In March I wrote about a decision by three justices on a Florida appeals court that said that a standardized reading test is the best way to decide whether third-graders should move to fourth grade — not actual school work or grades.
The case involves a Florida law that says that students who fail a third-grade language arts test can’t move on to the fourth grade (though some exemptions are made). While the policy has not been shown to have a lasting benefit to students, Florida and other states maintain it anyway.
Some third-graders — including honors students — from a number of school districts were denied promotion because they opted out of the test. The parents of those students, who are part of a national testing opt-out movement, went to court and sued their districts. In August, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled that those school districts that had refused to promote the students had been wrong. The case was appealed and the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned her ruling, saying:
The purpose of the ELA is to assess whether the student has a reading deficiency and needs additional reading instruction before (and after) being promoted to fourth grade. See § 1008.25(5)(a). The test can only achieve that laudable purpose if the student meaningfully takes part in the test by attempting to answer all of its questions to the best of the student’s ability. Anything less is a disservice to the student — and the public.
That ruling ignored years of research that shows that high-stakes standardized test scores are not reliable or valid, and it ignored the problems Florida has had with its standardized testing accountability system, which became so severe that school superintendents statewide revolted in 2015 and said they had “lost confidence” in its accuracy.
Here’s a look at all the things standardized tests can’t do, by veteran Florida educator Marion Brady, who has written history and world culture textbooks (Prentice-Hall), professional books, numerous nationally distributed columns (many are available here), and courses of study. His 2011 book, “What’s Worth Learning,” asks and answers this question: What knowledge is absolutely essential for every learner? His course of study for secondary-level students, called “Connections: Investigating Reality,” is free for downloading here. Brady’s website is www.marionbrady.com.