In the Tallahassee Democrat: Replace Florida tests with national tests

My piece on using the ACT for federal accountability purposes at the high school level instead of Florida’s present testing program was published in this morning’s Tallahassee Democrat.

I’ll add a few points to what was published.  First of all, much of the discussion about how Florida compares to the states that require the ACT of all 11th graders was edited out.  Here is the original version of that section:

If the ACT became Florida’s new required high school exam, how would Florida compare with other states? To keep it simple and fair, we can focus on how Florida compares to the thirteen states where the ACT is a required achievement test (so that all high school graduates have taken it), and examine the results released last week for the high school graduating class of 2015.

In reading, the average score earned by Florida’s students beat eleven of these thirteen states (Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming) and tied the other two (Colorado and Montana) for first place. Unfortunately, on the other sections of the exam, Florida students performed much worse. In writing, Florida beat only Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina. Florida students’ math performance beat only six of these states (Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee). And the science performance of Florida’s students was ahead of only Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina.

As for Commissioner Stewart’s argument that the ACT wouldn’t perfectly align to the Florida Standards:  First of all, this year’s FSA didn’t either.  Not even close.  Second, the present state high school science test is the Biology end-of-course exam, which covers less than half of the state’s high school science standards.  The ACT science section would be a better fit to Florida’s science standards than the Biology EOC.

Finally, this issue should be taken up by the candidates for Leon County Superintendent of Schools.  Do the candidates agree with Seminole County Superintendent Walt Griffin that Florida’s present state exams should be replaced by a college entrance exam and an exam like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills at lower grades?  Or do they agree with Orange County Superintendent Barbara Jenkins that the state should stay the course with the present testing program?

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