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Florida Standards Testing System Seems To Be Working...For Now

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After a very shaky roll out last week, the first round of writing tests for the new Florida Education Standards have been taken by 8th, 9th and 10th graders. But confidence in the new system is still pretty low.

Santa Rosa County School Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and school officials around the state have been dealing with lots of frustrated students, as well as teachers for the last week and a half. Last week began with students around the state being unable to sign in to the test. Those problem were solved by mid-week but then other problems developed. Wyrosdick said students were knocked off the internet and when they logged back on, some or all of their writing work would be gone. Thomas told us the same thing was happening in Escambia County last week.

Wyrosdick says that by the end of last week, all but a dozen of the students in Santa Rosa County who tried to take the test were able to complete the test. In Escambia County, 8th and 9th graders were allowed to take the test late last week but not 10th graders. The district allowed those students to wait until this week, giving the state and the test vendor time to iron out any remaining problems. Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says that’s exactly what happened. "We started testing tenth graders on Monday and at this point the bulk of those have been completed." Thomas says last Thursday was a turning point, where about an hour into the testing the system stabilized and began to function properly.

But that system will soon be put to a tougher test.  In April another round of test will be given to a much larger group of students. Thomas says in April they will be testing grades 3 - 10 in Reading, Mathematics and Science. "The load [on the system] will be very different in April".

The superintendents are concerned with how these tests affect the students, and also how they affect the district as a whole. Several weeks ago a group of school officials from around the state met with Governor Rick Scott and expressed concerns about the testing platform. They asked that district grades be frozen for a year and make this year’s exams be a dry run of sort. That, however has not happened and all the tests will continue to count both for district grades and for student graduation requirements unless the legislature takes some action in the next five weeks.

For the time being, everyone who was supposed to take a test has taken one. But all eyes will be back on the schools in April for the next batch of tests to see if the system can hold up to the increased load.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.