Survey: Floridians concerned about schoolkids falling behind; some families oppose state testing this year

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A February survey of parents and non-parent voters show wide concern about students struggling academically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than half the respondents agree with canceling state testing this spring.

In a Friday press release, the Florida Education Association released some findings of a survey conducted by the Clearview Research on the behalf of the FEA. The survey sampled 378 parents of schoolchildren and 222 non-parent voters.

The FEA’s press release providing some key questions in the survey but not a full report.

The analysis found that 80 percent of parents and 86 percent of non-parent voters are worried about the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ education.

Overall, 63 percent of parents agree that state assessments should be cancelled this spring because the exams are an “unnecessary burden” during the pandemic. Meanwhile, 56 percent of non-parent voters also agreed on that issue, according to the the FEA press release.

“Floridians understand that students have been through an incredibly tough year. They realize that kids, educators and school districts should be allowed to catch their breath,” FEA president Andrew Spar said in a written statement.

While advocates have supported canceling statewide assessments during the pandemic for some time now, the Florida Department of Education has already decided to resume testing this year, arguing that how students are performing is necessary to understand the full impact that COVID-19 has had on Florida’s education system.

State lawmakers are debating over the testing issue this session.

Senate Bill 886 is sponsored by Sen. Perry Thurston Jr., a Democrat who represents part of Broward County. The bill would temporarily lift any punitive measures for students, teacher evaluations, and school grades based on the results of the statewide assessments.

“Senate Bill 886 mitigates inequity in our schools resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Thurston said in an education committee meeting earlier this week.

Instead, the statewide assessments would be used to identify struggling students and help school districts provide support to those students.

SB 886 is making some ground in the Senate, with Thurston’s legislation passing 8 to 1 in the Senate Education Committee meeting earlier this week.

The lone nay vote was from Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., a Republican who represents part of Miami-Dade County.

His concern was that the Florida Department of Education was not involved in conversations about the bill to ensure that there are no unforeseen consequences from postponing the statewide testing.

The FEA supports the bill.

“We need to focus on genuine teaching and learning without fear of the punitive judgments that have previously come with standardized tests. At this point, attaching high stakes to assessments would just be piling on. It would punish kids, educators and districts for events that have been beyond their control,” FEA President Spar said in a statement.