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Parents, teachers debate in-person testing pending legislation

Posted at 7:03 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 19:06:08-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Parents are hesitant to send their kids back to the classroom. But, now they don’t have much of a choice. The state’s education commissioner is requiring all students take Spring standardized tests in-person.

Annette Miller turned her home into a mini schoolhouse in 2020. Both of her children are learning from home, and she’s teaching Lee Virtual School. She says the state mandating in-person standardized testing is a bad idea.

“I think that type of worry and pressure on certain kids is going to be detrimental,” she said.

Including her seventh grader.

“My son is almost petrified of going back to do that,” she said.

She says he performs much better in an isolated environment. Last month, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran signed an order requiring in-person exams statewide.

Miller applauded the Lee County School District for their work to make schools safe from COVID-19. But, as someone with underlying health conditions, she’s still concerned.

The district says they’ve taken concerns like this into consideration. A spokesperson sent the following statement:

“For Lee Home Connect students, schools have set aside a designated area for them to take the test where social distancing and masks will be required. They will not intermingle with face to face students.”

As a parent, Kevin Daly understands where Miller is coming from. However, as the President of the Teachers Association of Lee County, he says students need to take those exams in-person. He says not only will in-person tests protect the fidelity of the exam, but also gage where students are academically, especially since no end-of-year exams were given last year.

“We’re just going to take the results, and we’re just going to use them to kind of move forward with a plan. We can work on closing the achievement gap,” he said.

But he says the results shouldn’t count against students.

“Let’s think about do we really want to use that data in a punitive sense against students, teachers, and schools, and districts,” he said.

Florida SB 886 could honor that. If it passes, no matter how students perform on those exams, it won’t determine if third graders are promoted or if high school seniors graduate.

That bill is still going through state senate committees. It could be a couple months before it reaches Governor Ron DeSantis’s desk.