FL expands state exam schedule for spring; critics opposed to any high stakes testing during the pandemic

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Florida school districts will be given more time to schedule crucial state exams during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new emergency order from state education officials.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Monday signed the new order granting school districts a wider testing window to help schedule statewide assessments while maintaining social distancing protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, the Grade 3 reading exam had been scheduled for April 5 to April 16. Now, districts can test between April 5 to April 30.

Overall, controversy remains about whether students should have high-stake testing during the pandemic.

Nevertheless, notifications of the emergency order were sent Monday morning to Florida school superintendents, and the Florida Department of Education posted tweets and messages on Twitter and Facebook.

The Department of Education did not send direct notification to members of the press who could provide information to the public.

In addition, not every family uses social media platforms. Those that do, may not have seen the updates.

So if you didn’t log in to Twitter or Facebook at the right time, you might not have seen the update that affects the lives of thousands of students, families, and educators.

The order outlines a modified testing window for statewide assessments to better suit the challenges that come with educating and testing during the pandemic.

The order extends the testing window from about two weeks to a month — meaning that school districts can use the extra time to administer the exam for students while accounting for more social distancing measures.

The order also says that school superintendents can reach out to request for further scheduling flexibility, though to what extent is not yet clear.

The order lays out the extended testing windows as followed:

April 5-30: Grade 3 English Language Arts: Reading
April 5-30: Grades 4-10 Writing:
May 3-28: Grades 4-6 ELA, 3-6 Math, grades 5 and 8 Science:
May 3-June 11: Grades 7-10 ELA/Math, End-of-Course exams:

By extending these testing windows, the results of such tests are also delayed.

“The results of the Grade 3 ELA assessment will be made available no later than June 30, and the results of the remaining assessments will be made available no later than July 31,” the order says.

Some of these statewide assessments which could determine grade retention or affect graduation. As the Phoenix recently reported, the Grade 3 ELA assessment holds a lot of weight in projections for student success in subsequent grades.

Statewide testing during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a contentious topic for some time.

Last year, statewide assessments were cancelled due to the emerging COVID pandemic. Now they’re back on, but critics think exams add more pressures and stress, particularly while learning during the COVID pandemic. Many advocates say that the state should postpone this year’s exams too.

Legislation in the upcoming 2021 legislative session would focus on using the assessments to identify struggling students rather than punishing them.

But right now, students will have to test in person regardless of whether they learn in a brick-and-mortar classroom setting or at home on a computer.

The emergency order would at least allow districts to schedule these exams in a way that would accommodate pandemic-related measures.

“[Emergency order] does give us more time to conduct these tests and so that may help us with scheduling,” said Russell Bruhn, who oversees communications for the Brevard County school district, in a conversation with the Phoenix.

He continued: “The challenge is getting students who are in charter schools, are in e-learning, or even in private schools… they come to the [Brevard Public Schools] brick-and-mortar schools for these tests. So the planning is on how to stay COVID compliant, with our COVID safety protocols, while administering these tests.”

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.