Less testing, more teaching planned for Hernando Co. schools

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Less testing, more teaching; that's the lesson plan for the Hernando County School District. The superintendent announced the change Wednesday as part of a larger push from lawmakers to cut back on standardized testing.

Superintendent Dr. Lori Romano said, “We have heard the concerns voiced by our parents and staff and agree that too much testing is counterproductive. By returning this valuable time back to instruction, we believe our teachers will see continued improvement in learning gains and our students will realize a better classroom experience."

Romano said changes made by the Florida Legislature regarding some mandatory assessments have allowed the district to cut back on how much it tests students.

"We were able to identify those places where maybe we could take a test from four times a year down to two," said District Spokesperson Karen Jordan, "or just completely eliminate the test and use other data points to better understand how students are learning or not learning."

The school district has:

-Eliminated progress monitoring in writing for K-2 and reduced writing assessments from four tests to two for grades 3-10.

-Eliminated FAIR testing for reading in grades 6-12.

-Eliminated additional progress monitoring testing for grades 6-12. Instead, teachers will use nine weeks exam data to capture student learning.

-Eliminated progress monitoring for science in grades 3 and 4.

In addition, the following end-of-year (or end-of-course) tests were also eliminated:
-K-5 Social Studies
-K-4 Science
-K-5 Specials
-Algebra II EOC

As a result of these district-wide changes, schools were able to give 70 hours of instruction time back to teachers, allowing them to more personally assess and understand students' progress.

"The goal is mastery, right? The goal is not just to test successfully for the test's sake but to really master the content," Jordan said. "Good testing is always well-received and we appreciate the data we get from it. But, we did reach a place where we simply looked at, can we get that same information without spending so much of our classroom time testing?"

As a high school athlete, Carson Lashley is calm and calculated. But as a Hernando High School junior, he has a lot on his mind.

"Losing sleep, you're stressing, you're more worried about tests than schoolwork," Lashley said. "It's almost like the teachers weren't teaching to the subject itself but the test itself. So, they're teaching you how to pass the test instead of understanding the subject."

The news that the district would be reducing testing is a relief for Lashley.

"With them taking down the testing, we are actually going to learn more instead of just being worried about a test or stressed out about a test 24/7," Lashley said.

At the end of the school year, the district will study data points to make sure this decision to reduce testing didn't have any negative impacts on students or staff.