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Statewide testing raises concern for digital learners, school districts

Posted at 8:38 PM, Apr 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-07 20:38:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Parents who've gone to extreme measures all school year to keep their kids out of brick and mortar are now finding their students back in the classroom for standardized testing, and they say it's left them feeling helpless and upset.

Denise Howard has two children in Florida State University Schools, both studying digitally to protect one who's medically vulnerable. She now has to send them both to campus for standardized testing.

"I sent an email saying just how upsetting it was that she would have to be in there and that she has a diagnosis that would make her more susceptible to the illness," said Howard.

Howard says she's now taking a big chance to keep her kids on track, and adds that when it comes to protecting her daughter, "I let it be known that if she caught it at school I would be very furious."

FSU Schools, along with others across the state, now going to great lengths to keep digital learners safe through the testing process.

"For example, one high school started testing on Monday which was a planning day so they had the DA students, the students who are learning from home, come to school on Monday which was a planning day and test," said Leon County Schools Assistant Superintendent Gillian Stewart Gregory. "Then another high school did not do that. They are testing the students on a Saturday."

With these measures in place, even as the district considers that, because of the pandemic, they might not reach the 95% testing goal set by the state in order to receive annual school grades.

"Realistically it's an area of concern for us. Because every one of our schools has more than 5% of their students who are Digital Academy students, essentially we would have to have every one of the DA students attend testing," said Gregory.

Gregory said, despite the state metric, they're focused on student success.

"Our focus though, it’s not on the school grade. Our focus is on student learning, and if we do what we need to do to support our students, school grades will follow," Gregory said.

Florida's Board of Education extended the window for state testing through June 11 to give schools extra time to accommodate proper social distancing.