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by Sandy Stenoff

Growing public awareness surrounding the Florida parents’ lawsuit against the Florida Dept of Education and six school districts has brought parents clamoring to get into the thirty-five opt out groups across Florida.  Parents are outraged by just how much testing has steamrolled public education, stealing valuable instruction time given over to test prep. They want to know how to fight for authentic education for their own children.

On Friday, August 26, 2016, Florida Circuit Court Judge, Karen Gievers ruled as follows:
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Even before last Friday’s court ruling affirming what we have long believed, The Opt Out Florida Network had been inundated with requests from parents, who want to know how to make sure that their children’s 180 days in school aren’t laid to waste by a single State test, that could send their child back to the third grade, even after they have proved mastery of the required standards.

Certified teachers have created a portfolio checklist, with all of the State’s portfolio requirements outlined in Florida StatuteFlorida Administrative Code and a FLDOE Technical Assistance Paper. At the risk of redundancy, multiple sources are cited throughout this post in order to assure parents, teachers, administrators and school districts that the checklist offered here does indeed meet ALL of the State’s required guidelines for a portfolio used as an alternative assessment.

In an ideal world, proof of competency, proficiency and mastery would be demonstrated in an authentic portfolio of work completed independently in a classroom, under the guidance of a trusted, professional teacher.

TO BE VERY CLEAR – As far as The Opt Out Florida Network is concerned, an authentic student portfolio would include various types of student work samples: artwork, creative writing, evidence of deep understanding, evidence of critical thinking, independent projects, etc.

It appears that the stance of the FLDOE has been that no parent should expect that an authentic portfolio would be used for promotion in any Florida public school, even with all of the “honor and privilege” of a teacher’s degree and certification behind it. Because we just can’t trust teachers. But we can trust a glitch-ridden, developmentally inappropriate, not fully validated, multiple choice test with “fluid” cut scores.

The State says that report cards are meaningless and have therefore created test bank items that may make up a “test portfolio.” The law does NOT require parents to accept a portfolio comprised only, or in any way, of these test bank items.

From a previous post, Student Portfolio Puts Assessment Where It Belongs… With Teachers (Jun 21, 2016):

There is even more detailed guidance from the FL DOE on Third Grade portfolios.: Florida Department of Education 2015 Third-Grade Portfolio – District Guidance

The student portfolio may consist of some or all of the following resources:

NOWHERE does it say that a portfolio must utilize ANY content from the IBTP.

Many teachers have reported that the portfolio assessments are even more developmentally inappropriate for the average third grader than the FSA practice test. If a parent refuses the alternative testing offered and insists on a statutory portfolio, it would be made up of the assessments (assignments, projects, reports, quizzes, tests) done in school throughout the regular school year.

Parents should be aware that these may now include competency-based education, such as progress monitoring (predictive testing) from iReady, STAR, Accelerated Reader and so on. Some parents allow their students to take these tests, not knowing that they have a choice. Many parents successfully refuse these tests and ask that their child be given reading or other work of the teacher’s choosing. There is no State mandate for these additional tests, no matter what a school district may tell you.  If you are told that they are mandated, you should be asking “By whom?” and you should also be asking for the statute mandating such testing. The ONLY State-mandated test is the FSA.

One of the most important statements we make in refusing these tests is that we trust that our teachers are trained professionals.  We have more trust and confidence in their ability to work with our children all year long, to teach and to assess them, than we do in any single test.

For the purposes of clarity here, we will distinguish between an “authentic portfolio,” the state’s “test portfolio” and a “statutory portfolio”, which is the one we offer help with here. To this end, certified teachers have created a checklist to to help track the development of a statutory third grade portfolio throughout the school year, that would meet the requirements of Florida law as well as that of the Dept. of Education.

Parents may ascertain that their child’s work will count for SOMETHING by requesting that a portfolio of completed classwork be compiled and maintained to assure a more meaningful record of a student’s work throughout the year, than the state’s series of portfolio tests.

Please click on these two documents to share with your child’s teacher.

Third Grade Portfolio Checklist

Third Grade Portfolio Instructions

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The checklist is a user-friendly, expandable table in a word doc. It has been tested by a third grade teacher, who recently used it to certify a retained student’s portfolio.

In her words,

“This is a wonderful tool!

The idea to have the standards broken up into clusters and space to list the examples underneath each cluster came from my recent experience of validating a retained child’s body of work from scratch.  It was helpful in keeping everything organized. To be sure, many assignments landed in more than one area. When I was finished, however, I ended up with a nice list of each standard with three examples. This way I could also tell if there was enough evidence for each standard easily.

This was what worked for me. If a teacher keeps up with the portfolio throughout the year and is fairly organized, it may not be necessary. But, I really liked having a list of assignments under each standard- it was useful “at-a-glance”, which may also be helpful for teachers who may be responsible for multiple portfolios. It should be simpler if it is collected and documented throughout the school year. This tool really helped me. Thank you so much, everyone, for creating it.”

The requirements* for a “statutory portfolio” are summarized:

  • 3 assessments per standard
  • Each assessment is multiple choice
  • Each must have a score of 70% or higher
  • 60% Literary Text passages, 40% Informational Text passages
  • Passage word counts must be between 100 – 700 words, the overall average word count of the passages is to be 500 words.
This is far from an authentic representation of all of the work your child will do for 180 days with their teacher in the Third Grade. But following these guidelines should fulfill the state’s portfolio requirements in order to avoid what so many families are enduring  now.
Guidelines to school districts from the FLDOE are repeated in
FLDOE Technical Assistance Paper (TAP) Third-Grade Student Progression – Oct 24, 2014 (Pages 5-7)

The criteria for a Statutory Portfolio are spelled out in the above referenced TAP, as well as in (Florida Administrative Code) FAC 6A-1.094221*
(3) To promote a student using a student portfolio as a good cause exemption there must be evidence that demonstrates the student’s mastery of the Language Arts Florida Standards in reading equal to at least a Level 2 performance on the grade three statewide English Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment. Such evidence shall be an organized collection of the student’s mastery of the Language Arts Florida Standards that are assessed by the grade three statewide English Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment. The student portfolio must meet the following criteria:

(a) Be selected by the student’s teacher,

(b) Be an accurate picture of the student’s ability and only include student work that has been independently produced in the classroom,

(c) Include evidence that the standards assessed by the grade three statewide English Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment have been met. Evidence is to include multiple choice items and passages that are approximately sixty (60) percent literary text and forty (40) percent information text, and that are between 100-700 words with an average of 500 words. Such evidence could include chapter or unit tests from the district’s/school’s adopted core reading curriculum that are aligned with the Language Arts Florida Standards or teacher-prepared assessments.

(d) Be an organized collection of evidence of the student’s mastery of the Language Arts Florida Standards that are assessed by the grade three statewide English Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment. For each standard, there must be at least three (3) examples of mastery as demonstrated by a grade of seventy (70) percent or above on each example, and,

(e) Be signed by the teacher and the principal as an accurate assessment of the required reading skills.

Should a parent be told that the portfolio tests are the only acceptable portfolio, they should know and share with their school, that per FS 1008.25(5)(c)7.,

“…A parent of a student in grade 3 who is identified anytime during the year as being at risk of retention may request that the school immediately begin collecting evidence for a portfolio.”

As Judge Gievers’ ruling reinforces:

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and finally,

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Judge Gievers did not “order” what we think of as a teacher-developed portfolio. She said a portfolio or report card was allowed by law. She stopped short of differentiating between a test portfolio and one that is more representative of what is actually produced daily. That definition will have to be challenged in a separate case. What we have provided (the portfolio checklist) will satisfy the law, but you do need to work with your teacher on this. There is no guarantee that your school will go along with this, but there is also no reason for them not to.  (Updated 9/8/16)

A complete copy of Judge Gievers’ ruling and Court Order can be found here.

To learn more about the lawsuit to fight mandatory third grade retention, follow the hashtag #180DaysCount on Facebook and Twitter.

Promotion to Grade 4 Technical Assistance Paper
– Florida Department of Education 2015 Third-Grade Portfolio – District Guidance
– FLDOE Technical Assistance Paper (TAP) Third-Grade Student Progression – Oct 24, 2014 (Pages 5-7)
– Criteria for Statutory Portfolio (Florida Administrative Code) FAC 6A-1.094221
– Why we do this: bit.ly/PositionStatement
– THIRD GRADE OPT OUT GROUP for help and support: bit.ly/OOFL3rd
– For statewide information and suggested reading: https://theoptoutfloridanetwork.wordpress.com/
– For the most current news on education/testing: The Opt Out Florida Network

Updated March 15, 2019