A Tallahassee judge delivered a blow on Friday to Florida’s standardized testing scheme, telling state and local school officials that report cards and classroom participation can be used as an alternative when parents opt out of testing.
Judge Gievers granted a temporary injunction allowing some third graders to be promoted where school districts did not allow “a teacher-compiled portfolio that consists of non-test class work and test-based standards assessments.”
The state had argued that allowing students to opt out of standardized tests would undermine the Jeb Bush-era focus on testing, while the parents claimed that the law allowed for promotion decisions to be based on report cards and actual classroom participation.
Judge Geivers sided with the parents, finding that the Department of Education and the Hernando County School Board violated the law when they illegally refused to provide any portfolio option and that “neither the [Department of Education or local school boards] have the discretion to ignore the Florida Laws.”
Gievers ruling defined what “minimal participation” is by stating that “the children were present at the time, broke the seal on the materials and wrote their names, thus meeting their obligation to participate.” In addition, she wrote: “The School Board and [Department of Education] had no right to ignore the legislatively adopted portfolio option” and ordered the Hernando County School Board to “immediately refrain from further actions and must provide the portfolio option.” She ordered education officials “to stop refusing to accept a student portfolio or report card based on classroom work throughout the course of the school year.”
“We are very pleased that the court agreed with us that it is in the public interest that the State Board of Education and school districts in Florida follow our laws, and focus on whether children can read, not whether they took a particular test,” said Andrea Flynn Mogensen, lead counsel for the children. “We are especially pleased that it was specifically ordered that the Department of Education must accept minimal participation in testing as fulfilling the student’s statutory requirement to participate, and that grade 3 students with no reading deficiency should be promoted, not retained.”