Florida Standards Assessment testing for the 2017-2018 school year starts in March. If your child is in public school, they’ve probably heard about this test all year long—but what exactly is it?
Florida public schools have given standardized tests for over thirty years. Past tests were mostly multiple choice with a few short essay questions. The Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) differs from these by requiring students to “create graphs, interact with test content, and write and respond in different ways than required on traditional tests”. This update was part of an effort to test students’ higher-order thinking skills. (Whether standardized tests can test higher-order thinking skills is a matter of some debate, but we digress.) Over the course of a Florida public school student’s K-12 career, they will take multiple FSA tests in reading, mathematics, writing, and science.
The purpose of the FSA is to gauge how well students are learning—and public schools are teaching—Florida Standards curricula. All Florida public school students are required to pass the FSA. Retakes are available for students who don’t pass the first time, and high school students who don’t pass the Algebra I or Geometry End of Course exams may substitute in certain scores on the ACT or SAT. While private schools and parents who homeschool can have students take the FSA to produce data, students in those situations can opt out without consequences.
Some FSA tests are on paper, and others are administered on school computers. Students with IEPs and English Language Learners must take FSA tests, but can do so with accommodations that their school must provide. Talking or being in possession of electronic devices will invalidate your child’s test, so encourage your child to follow test-day directions exactly.
Data from the FSA is used to determine not only student readiness for the next grade, but school performance. Public schools who do not meet a certain quota of high scores and who do not show a certain percentage of “growth” (that is, students who previously failed the test passing the test in future years) are given lower letter grades.
High-stakes tests like the FSA put a lot of pressure on kids. While your child’s score on the FSA may determine whether they must take the test again, it’s not a true measure of their skills. An FSA score only measures how your child performed on a high-pressure test in one subject area on a single day. It does not measure how intelligent your child is or how hard they worked during the year. It does not measure your child’s kindness, integrity, communications skills, or artistic ability. The FSA does not make or break your child’s future chances of success—most colleges don’t even take FSA scores into account.
Your child is likely experiencing a lot of “test pressure” at school. While encouraging them to try their best is important, you should also make it clear that you will love and support them no matter what their scores are.