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'All for nothing': Father says in-person student assessment requirement makes family's sacrifice worthless

The Florida Department of Education is giving schools two extra weeks to do the Florida Standards Assessments in order to have fewer students in each room.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — On Monday, in-person assessments begin in Duval County Public Schools.

This goes for students learning in school and at home, a fact that does not sit well with some parents who say their families have sacrificed so much by not going places like school.

The Florida Department of Education is giving schools two extra weeks to do the Florida Standards Assessments in order to have fewer students in each room. They state the assessments must be done in person.

"Based on the data that I've been able to see, people who have the issues that I have with their hearts are not doing very well when it comes to COVID," said DCPS parent Brian Dawson. "Because of that, I am 40 years old, I want to see my daughters grow up and stuff, it has been a choice for our family to kind of lock down."

Dawson has heart problems and his daughter is in the 7th grade. His family's lockdown plan does not include his daughter going to school for in-person assessments.

There are multiple assessments with progress-monitoring exams starting Monday and the Duval County School district states they want to test their safety precautions, which include masks, temperature checks, and keeping students in well-ventilated rooms away from other students who go to school in person.

According to DCPS, multiple grade levels need the exams to apply to accelerated courses, which can impact high school grade point averages. Seniors need them to graduate.

If a school does not have 95% participation it gets an "incomplete" grade which could keep the school from getting resources, DCPS reports.

Dawson believes having no other choice but to go to the school is a lack of planning and politics on the DOE's part.

"Each person in our family has had to make some kind of sacrifice," he said. "To be told that that was all pretty much for nothing because my daughter has to come in ... It's not going to happen."

The DOE states nearly 900,000 assessments have been given statewide since last summer.

Read more frequently asked questions from DCPS here.

Read the full statement from the DOE here:

Thanks to Florida’s dedicated educators and local school leaders, all school districts opened for in-person instruction this year, with nearly 65% of Florida’s public school students learning full- and part-time in-person. Emergency Order 2021-EO-01 is consistent with the significant flexibilities FDOE has already provided to support districts and schools in their successful efforts thus far to provide safe and secure environments for administering assessments to students. Nearly 900,000 assessments have been safely administered, statewide, since summer of 2020. The fact is, Florida’s districts and schools have proven that operating schools and administrating assessments can be done safely.

This order allows for great social distancing, student and teacher safety, while testing by simply delaying statutory deadlines for the reporting of assessment results, so districts can implement broader, more flexible testing windows if they wish. Districts may establish assessment schedules at the school level, based on student and logistical needs. This allows for more continued social distancing during test administration. Here is a summary of the flexibility that has been provided by FDOE thus far:

• The Fall 2020 FSA and NGSSS EOC testing window was extended by seven weeks.

• The Fall 2020 ELA Retake testing window was extended by 11 weeks.

• The Winter 2020 FSA and NGSSS EOC testing window was extended by four weeks.

• The Spring 2021 FSA Algebra 1 EOC and ELA Retake testing window was extended by seven weeks.

• The ACCESS for ELLs testing window was extended by 10 weeks.

Districts and schools have CARES Act funds that can be utilized to help implement creative strategies in tandem with the flexibilities provided in the Emergency Order. For example, at their discretion, districts could use evening and weekend testing as social distancing options, knowing that CARES Act funding would cover the costs.

In this year of recovery, when all Florida schools are closely measuring the progress of their students, these assessments ensure equity and directly inform curriculum and instruction for Florida’s millions of at-risk students, 71.9% of which count schools for at least one meal daily, 61.4% of which come from low-income households, 14.5% of which have a special need (disability) that impacts their learning and 10.1% of which are English Language Learners. The results of assessments help identify students who need specialized supports and determine when students elevate out of specialized supports and return to fully inclusive instruction with their peers. The results also help teachers modify instructional delivery to support students’ individual needs and help them meet their unique growth goals.

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