VIERA, Fla. - The Lee County School Board may have backed off on its decision to opt out of state-mandated educational testing, known as Common Core, but its earlier move to defy state requirements has brought increased scrutiny to the high-stakes tests.
Brevard School Board members are expected to voice testing concerns at their meeting Tuesday and discuss what role, if any, the district should take in finding solutions.
At least two officials want to research the ramifications of "opting out," and what alternatives might exist for Brevard Public Schools.
"I have no problem going to war or battle with the Department of Education over these issues," School Board Member Amy Kneessy told Local 6 News partner Florida Today, "but you have to have a battle plan."
School Board Member Andy Ziegler agreed. He wants Brevard to research potential consequences -- and weigh alternatives.
"Lee County didn't come up with a plan, they just reacted," Ziegler said. "Now I'm assuming they're afraid they made a hasty decision."
A number of potential consequences emerged after Lee County's original vote. Students who don't take a state exam don't quality for a standard high school diploma.
Plus, there are questions about the impact to state funding, and the cost associated with replacing textbooks and tests.
However, other Brevard School Board members want to capitalize on the attention and work within the political process by informing voters and lobbying state lawmakers and decision makers.
They say the solution is in changing state laws and policies. Right now, for example, Florida requires third graders to repeat the grade if they don't earn a high enough test score.
A low reading score means a student will have to take a remedial reading course the following year. And each year, a small percentage of honor roll students end up in the courses because of a bad test day.
"Having everything based on one test is too much weight," School Board Chair Karen Henderson said. "We all agree that assessments need to be done, and they need to be done in a meaningful way."
In addition, state tests determine both school and district grades, and incentives tied to them.
State tests now also play a role in teacher evaluations, and how much money they earn with a new performance pay system.
In Brevard, highly effective teachers will receive an estimated $950 raise, and effective teachers a $740 raise this year. Exact figures are not yet clear, because the formula depends on how many receive each rating.
Other Brevard officials point to the costs associated with administering the tests. By 2018, for example, all Florida Standards Assessment are required to be given on computer.
With Brevard's current resources, it can take multiple days for students to complete electronic tests, compared to one day to test by paper and pencil.
And School Board Member Michael Krupp pointed out that, without the right systems and up-to-date equipment, there can be glitches. Servers can go down, computers can fail to operate, and test answers can not be stored properly.
The requirement is among the reasons Brevard is seeking a half-cent sales tax; it would raise $32 million a year for school buildings, security and technology.
"It behooves us to put more money into infrastructure for the computer technology, and that costs the district major dollars," Krupp said. "I don't believe the state department is funding it properly."
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