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Rule means schools must test tots

— Kindergarten and first-grade students in Pasco County schools could be in for some last-minute testing this academic year.

The Pasco County school district has proposed giving those students the Stanford Achievement Test, or SAT-10, after the Memorial Day weekend in an effort to meet new state requirements that teacher evaluations be based on the progress of students the teachers actually teach.

Kindergartners and first-graders don’t take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, so another assessment is necessary, district officials say. United School Employees of Pasco still has not agreed to the plan, but an email went out to schools Friday afternoon to prepare them for the possibility of testing.

It’s not a complete surprise for teachers, said Peggy Jones, the district’s director of the Office for Accountability, Research and Measurement.

“We’ve been working on this all year,” she said.

Under the plan, kindergartners and first-graders would take the standardized reading tests sometime between May 27 and 30. The kindergarten test would be 30 minutes long and the first-grade test would take 40 minutes.

If all goes as planned, that should satisfy the revised requirements for the state law on teacher evaluations.

The Legislature passed a law a few years ago that said evaluations were to be based in part on student growth as measured by standardized tests.

The problem was that students didn’t take FCAT until third grade. Also, there were no tests for many subjects, such as art, music, physical education and vocational classes. For those evaluations, Pasco and other districts assigned schoolwide FCAT averages to the teachers.

But for this school year, the Legislature changed the requirement and said the student-growth measure in the evaluation must be based on test results for students the teacher teaches.

An email that Jones sent to schools Friday said that Pasco “attempted to meet this requirement with as little introduction of new assessments as possible” and was able to do that for most students.

It was not possible for kindergarten and first grade, Jones wrote, so the district plans to use SAT10.

That test was not the top pick among kindergarten and first-grade teachers surveyed jointly by the district and United School Employees of Pasco. They preferred the Independent Reading Level Assessment, or IRLA, that students had already been given, but Jones’ email said that test would not be used this year because “it has not been implemented consistently across the district.”

She said IRLA could be considered in the future.

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