One of the consequences of the opt-out movement — where students refuse to take Florida’s battery of standardized tests, seen by many parents as a state-mandated oppressive overreach on education — could backfire on accomplished students wishing to advance into college-level course work in high school. Currently, without high test scores or equivalent exam marks, students cannot progress into those highly advantageous classes.
The Manatee County school board will again weigh whether discretion should enter into the equation — that is, whether principals will be allowed to grant admission into college-level and advanced placement classes, international baccalaureate programs and advanced international certificate of education based on an individual’s academic standing gained in lieu of a mark on the Florida Standards Assessments or an equivalent test, including ACT, SAT or PERT scores.
Currently, students must carry a minimum 3.0 grade-point average and score a Level 3 or higher on the state-mandated FSA or an equivalent score on similar exams to gain admission into those courses. The question is whether additional criteria be allowed in lieu of test scores. Students who opt-out of FSA exams in defiance of onerous state mandates should not be penalized with exclusion from advanced classes. If a student is fully prepared to possibly excel in those advanced classes, how can that be denied?
Following up on several June board discussions on this matter and other issues on student progressions, the board is poised to vote on Student Progression Plan changes on July 26.
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An exam outcome is just a number based on correct answers to questions, one that fails to measure other accomplishments, character and motivations. Human judgment based on personal observations, teacher input and an overall subjective evaluation of a student can yield scholastic aptitude beyond a number from a test. We would hope those are considerations should principals be granted discretion on admission to college-level courses. Those classes could be the key to acceptance into a student’s college choice and future success. But discretion should come with benchmarks set by the administration and the board so standards can be evenly applied across all schools. And the district should hold ultimate approval of a principal’s recommendation to ensure proper eligibility and impartiality.
Following up on several June board discussions on this matter and other issues on student progressions, the board is poised to vote on Student Progression Plan changes on July 26. The school board appears to be leaning in the direction of discretion.
At some point in a young student’s academic life, tests will be required for college entry at most institutions. The scores on those admission tests are but one portion of the application process, along with high school grades and visible proof that students are challenging themselves. Advanced course work serves that purpose.
The college admission exams – primarily the SAT and ACT — are designed to measure skills, knowledge and comprehension, helping institutions evaluate student readiness for college-level work. Those entry exams apply common standards to one and all, but since high schools differ in academic studies, learning settings and expectations, colleges consider other factors — with some subjective considerations.
Currently, the Manatee County School District requires a 3.0 grade-point average or higher and a Level 3 or higher on the state FSA exam for college-equivalent enrollment or solid scores on the SAT, ACT or PERT exams that are equal to a FSA Level 3 or higher.
The College Board, which administers the SAT exam, states that the best way to prepare for the test is hard work both inside and outside the classroom as well as taking challenging courses, studying hard, and reading and writing as much as possible. Sounds like a great recipe for success — with college-level course work a premium component. Success in college-level classes would naturally count considerably.
Another downside to the opt-out movement is students would miss out on familiarity with standardized testing and the exam environment, no small matter when facing the ACT or SAT. While the College Board offers online exposure to the test format, first-hand experiences can calm the nerves, steady the mind and help bring out the best results. Parents would be wise to contemplate that before opting out of secondary school state tests. That act of defiance against an overbearing state education policy bears a certain amount of admiration, but at what cost?
On education policy, Florida emphasizes choice in many areas. Greater access to advanced courses would be one place to institute that on a local level.