education policy.Teachers College Press.
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