WINK News Investigates: Florida Standards Assessment

Published: April 14, 2015 7:03 PM EDT
Updated: April 14, 2015 7:04 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Southwest Florida students are taking the new, Florida Standards Assessment (FSA).

It’s an exam taxpayers paid the State of Utah $5 million to field test.

In Utah, after just one year of use, some lawmakers are trying to get rid of their own test.

The FSA tests critical thinking skills in several subjects. The test, much of which is taken online, requires a lot of skills with a computer mouse to drag, drop and click.

Many worry younger students aren’t developmentally ready for it and lack the keyboarding skills required for a timed, online test.

In Utah, about six out of every 10 children failed the test in the first year.

“I think the fact that so many students failed the test initially suggests that there is a problem with the test,” said Utah Senator Howard Stephenson. “My sense is that we can’t count on this test with any validity.”

Stephenson is among of group of lawmakers in Utah who oppose the test and called for its suspension.

“It’s this unnatural focus on assessment that detracts from instructional time and requires teachers to teach to the test rather than having higher level discussion in the classroom about the application of the concepts that are learned,” said Stephenson.

Opponents in Florida have expressed similar concerns and also call the test questions confusing.

In Florida there are heady consequences for students who don’t do well. Students could be held back and teacher salaries are tied to the scores.

Superintendents and teachers around the state called on Florida to delay the test but Education Commissioner Pam Stewart believes students are ready.

“Students have been working on this. Teachers have been working on this, and I believe that without a doubt they are ready. So it’s important that we measure their progress,” said Stewart.

The Florida Department of Education says the state is only using the most appropriate questions from Utah, and the state will determine the passing and failing scores for students after the test is given.

Florida has faced bumps with state assessment tests in the past.

In 2012, after changes to the FCAT writing test, the state board of education had to hold an emergency hearing to keep grades from falling dramatically for hundreds of schools.