HOLMES COUNTY — A preliminary batch of long-awaited Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) scores was recently released by the Florida Department of Education.

HOLMES COUNTY — A preliminary batch of long-awaited Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) scores was recently released by the Florida Department of Education.

Last month, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) met with Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart to express concerns that student performance on new standardized tests and the accountability system that grades schools individually would not accurately appraise achievements.

“I want to thank our teachers, staff and students for the extremely hard work they do to master the standards set out by the state,” said Holmes District Superintendent Eddie Dixon.

Each district’s performance on the FSA was tabulated in quartiles for the subject areas of English language arts, mathematics, Geometry, Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.

In English language arts, 28 percent of Holmes County students (grades 3-10) scored in the bottom quartile and 19 percent score in the top quartile in comparison to how students scored across the state. Twenty-nine percent of students (grades 3-8) scored in the bottom quartile for mathematics and 14 percent were at the top.

Students in all grades were measured for performance in other math categories. In Geometry, 35 percent of Holmes students scored in the bottom quartile with 10 at the top. In Algebra 1, 32 percent scored in the bottom tier and 11 percent ranked in the top quartile. For Algebra 2, 37 percent of students scored in the bottom quartile and 7 percent ranked at the top.

School districts have done their best to get on board with new testing mandates. Educators scrambled to receive training on new requirements as they rolled out. School boards reviewed new Common Core requirements, and some spent considerable hours formulating and adopting their own Common Core guidelines. 

Districts have also faced the expense of replacing textbooks with those in alignment with new standards and worked to provide enough computer access for online testing. High school seniors graduating last year were not required to have passing standardized scores, since final scores are still not yet available.

Holmes County experienced minor testing delays and glitches in the first-ever round of FSA testing. Administrators collectively agree with the importance of student and school accountability, but feel the new requirements came down without adequate preparation for all involved.

In light of worries about the FSA’s ability to accurately gauge student achievement and the issues of teacher evaluations and school funding being tied to performance, superintendents made a few recommendations they hope FLDOE will heed as it moves forward with new standards.

FADSS drafted a letter stating it had lost confidence in the current accountability system and recommended that spring 2015 scores not be applied in assessing the performance of students, teachers and schools. It suggested following suit with other states that mitigated negative affects by issuing an “I” for incomplete in assessment to all Florida schools for the 2014-2015 year based on “availability of limited and flawed data.”

Superintendents reject the idea that FSA standards align with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) levels and call for an extensive review of the accountability system and changes to Common Core requirements in recent years that’s caused public support of government set standards to diminish.

Superintendents are banding together to call for reform based on a collective experience that the new system doesn’t accurately measure achievement or set Florida students and educators on a constructive path. Holmes District is a part of the stand against convoluted standards.

“As a constitutional officer, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Florida. We have complied with those laws. However, we have an obligation to stand up when the accountability system is flawed, and I am fully committed to doing what is in the best interests of our students and families,” said Dixon.