Knocking on the door of state-wide recognition as a leader in state education policy since her election to the Collier county school board member, Erika Donalds may have eclipsed her own expectations with the release of a white paper memorandum of state testing policy. From Kate Rosenberg in the Naples Daily News:
NAPLES, Fla. – Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds has a message for the Florida Legislature and the Department of Education: It is time for reform.
Donalds announced Wednesday she co-wrote a 31-page white paper saying school districts should analyze how much instructional time is lost directly and indirectly due to standardized testing. She said the authors question whether overtesting is responsible for stagnant academic performance.
On Page 1 the paper recommends: “Governor Rick Scott direct Commissioner Pamela Stewart to investigate the indirect loss of instructional time associated with on-the-ground testing realities and revise the Department of Education’s Assessment Investigation Report (“DOE Report”) and make changes to recommendations as needed.”
The link to Donald’s memo is embedded in the story.
Among the findings in the memo which Donald’s prepared along with well-respected education policy expert Adam Cota:
*Florida ranks average or below average on most measures of academic performance and college preparation and is no longer improving faster than other states.
* Florida’s well-documented rise in education performance relative to other states ended abruptly around 2009.
* Florida ranks about average on NAEP relative to other states. However, in recent years it has posted below average gains and lost ground.
* Half of Florida’s graduates cannot read at grade-level
* A larger percent of students attending college in Florida require remediation relative to those in other states (about 54% versus about 40% nationwide.)
* NAEP gains were primarily driven by improvements in 4th grade achievement. However, this progress is not sustained by the time those same students become 8th graders raising questions about the level of learning.
* Florida students may be losing almost 10% of class time to testing in 2014-15 including FSA exams, EOCs, benchmarks, first-time takers and retakes, and other lost instruction time.
Particularly timely is the Donalds-Cota analysis of SB 616, Sen. John Legg’s testing reform bill:
SB616 states “A school district may not schedule more than 5 percent of total school hours to administer statewide, standardized assessments and district-required local assessments.” It is unclear however, what is counted in this 5%. For instance, at a student level, only ~1% of instructional time is lost directly to testing. Capping direct testing time to 5% fails to address the larger indirect costs (~8% of instructional time lost). Including indirect costs in the cap will create an unwieldy bureaucracy required to track and audit lost instructional time. Perhaps more importantly, it would have no impact on the largest indirect cost to the current assessment model – the loss of focus after end-of-course and other high stakes tests are given.
It remains to be seen what impact the Donalds-Capa white paper will have. Donalds, after all, has taken the unusual move to create a spin-off state school board association, one which is more friendly to school vouchers. Still, she has staked out her own territory.