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MAST Faculty Optimistic Over Test Changes

Teachers at MAST Academy say they’re cautiously optimistic about plans to scrap a sometimes controversial set of standardized achievement tests. 

Gov. Ron Desantis announced a proposal last week for the upcoming 2022 legislative session to put the statewide Florida Standards Assessments, or “FSA” to rest once and for all.

Algebra teacher Jennifer Garnett was excited to hear more. “I’m worried it might constitute an increase in work for teachers, but I think overall this is for the best.”

“As it is now, the FSA data is of very little help to teachers. By the time we get results back, that class has moved on into the next grade. If this test can offer real-time data as well as insight into what we can change for the next year, it’s worth doing. We have flexibility with online tests. Let’s make use of it” said Randall Stewart, a 10th grade English teacher. 

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“I think this is an important vote of confidence in our teachers to actually teach. I’m still worried that they’re going to find a way to take away our funding with it, though,” said Michelle Jimenez, who taught 9th grade biology. “Less testing is almost always better, and I think this will be a good change for our kids.”

For millions of students across the state, the Florida Standards Assessment has been life or death for the last six years. Introduced in 2015 as a replacement for the FCAT, it aimed to raise the quality of testing in Florida, adhere closer to the Common Core standards, and move testing online. The test was developed by the American Institutes of Research, and many questions were taken from Utah’s statewide assessments.

Many teachers, including Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, questioned the recycled nature of the test, and many others were concerned with the additional testing time in front of a computer that each administration would require. Writing tests were to be given every year instead of 3 times throughout a student’s tenure. During the first administration of the exam, computer issues plagued students, and there was plenty of criticism. 

The exam was not popular among teachers, and students, who weren’t a fan of harder tests. Tuesday’s announcement of the end of the FSA circulated rapidly through MAST Academy and the wider education field. Carvalho, as well as the Florida Education Association, the largest teachers union in the state, both came out in support of the governor’s plan.

Schools and teachers are currently given funding based on student performance on the FSA and other standardized tests, and most teachers interviewed for this story expressed concern over how the allocation process would change.

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Desantis’ proposal  sets up a triannual progress check as opposed to a yearly high-stakes exam. This is supposed to cut down on the time spent testing by 75%, as well as reducing the amount of teaching time needed for test preparation.

Theo Miller is an intern reporter specializing in education, technology, politics, and the impacts those have on schools both on and off the Key. He is a graduate of MAST Academy. In Key Biscayne, he works in production with Crossbridge Church and the Anti-Social radio podcast, Often described as a full-time nerd, when he is not writing or in school, he loves cameras, cars, cooking, and cartoons.

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