StateImpact Florida

Anya Kamenetz

Lots of people think there’s too much testing going on in schools right now. It’s one of the most contentious issues in education.

Lawmakers want to scale back the amount of time Florida students spend taking tests.

But at the same time, Florida is rolling out a new test tied to new math and language arts standards -- known as Common Core.

NPR education reporter Anya Kamenetz researched the history and use of standardized exams for her book, “The Test.”

Read an edited version of our interview with Kamenetz below.

Extra Ketchup

When lawmakers return to Tallahassee in March for the annual legislative session, they have a lot of questions they need to answer about public school testing.

Senators laid out their concerns about the state testing system last week at a series of meetings.

They don’t know how many tests the state requires or how long it takes to complete those exams.

They don’t know how much the state and school districts spend on testing.

And they’re not convinced they can depend on all the results of those exams.

Gina Jordan/StateImpact Florida

The School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) in Tallahassee has just over 300 students, and the waiting list to get in is much longer.

Maureen Yoder is one of the founders of the 15-year-old K-8 charter school.

“We started this school with the intent of keeping it small because we want to create a school family,” Yoder says. “We believe that the relationship between the teacher and the students is the primary reason students succeed – besides a good home base.”

This is sixth grader Mary Stafford’s first year.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Abuse. Drugs. Mental health issues.

It’s tough enough for anyone to talk about those problems. It can be even harder for teens facing them for the first time.

Courtesy of "First Generation."

Students who are the first in their family to attend college often have a more difficult time finishing their degree.

Research shows those students know less about how to get into and pay for college. They're also less likely to take tough high school courses needed to prepare for college.

freedigitalphotos.net

This spring, Florida students will take a brand new test tied to the state’s new math, reading and writing standards.

This is the test that replaces the FCAT. It's known as the Florida Standards Assessment, and it’ll be online.

What’s on the test won’t be the only thing different about the exam. Students will also find new types of questions.

We gathered your questions about the new exam from our Public Insight Network. Here’s what you you wanted to know -- and what it’ll mean for students and schools.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

In September, Alachua County kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles refused to give a state reading test.

She told the parents of her students it was an act of civil disobedience.  The Florida Department of Education later suspended the exam for this year.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Northwestern High School teacher Daniel Dickey says there's no silver bullet or secret book which will spark a student's interest in reading.

Instead, he says he asks questions and listens.

"I sit down with that student and really figure out what is it that drives you?" Dickey says. "Why do you come to school? Why are you here every day?"

He asks them about their plans, their dreams.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Northwestern High School English teacher Daniel Dickey has found a way to make his tenth graders brag about their reading skills.

Mischael Saint-Sume and Ciji Wright tease each other about who's going to read one million words first -- a contest Dickey created.

“Did you put him in his place?" Dickey asked Wright. "Because Mischael, he’s popping in my classroom every day with a new book."

“Oh don’t worry about it because I’ve got plenty of books for him,” Wright replied.

“But it ends today, by the way," Saint-Sume said. “I’m going to hit a million.”

Essay: What A Teacher Score Doesn't Tell Us

Aug 25, 2014
vd1966 / flickr

I finally know my worth as a teacher—and now that the “value-added model” scores mandated by our state legislature are public, everyone else knows, too.  

I’m a 37.5.

But, I have no idea what that number means. 

Along with my 37.5, I was told I’m “highly effective” and given a $230 bonus. In case you’re wondering, that’s about half what the average teacher spends of his or her own money on school supplies per year.  

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