By: Kristin Jordan, Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative
The 2022-2023 academic year will mark a new baseline for school accountability in the state of Florida.
This past March, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a legislative proposal to dispose of the current common-core based end-of-year testing system, Florida Statewide Assessment (FSA). Outlined in SB 1048,1 the system in line to replace FSA is the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking.2 Notably dubbed as F.A.S.T., this new computer-based system is intended to do what its predecessors FCAT and FSA could not: monitor student progress periodically and foster student growth based on an individual’s specific needs.
Teachers, parents, administrators, and students alike have long called for an end to the FSA, a multi-day series of high-stakes exams given at the end of every school year to students in 3rd grade and above. Looking back on the 2020-2021 academic year, a year riddled with insecurity and significant change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor DeSantis has declared that moving forward the needs of parents and students will be placed at the forefront.3 With the introduction of the F.A.S.T. testing system in the upcoming 2022-2023 school year, Florida will become the first state in the nation to enact a progress-monitoring method of assessment.
The F.A.S.T testing schedule is broken down as follows: schools will conduct a series of progress monitoring assessments at the beginning, middle, and end of the academic year to help better track individual student performance. The final assessment would be used for accountability purposes to determine factors such as graduation for high-school students and overall school grades. The progress exams are stated to take a matter of a few hours instead of a few days, and allow educators to track and receive real-time data reflecting the specific areas that a student may need individualized instruction on. Students and parents are thus given the benefit of receiving feedback within the current school year and are able to make adjustments where necessary. Additionally, the F.A.S.T. testing system impacts the overall grading of Florida schools by allowing two different opportunities for student development. The results yielded from progress monitoring checks will be the predicator of a school’s performance. State agencies and departments are also provided greater insight toward individual school conduct, which will have an impact on the grade a school receives at the end of the academic year as well.
The goal of the F.A.S.T system is to pin the student at the center. Teachers are able to see where students begin with the first assessment and customize the learning experience so that students advance throughout the course of the year. That progress is then reflected in the following two assessments. F.A.S.T is intended to provide more opportunity for live intervention and improvement of both the student and the teacher while also attempting to refresh the parent-teacher involvement dynamic following the COVID-19 shutdown.
The true impact of the F.A.S.T. progress monitoring assessments on Florida’s education system will be difficult to quantify until it is seen in action. F.A.S.T. could prove to be the leading innovation in state educational reform, or the system could serve as a stepping stone to something greater for Florida’s students. Any new changes, especially those concerning the livelihood and education of our nation’s most vulnerable, will be met with opposition and curiosity. With change; however, also comes opportunity for betterment.