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FAQ: 2020-21 state assessments

April 20, 2021 – Recently, the Florida education commissioner released an executive order regarding state assessments for the 2020-21 school year.

This led to many questions among families. The Q&A below is designed to support families by providing clarity into what the executive order currently means for students and schools.

All students are strongly encouraged to continue doing their best on all state assessments, end-of-course exams, and alternative assessments, such as the SAT.

The full executive order is available on the Florida Department of Education’s website.


Q. I heard that the state said that they are waiving school grades. Does that mean the students will not receive grades in their classes?

A. No. The flexibility of the waiver refers to state accountability ratings for schools, not for individual students. Students will still receive quarterly and final grades in all subject areas.

Q. Does the emergency order automatically give districts the authority to implement the flexibilities identified in the emergency order?

A. No. Our school board also has policies regarding student promotion and retention in the Student Progression Plan. Prior to applying any of the flexibilities, those board policies would need to also be waived.

Q. Does the state waiver for third grade reading mean all third-grade students will automatically be promoted?

A. No. The emergency order gives districts the flexibility to waive the state assessment for third graders if there is other data that demonstrates the student is performing at an assessment level 2 or higher. Districts are instructed to develop additional performance criteria for consideration to make that determination.

Q. Should third grade students take the Florida State Assessment (FSA)?

A. Yes. This assessment provides much information regarding a student’s level of performance and is an important part of a student’s academic profile. However, we do understand that there are valid reasons that may cause a student to miss the FSA, and this waiver provides districts with the flexibility to use other criteria for determining proficiency.

Q. Does this mean that students in high school do not need to meet the state assessment requirements for graduation?

A. No. There are several important points regarding the high school graduation criteria.

1. The emergency order provides districts flexibility in waiving the assessments required for graduation on a case-by-case basis. The waiver is not automatically applied to every student who has not yet passed the required reading or math assessment.

2. Districts are required to create performance criteria to be applied in place of the state assessment. The criteria must be consistently applied across all district schools, including charter schools, to evaluate prospective graduates on a case-by-case basis.

3. This waiver only applies to seniors who are scheduled to graduate this spring. Students in grades 9 through 11 must still meet all state requirements as outlined by state statute and board policy.

Q. Does this mean all seniors will automatically graduate?

A. No. Seniors still need to meet all graduation criteria for their diploma option, including GPA, course credit hours, and mandatory credits in each area. In addition, seniors who have not met assessment score requirements for graduation should continue to take all assessment options, such as the ACT and SAT, to earn a score which meets graduation requirements.


Q. Does this emergency order mean that my school will not get a school grade?

A. Not necessarily. The emergency order provides districts with flexibility. Districts can opt schools in for 2021 grades or opt them out and keep the 2019 school grade.

Q. Will the district have the flexibility to opt-in for grades for all district schools?

A. Only schools that test at least 90% of eligible students will have the potential to file an application to receive a school grade.

Q. Is the decision to opt in or opt out of school grades a districtwide decision applied to all schools or can a different decision be made for each school within the district?

A. A separate decision whether to opt in or opt out will be made for each school.

Q. If a school tests at least 90% of the students, are they automatically eligible to file for a school grade?

A. The district may apply for a grade for schools that test between 90% and 94.9% of students; however, those applications will be reviewed by the state to ensure those students tested are representative of the entire student population to protect the integrity of the process. Applications for schools that test 95% or more of the students will be automatically approved.

Q. When will the district make the decisions whether to receive a school grade for each school?

A. The emergency order requires that districts make any decision to receive a school grade withing 30 days after the release of the state assessment data. This will allow us to make the most informed decision about our options.

Q. If my school does not receive a school grade, does that mean that we won’t be able to receive information regarding the performance of the school?

A. Schools not receiving a school grade will still have student aggregate data published on the state accountability website. The only difference is no summative rating (school grade) will be associated with the school.

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