School Board approves 2019-2020 student assessment calendars

Associate School Superintendent Kevin Hendrick answers questions about the student assessment calendar during the School Board’s Sept. 24 meeting.

LARGO — State law requires the Florida Department of Education to publish an annual calendar of statewide assessment (test) information, and each school district is required to publish schedules that show all statewide, standardized and district-wide assessments.

The Pinellas County School Board unanimously approved the 2019-2020 calendar of assessment for students at all grade levels at its Sept. 24 meeting.

The item was part of the consent agenda; however, School Board member Nicole Carr asked that it be pulled for further discussion. She pointed out that the district was legislatively mandated to do some of the assessments and the district had its own required assessments. She said some were concerned that all those assessments “take a great deal of instructional time for different reasons.”

“There have been complaints that there is too much testing and the amount of district assessments impacts the culture and climate of teachers in the classroom,” Carr said.

School Superintendent Michael Grego said testing was important, adding that the reason the district had implemented semester final exams was to help prepare students for college and university.

“They contribute to the growth of students,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with checking for comprehension.”

State statute requires that no student have more than 5% of their total school hours in a year scheduled for required state and local assessments. Pinellas County’s assessment calendar meets the state requirement.

Associate Superintendent Kevin Hendrick said the range of required assessment time is as low as 0.6% in kindergarten and no grade level exceeds 3.7% of required time.

He said that over the last couple of years, the amount of time spent in testing had been reduced by 18 hours.

Grego said assessments should have a purpose.

“As a parent, I want to know if my child is learning, what they are learning and how well,” he said. “Assessing is for a purpose.”

He also pointed out that the tests helped prepare students to compete in an increasingly competitive market of getting into colleges and universities.

Students are tested, according to grade level, for reading comprehension, English language arts, writing skills, civics, U.S. history, math and science, as well as in other subject matter depending on what classes they are taking.

“I do understand the (test) anxiety of students,” said School Board Chair Rene Flowers. “But data provided to us shows not to wait until the FSAT and then be disappointed. Some assessments have proven to show us where we have needs so we can know before to prepare for tests and exams.”

The FSAT is the Florida Statewide Assessment Test.

In other business, the board approved:

• A curriculum licensing agreement with the Unmanned Safety Institute Inc., which will expand opportunities for high school students to obtain a drone pilots license. The cost is $13,975.

• Setting a public hearing on amendments to the policy on special services, and crisis event intervention and response that would add suicide awareness and prevention training for instructional personnel and adopt a policy for use of an approved suicide risk-assessment tool.

• Setting a public hearing to consider a policy to provide a way for eligible instructional employees to receive recognition based on performance through the Best and Brightest program.

• Setting a public hearing on an amendment to the Code of Conduct to align with state statute to require referrals to mental health services in cases of threats to school safety.

• Extended tearful sympathies to the family of Jacquez Welch, a senior at Northeast High School, who collapsed on the field during a football game Sept. 20. Welch later died from a pre-existing medical condition at Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg. Hundreds of students, teachers, school administrators and school board members were at the hospital when the 17-year-old was removed from life support. At this request, his organs were donated.

Welch was described as an exceptional person. He was an honor student with a 4.0 grade point average.

“He was a terrific kid, who helped people in his community,” Dudley said. “He left quite a legacy.”

A fundraiser has been set to help raise money for a scholarship in his name and there is a Go Fund Me page, https://www.gofundme.com/f/jacquez-welch, to help the family with expenses. However, officials caution to beware of a fake page that is raising funds but is not associated with the family.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.