Insiders: Are There Too Many Tests in Schools? Standardized Testing Under Fire

Insiders: Are There Too Many Standardized Tests in Schools?
Posted at 6:00 PM, Apr 06, 2015
and last updated 2017-12-13 05:25:12-05

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TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- Some parents are taking a stand against standardized tests across the nation. They claim the tests take away too much instructional time, and the stakes are just too high.

A number of students are even refusing to take the tests, and that opt out movement has really taken off in the Sunshine State. The Lee County school district made history when it entirely opted out of state standardized tests, even though district leaders later reversed the decision.

High stakes testing is what led Meredith Mears to start home-schooling her two children.

"It was the stress, not so much on my kindergartner but my third grader, she was coming home with an enormous amount of homework" she said.

School was no longer fun for her straight-A third grader.

Mears says she would send notes to the teachers saying her daughter just did not have time to finish all of her homework.

"It was the drill and kill thing," said Mears. "The third grade year is the hardest for teachers, because the kids have to pass those tests because everything else is tied to it. The school grades, their pay, everything."

Tenth grader Claire Overholt also opted out, and refused to take the writing portion of the Florida Standards Assessment, the new exam that replaced the FCAT.

"I just logged on and then maybe 15 minutes into the test, a teacher came by and said 'are you taking the test?' and I said 'no,' and she said 'okay,'" explained Overholt. "Then I pressed end test and my mom came to pick me up."

Overholt said the number of tests that schools give is very overwhelming.

For my AP classes I have an AP exam," said Overholt. "Then for my other courses that are honors, I have to take an EOI, which is a test from the district, or an EOC, which is an end of course exam from the state."

Leon County schools say they only give the tests they are required to give.

"We meet the requirements under statue but we do not exceed those minimum requirements," said Gillian Gregory, the testing director for Leon County Schools. "We don't do multiple testing of the same content area over the course of the year."

Overholt's mother, Beth, has taken her concerns to the capitol.

"Our kids are spending more time testing than they are learning from their teachers," said Beth Overholt. "It's out of control."

We requested an on camera interview with Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart on the consequences of students opting out, but her spokesperson said they didn't have anything to add other than what's in the law and sent us this:

Florida law requires that participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all school districts and all students attending public schools (section 1008.22(3), f.s.). the law also states that each student must participate in the statewide, standardized assessment program (section 1008.25(4)(a), f.s.). 

Meanwhile parents and others who are joining the opt out movement are doing their own research.

"It's about grading our schools and grading our teachers," said Beth Overholt. "It really has very little to do with our students because by the time our results get back, they're in another class. They don't go back and cover the gaps, so why are we putting our kids through this?"

Florida lawmakers are looking at several bills related to testing, including allowing students to be exempt from standardized tests with written requests. They are also looking at allowing districts the option to choose a different assessment program. 

Leon County school leaders says the don't have any policies in place for when a student refuses to take the FSA.
"There are consequences associated with not having a score," said Gregory. "If they're in third grade we have to work with the state on developing another assessment or portfolio for the students so they are able to be promoted. Tenth grade students we have to work with their parents so that they understand there could be graduation implications."

There are questions about the validity of the Florida Standards Assessment The senate passed a bill that includes a number of measures, including a requirement that the test undergo an independent study. 

However, activists say a lot of work still needs to be done. While school leaders say students opting out is not widespread in Leon county, activists say it's continuing. There is even an Opt Out Leon County Facebook group, a branch from Opt Out Orlando
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