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Levy school district driving force behind proposed accommodations bill

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Suzette Cook, Reporter

Florida Senator Bill Montford filed a proposed bill on Jan. 16 that will address student accommodations when taking Florida Standards Assessments (FSA).

According to Levy County Superintendent of Schools Jeffery R. Edison, students currently cannot utilize accommodations such as graphic organizers on the exams, even though they are allowed to use them in the classroom.

The proposed bill known as SB 348: Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force was proposed by Levy County School District with a goal of “establishing the Exceptional Student Education State Assessment Accommodation Task Force within the Department of Education for the purpose of making recommendations on school accommodations for exceptional students.”

“The goal is, we have children that are allowed to have certain accommodations in the classroom but on the FSA test, many of those accommodations are not allowed,” said Edison.

“They need those to be successful in the classroom, but can’t have those to be as successful on the test. All we’re asking them to do, is review the accommodations,” Edison said about the Florida Department of Education. “It’s been six years since it’s been reviewed. We’re asking them to create a task force to review the accommodations allowed on the test.”

According to the FSA website fsassessments.org, “Department of Education Florida’s K-12 assessment system measures students’ achievement of Florida’s education standards, which were developed and implemented to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for success in college, career, and life. Assessment supports instruction and student learning, and test results help Florida’s educational leadership and stakeholders determine whether the goals of the education system are being met.”

But Edison said that in order for students to be measured effectively, they should be able to use the same accommodations they use in the classroom in the test environment as well.

“A graphic organizer,” Edison said. “A piece of paper with shapes on it or a piece of paper with boxes, you can’t use that.”

If the bill passes, a task force composed of 16 members will convene no later than July 1, 2019 to address the concerns.

According to the bill, “five members shall be appointed by the governor, five members shall be appointed by the president of the Senate, five members shall be appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, and one member shall be the commissioner of education.

The make up of the five appointees will be one school district curriculum director, a current school district assessment director, a public school principal, a current teacher of exceptional education students, and a parent of a public school student with special needs.

Levy County Director of ESE and Student Services Dr. Rosalind Hall said, “This is awesome news! We are moving in the right direction.”

Edison added, “It’s about allowing kids to be able to achieve their best potential.”