MIAMI (Reuters) - The Miami school district, the nation’s fourth largest, said on Thursday it was eliminating most end-of-course exams, including all those for elementary school students, the latest blow to standardized testing in the state.
“We have taken a responsible and logical approach to assessing students, in order to restore valuable teaching and learning time,” Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said in an announcement on Facebook.
The move comes amid mounting statewide pressure to roll back standardized testing in Florida public schools, as well as recent computer glitches on computerized tests.
It is also puts a dent in the educational legacy of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a possible Republican presidential candidate, who championed standardized testing while in office to grade schools and teachers based on student achievement.
Because of the Miami school district’s size, the decision could have an impact on other districts, said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a nonprofit group focused on limiting the use of standardized tests.
“It will certainly be a precedent for other districts in Florida which are equally fed up,” he added.
“I’m absolutely certain that this is the direction that the nation will take,” Carvalho said in an interview, adding that there will be fewer, “better quality” tests.
“There’s been incredible popular discontent over where we are today,” he said.
The Miami school district decision eliminates all 23 elementary year-end tests, and cuts middle school tests from 77 to four and high school tests from 186 to six, Carvalho’s office said.
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed legislation last month to reduce testing that canceled the requirement of final exams in all courses.
The law also limited most testing to 45 hours per school year, responding to an outcry by parents and school administrators who said students lost classroom time and tied up computer laboratories with marathon testing.
Scott, a Republican, has said the law was no rebuke to Bush’s record as governor between 1999 and 2007.
“I think everybody in the system believes in accountability, believes in measurement, but we want learning - we don’t just want tests,” Scott said at the state capitol after signing the measure.
As governor, Bush created a controversial grading system for public schools, along with teacher evaluations based on student achievement. Legislators have added to the testing requirements since he left office in 2007.
Reporting by David Adams and Zachary Fagenson Writing by David Adams; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Doina Chiacu