StateImpact Florida
6:24 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Opting Out Of Testing Would Come At A Cost For Florida School Districts

Florida school boards are considering saying no to the state on standardized tests.
Credit sboneham / Flickr

UPDATE: Wednesday night, Lee County's school board became the first in Florida to reject required statewide exams. The board voted 3-2.

The consequences of that decision aren't clear yet. The Florida Department of Education said Wednesday that the agency was still weighing its response.

The Florida School Boards Association outlined the possible consequences in a memo, which could mean sanctions from the State Board of Education or the legislature. You can read more details here.

Original post: A handful of Florida districts are talking about skipping state-required tests this year, including the new Florida Standards Assessment replacing most of the FCAT.

Last week, Palm Beach County school board members said they wanted to send a message to state leaders by skipping the new exam. Earlier this month, Lee County school board members said they wanted to study the idea.

But the district better be prepared to pay the price of skipping the new exam -- quite literally. Skip the exam and the state is likely to withhold money.

"The ramifications could be pretty dramatic for a district that wanted to do this," says Florida Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick. "This is uncharted waters. No districts have done this."

Follick added the state could withhold state funds, grants and lottery money. About $280 million in state funds and $24 million tied to federal Title 1 would be at risk. Lawmakers could decide on additional sanctions, he said. Most K-12 public school operations are funded through the state.  

School board members say opting out an entire school district is unlikely.

“I believe in assessment," Palm Beach school board member Karen Brill said last week. "I believe in testing that’s used for measurement, not punishment. I believe that we as a district need to research opting out from the new Florida Standard Assessments.

"Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward.”

Brill and other school leaders, teachers, parents and students have complained Florida has attached too many consequences to the results of state tests.

Results from Florida's statewide test form the basis for the A-through-F grades issued to most public schools each year. Teachers are rated -- and paid -- based on the test results of their students. And some students are not allowed to advance a grade or graduate from high school unless they pass state tests.

Florida parents have organized and taught other parents how to opt their children out of testing, denying the use of those test results.

But Follick says many educators find the statewide test results valuable. He noted school districts trumpet positive results on the test.

"Students who are not having the opportunity to show what they have gained in a year of school are going to be at a disadvantage," Follick says. "It's going to be difficult for parents to know how well their student has done that year.

"I think when they weigh the pros and the cons I think they will understand this is definitely to the benefit of the students."