Covid-delayed FCAT tests begin again in April

Even while enduring an unprecedented year of disruption, Florida’s schools have remained open and provided educational opportunities for all of its students. The federal Centers for Disease Control is using data from Florida’s early opening to help determine how to reopen schools across the nation.

Meanwhile, at this time of year, the question on the minds of most students and parents is whether they should be taking the annual standardized tests coming up soon.

On April 5, the FCAT testing window begins: fourth through tenth grade writing, and third grade reading, with the rest of testing to begin on May 3. However, no one is sure how these test results will be used. Historically, if a student fails these tests, it could result in not passing a class, or even being held back a year.

“We have said from the get-go, we will do what is right. We will do what is just,” said state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran during a recent meeting with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The department is collaborating with school superintendents and will come up with a way to use the scores.

Data from these tests, after such a fractured school year, could help determine if students have fallen behind. It could be used to identify areas of needed improvement, and help create a plan to address these concerns. The concern is that the changed learning environment will result in skewed test scores.

The Department of Education said it will file for a waiver from the federal government that would cancel some of the consequences attached to the testing. Department Chief of Staff Alex Kelly said the waiver would allow Florida to “essentially exercise its sovereignty” and get out from under federal testing rules.

With the waiver, he said, Florida’s school districts would be empowered to use testing data “without the accountability consequences that typically follow.”

Without the federal ramifications will parents bother sending their children in to take them? Or students take the tests seriously at all?

“It is important for the students and teachers to do their best,” said Chris Latvala, House Education chairman, adding that the decision on how to use the waiver might not come until after the testing ends.

“When we get that measurement, we can sit back, look at the data and make decisions that work best for the children,” said Corcoran.