Senate Committee Wants To Suspend Testing Penalties For Third Graders

Mar 25, 2015

Florida law requires 3rd graders with the lowest scores on state tests to be held back. But a Senate committee wants to suspend that penalty this year.
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Nearly one in five Florida third graders were at risk of being held back because of low scores on the state reading test last year.

But this year the state might not hold back any third graders. That’s because a Senate committee voted to suspend those penalties this year.

The bill requires an outside group to make sure the state test results are statistically valid.

Sen. David Simmons says he wants to make sure schools and the state can depend on Florida Standards Assessments results before making big decisions using those results.

“Common sense says that we need to ensure that this test that is being administered is, in fact, psychometrically valid," Simmons says. "This amendment does that.”

The requirement has been a cornerstone of Florida’s education policy since first pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. Third grade is considered a key developmental period, when students pivot from learning how to read to using their reading skill to learn.

Students who haven’t mastered reading by the end of 3rd grade, Bush argued, were more likely to fall behind their peers. But research also shows students held back in third grade are less likely to graduate high school.

The committee also suspended a high school graduation requirement based on state test scores.

The bill still requires approval from the full Senate. The House is working on a different version of the bill.