Testing, School Choice, Phys. Ed.: A Town Hall Conversation About Florida Education

Mar 16, 2015

This week, PBS is launching a new documentary series, "180 Days."

One of the films focuses on Hartsville, South Carolina, a rural and poor district which has managed to become one of the highest rated school districts, according to South Carolina's ranking.

Tampa public media station WUSF hosted a town hall meeting at Artz 4 Life Academy in Clearwater last week to screen a portion of the movie and to discuss education issues. Artz 4 Life is an after-school arts and life coaching program.

Big on the mind of those who attended was Florida's new test, the Florida Standards Assessments. The test is linked to Florida's new Common Core-based math and language arts standards, which outline what students should know by the end of each grade.

But parents were worried the new test is expected to be tougher and must be taken on a computer.

"We went from FCAT to FSA, and that’s worse than what we were already at," said mom of three Lisa Hewitt. "We set our students up to fail… If they weren’t doing so well in FCAT, why would we develop another test that’s worse?

"And most of my students – my fifth grade student – is going to be taking that on a computer that he doesn’t really even know how to operate.”

School choice was also a top concern -- some parents wanted access to better arts program -- and a reduction in the number of days of physical education classes or recess time.

StateImpact Florida was on the panel at the town hall. Listen to the excerpted version of the discussion.

And to learn more about "180 Days: Hartsville," click here.

Rashon and Mr. Brown, two people featured in the documentary "180 Days: Hartsville." Florida public media stations will air the movie this month. Check local listings.
Credit Clevis Harrison / PBS