Governor eliminates FSA, shifts towards ‘progress monitoring’

Kayden Lyons, Staff Writer

After six years, the party is over for the Florida Standard Assessment (FSA). On September 14, Governor Ron DeSantis announced his plans to put an end to the statewide test, and instead opt for a new program called the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (F.A.S.T) plan.

“Florida’s education focus should be students’ growth and how we restore the conversation between parents and teachers in support of students’ growth,” said DeSantis in a news release. “In this final step to eradicate Common Core from our assessments, our administration is implementing the lessons learned from progress monitoring.”

In 1999, then-Florida governor Jeb Bush, tied students’ FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) scores to students’ grades and made graduation contingent upon a student passing.  His successors, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott, tweaked the exams by renaming them and changing the format of the assessments.  All of the tests, however, are designed to assess students in their proficiency of the Common Core standards by having students in grades 3 through 10 take multiple exams over the span of several days in the subjects of English language arts, writing, math, and science. A score of 3 or higher would constitute a passing grade, and those who failed would have the ability to retake their test the following year. 

“I think it is good that there is no more FSA,” commented sophomore Sofia Chaudhry. “It felt like teachers were just teaching for one big test that you had to pass.” 

The FSA has seen a multitude of challenges in recent years stemming from the pandemic disturbing usual classroom learning. Data from the Florida Department of Education found that only 53 percent of 4th graders received an FSA Language Arts score at grade level or above as opposed to 64 percent in 2019. As a result, an emergency order was called that gave charter and public schools the option to waive the FSA during COVID without negatively impacting the students’ graduation status. 

Other complaints of the FSA include the high stakes nature of these assessments and the time it takes to administer them.

“I like that there is no more FSA,” expressed sophomore Olivia Cragg. “Some people may suffer from major anxiety when it comes to taking long and important state tests including myself.” 

DeSantis’ plans to replace the FSA with a new FAST program. The new program is a student progress monitoring system with the aim to encourage individual growth and completely eliminate the need for yearly standardized testing and common core. Teachers will be able to monitor the progress of their students through three short tests in the fall, winter, and spring. According to the Florida Department of Education, “these tests will provide real-time data that will inform students, teachers, and parents about individual student growth, rather than providing feedback at the end of the year after a single lengthy end-of-year assessment.”  It is also important to note that while the existing test is tied to graduation as a requirement, the FAST plan is strictly for assessment purposes only. 

The implementation of the FAST plan makes Florida the first state in the nation to transition from standardized testing to in-classroom progress checking. The Florida Department of Education touts that some of the benefits listed for moving into progress monitoring include the timely collection of data during the school year and the ability to customize the progress of each student individually.

Before the proposal, this approach was implemented at High Point Elementary School during the 2020-2021 school year. Though short in its administration, the school was able to improve their grade from a D to a C, possibly hinting towards the benefits of the progress-monitoring system.

Another prominent point of the plan is the cut back in time it takes to administer, citing that FAST allows for 75 percent less testing time.

According to research from the Council of the Great City Schools, students take approximately 112 tests from Pre-K through their 12th grade. Hours of long studying, shortened sleeps, and worrying about scores has caused a phenomenon called testing anxiety in students. Testing has been known to cause lower self esteem in individuals academically, and for that reason, some people believe the new testing program will be beneficial . 

The success of students will now be based on the Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T) standards for both English language Arts and mathematics.

According to Mr. Marcoux, the testing coordinator at PBC, Palm Beach County schools have not received any information on this program and will most likely get more information closer to the time of implementation in 2022. Until then, students will still have to take the FSA.