Testing season is approaching

State assessments in 2021 — What you need to know

Feb. 9, 2021 – The Florida statewide assessments season is approaching, and Duval County Public Schools seeks to work with its students and families to be ready.

While the Florida Department of Education has allowed online learning for students, the state requires testing to occur in school facilities. This includes the Florida Standards Assessments, Next Generation Sunshine State Standards Assessments, and end-of-course assessments.

Seniors who need to meet testing requirements for graduation must come to the campus for the SAT, ACT, PSAT Math, PERT, Algebra 1, or the Geometry end-of-course assessment to meet these requirements.

To be ready for the upcoming state exams, the district wants to test its own procedures. There will be one more round of progress-monitoring exams before the higher-stakes state tests, and the district wants to use these exams as a practice run for the more important state tests later this year. Parents are asked to bring their home-based learners to the campus between Feb. 22 and March 5 for this last round of progress-monitoring exams.

Following are questions and answers about in-person testing during this pandemic year.

What are progress-monitoring tests?

The district uses progress-monitoring assessments to see how students are progressing along Florida’s standards. Standards are expectations for student learning, and the assessments enable teachers to adapt their instruction to fill any gaps the tests reveal.

Why does the district want students to come to school for the last round of progress monitoring?

Schools are developing procedures and protocols for the required state exams. Having students come to campus for the last round of progress monitoring will help the district anticipate any challenges that need to be solved prior to the state tests. Students will also become familiar with the testing environment and school protocols, which will help them to be ready for the official state tests. Schools are sending a letter to families with this information and will be providing an option for families to have further questions answered.

Will COVID-19 prevention protocols be in place?

Yes. Each school is prepared to ensure that all COVID-19 safety precautions are used during the assessment time. These precautions include temperatures taken at the front door, masks required for all students and staff, a well-ventilated room away from other students who normally attend school in person, and social distancing adhered to within the testing classroom.

Are these tests required?

Yes. It is a requirement under Florida law for public schools to administer these state assessments.

What are the consequences of opting out of the state exams?

Third-grade students must demonstrate reading proficiency to be promoted to fourth grade. The state test is the most common way to do that.

This year’s seventh graders will need their FSA scores from this year to apply for high school accelerated programs next year when they are eighth-grade students. Fifth-grade students applying for Kirby-Smith Middle School’s accelerated program also need to demonstrate a score of 4 or higher on their FSAs.

Middle school students’ performance on the FSA will determine scheduling options, including preliminary acceleration courses during their eighth and ninth grade year — such as Algebra 1 and honors courses — which impact high school grade point averages.

For middle and high school students, Algebra 1, geometry, biology, United States history, and civics end-of-course exams are all state assessments that count as 30 percent of each student’s final course grade.

Florida Standards Assessments at all grade levels are used to determine reading progress and assist in identifying courses for the student the following school year.

Do seniors need these exams to graduate?

Yes! To receive a standard high school diploma, prospective graduates must demonstrate proficiency in reading and algebra. The 10th grade reading FSA is one option to meet the reading assessment requirement. Algebra 1 and geometry end-of-course exams are options to meet the math assessment requirement. Students also can meet both reading and math assessment requirements through other exams, including the SAT, ACT, PSAT Math, and PERT. All of these are offered in person, and 10th-, 11th-, and 12th-grade students have multiple opportunities to obtain the scores they need.

Additionally, students must pass the end-of-course exams in geometry, biology, and U.S. history to be eligible for the scholar diploma designation on their high school diploma, an honor that signifies the student has completed coursework beyond what is required for graduation.

Will the state waive these requirements because of COVID-19?

At this time, the state has informed the district that there will be no waivers of the state standards assessments or the high school end-of-course exams. The state is not expected to waive testing requirements for this year’s potential graduates.

Can any of these tests be taken at home?

No. The state has informed Duval and other county school districts that they are not considering any provisions for home testing.

If students opt out of the tests, are there repercussions for the school or the teachers?

Yes. A school that does not meet the 95 percent participation threshold receives an “Incomplete” school grade. This could prevent the school and the teachers from receiving resources under Florida’s school recognition programs.

What should parents and guardians do?

Contact your school for more information about assessment dates, times, and procedures for your student. You can also ask any questions about the COVID-19 protocols the school will have in place.