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History of Florida’s Statewide Assessment Program
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A Chronology of Events: 1968-1978

1968 - 1971:

Educational Accountability Act

In 1968 a law (Section 229.551, Florida Statutes) was enacted instructing the Commissioner of Education to expand the Department of Education's capability for constructive educational change and services necessary to achieve greater quality in education. The Commissioner was further instructed to use "all appropriate management tools, techniques, and practices which will cause the state's educational programs to be more effective and which will provide the greatest economics in the management and operation of the state's system of education."

In order to carry out the instructions of Section 229.551, Florida Statutes, several pieces of legislation were recommended by the Commissioner in subsequent years. The Commissioner defined the state's major role in education by outlining nine principles which were adopted by the Florida State Board of Education in August 1969. Those relating to assessment included: (1) the establishment of state educational objectives in priority order, (2) provision of sound financial support, (3) creation of minimum standards for achievement and quality controls, (4) assistance to districts for evaluating results, (5) creation of information system, and (6) efficient use of funds.

The Commissioner recommended legislation establishing an educational research and development program in the Florida Department of Education. The Florida Legislature approved the Educational Research and Development Program in 1969 and appropriated a sum annually for sponsoring the program beginning with the 1970-71 fiscal year. The Research and Development Program contributed to Florida's accountability efforts by developing preliminary objectives and test items for assessment and by piloting alternative educational practices.

The Commissioner recommended to the Florida Legislature that it, by statute, authorize him to develop a plan for evaluating the effectiveness of educational programs. In response to his recommendation, the Florida Legislature enacted Chapter 70-399, Laws of Florida, in 1970. The Commissioner was to develop evaluation procedures "designed to assess objectively the educational programs offered by the public schools . . . and (develop) such methods as are necessary to assess the progress of students at various levels." The goal was to provide each school district with the relevant comparative data and, to the extent possible, be compatible with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The 1971 Legislature adopted the Commissioner's Plan for Educational Assessment in Florida, enacting the Educational Accountability Act (Section 229.57, Florida Statutes).

Goals for Education in Florida

In order to implement a reasonable system of accountability in education, it becomes necessary to set the goals toward which the educational process aims. Precise measure of performance would be meaningless apart from a statement indicating the desired performance.

Goals for education in Florida were developed by Department of Education staff, adopted by the State Board of Education in 1971, and revised in 1975. They outline general, desirable student skills in seven areas, ranging from basic to advanced learning.

One goal is the mastery of basic skills required to gain and express fundamental ideas through the use of words, numbers, and an examination of other symbols. Mental and physical health is a goal to help students acquire and maintain good health habits and emotional well-being. Two goals involve relationships with other people: the appreciation of the family as a social institution; and moral, ethical, and spiritual values. The citizenship education goal is directed at improving habits and attitudes for responsible citizenship. The occupational interests goal strives to alert students to job opportunities and to develop skills and attitudes necessary for productive work. The aesthetic and cultural appreciation goal proposes that students "develop understanding and appreciation of human achievement in the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts."

In setting these goals, the State defined its responsibilities to ensure that every child acquire essential skills.

Establishment of the Statewide Assessment Program

In order to carry out these goals and ensure educational accountability, the Florida Statewide Assessment Program was created by the 1971 Legislature. Key responsibilities of the Statewide Assessment Program in 1971 were:

  1. Yearly establishment of statewide objectives;
  2. Assessment of student achievement of these objectives;
  3. Public reporting of results for the State, each district, and each school;
  4. Testing basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics; and
  5. Development of a cost-effectiveness plan.

Development of Statewide Objectives

In late 1971, the Department of Education contracted with various Florida universities and school districts for the development of catalogs of objectives in many subject areas--from mathematics to art to automotive engineering. The catalogs, designed for use by teachers, contained a comprehensive listing of specific behavioral objectives in the subject areas. Contractors were supervised by the Research and Development Section and by subject area specialists within the Department of Education. A state advisory committee of teachers and district supervisors in each subject area worked with the subject specialists to provide a broad base for each subject. The state subject-area advisory committees also made, on a priority basis, a preliminary selection from the comprehensive list of objectives contained in the catalogs.

Through the district coordinator of accountability, each district was requested to form committees to select the objectives to be measured in the assessment program. While the membership of each committee was determined by the district, members generally included teachers, administrators, curriculum specialists, parents, and other interested parties.

The district committees were instructed to select a limited number of objectives from the preliminary list for each grade level. District responses were tabulated in two ways: the total number of districts selecting an objective; and, based on district student population, the proportion of the population selecting the objective.

The tabulated responses were used by the subject-area consultants and advisory committees; the final lists were returned to the districts before presentation to the State Board. Upon final approval by the districts' committees, the objectives were submitted to the State Board and adopted as priority objectives for the State.

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Florida's First Statewide Assessment

Florida's first assessment, in reading in 1971-72, took place less than a year after the Florida Educational Accountability Act was passed. The Research and Development Section of the Florida Department of Education contracted with the Center for the study of Education (CSE), University of California at Los Angeles, to supply a catalog of reading objectives and items for grade two (age 7) and grade four (age 9).

Committees, totaling 112 reading specialists and 236 classroom teachers from all Florida school districts, were asked to confirm the grade level at which each objective should be achieved and then to select the objectives with the highest priority from the CSE catalog. No limitation was placed on the number of objectives that could be selected, and the result was that almost all were chosen. Since there were too many objectives to assess, a reading consultant reduced the list to a more practical size.

The Statewide Assessment Section then organized the reduced list and submitted it for approval to the State Board of Education. The objectives were adopted by the State Board in September 1971. These objectives then were used to create the first assessment test.

Test Package Format:

CSE arranged the test items into four forms for grades two and four, prepared administration instructions, and delivered all the materials in camera-ready format. After all the materials were received from CSE, and following State Board of Education approval of these as priority objectives, the Assessment Section of the Florida Department of Education prepared printing specifications and instruction manuals. There were 116 items for grade two objectives and 291 items for grade four objectives. Some objectives were measured by two or more items.

Test items for each grade were divided into four test forms with each form given to a different sample of students. Each test form measured approximately one-quarter of the objectives. The tests were not timed. The second grade forms took about one hour; the fourth grade forms took approximately two hours. All items that measured a single objective were on the same test form. Some items required more time than others to answer; thus the number of items on the test forms for each grade varied slightly. Each form was designed to take about the same amount of administration time.


In the Spring of 1971, test items were sent to selected schools for pretesting to eliminate items that did not measure objectives adequately. Also, 25 second grade pupils were pretested so that instructions could be checked and the time needed to administer a full-scale assessment test could be estimated. A preassessment study of multiple-matrix sampling, the method used in the first three Florida assessments, was done in one district. Trial versions of the sampling plan also were sent to three school principals to obtain their judgments of the adequacy and clarity of the sampling directions.


A validation study of the test items was undertaken after the assessment was conducted but before results were published. The Florida Department of Education Assessment Section and the state reading consultant prepared a form on which a review group evaluated the content validity of each item. The review group consisted of educators from several Florida universities, Department of Education staff, and lay persons. They were asked to determine which items should not be reported in the results because of serious technical difficulties or because they did not appear to be a valid measure of an objective. As a result of this review, the group recommended that 32 percent of the objectives not be reported in the results.

Florida's Second Statewide Assessment

More in-state educators were involved in the development of test items for Florida's second assessment in 1972-73. Initial test items were supplied by two local school districts and Florida State University, under contract to the Florida Department of Education. All of the reading, writing, and mathematics test items then were reviewed by a commercial testing firm, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc,, for content validity and appropriateness for the grade level being assessed. More than 80 percent of the items were revised, and another 10 percent were replaced by the testing firm. Objectives that could not be measured, because they required the use of unobtainable equipment or because scoring criteria had not been developed for questions requiring written responses, were identified by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.


Approximately 200 students from each grade level participated in special test-retest studies. The studies were conducted to determine the reliability of the test instruments. If the tests were reliable, the proportion of students who achieved success on the first test would be comparable to the proportion who achieved success on the retest. The results indicated that the tests were of satisfactory reliability.

Three different test forms were prepared for each grade, and all subject areas were included on each form of the test. The cover of each form was a different color for easy identification of test forms. A five-digit number, rather than student name, was assigned to each test booklet to identify a student's responses. The tests were not timed but required approximately 40 minutes for the third grade, 120 minutes for the sixth grade, and 150 minutes for the ninth grade.


Following test administration, test items were reviewed by subject-area specialists in the Florida Department of Education and by a panel of Florida public school and university teachers. Items the panel and subject-area specialists considered to be invalid were deleted. No results were reported for three third grade mathematics objectives.

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Florida's Third Statewide Assessment

The priority reading, writing, and mathematics objectives from the previous year were reviewed by the Department of Education and by subject-area task forces to improve the wording of objectives. Because they were so similar, reading and writing objectives were combined into one set of communication skills objectives. Science objectives also were reviewed.

Eventually, these objectives were presented to the State Board of Education and recommended for adoption as priority objectives in reading, writing, mathematics, and science for students in grade three, six, and nine.

There were two forms of the test for each grade level. Test items were either multiple-choice, supply, or construction. The multiple-choice items were machine scored. The supply and construction items were hand-scored by trained scorers.

Testing began on February 19, 1974. For the first time, each portion of the test was timed. Analysis of item omission rates indicated that the time was not sufficient on some sections to allow students to finish.

All students in grades three, six and nine were eligible to take the test with the exception of the Trainable Mentally Retarded (TMR) and Educable Mentally Retarded (EMR) and blind. EMR exclusion was made after analysis of results of the previous year's assessment.

Establishment of a Policy Review Committee

On March 28, 1974, a review committee, composed of the coordinators of accountability in each district, was established.

The following direction was given to this committee:

The purpose of the Review Committee of the Student Evaluation Section of the Department of Education is to review and make recommendations regarding the following areas:

  1. Goals, directions, and priorities of the Florida Statewide Assessment Program; and
  2. Procedural activities related to the implementation of the total program; e.g., requests for proposals (RFP), proposals submitted by bidders, reviews of materials prior to printing and/or distribution, practicalities of procedures for administration of the test, and use of data.

This committee met periodically with per diem and travel expenses paid by the Department of Education. With the establishment of the committee, the role of the district coordinators of accountability was expanded greatly.

1974 Revision of the 1971 Educational Accountability Act

The original 1971 Act was a comprehensive accountability statute emphasizing cost efficiency and behavioral objectives. The Commissioner of Education was directed to implement a program of educational accountability for the operation and management of the public schools. A review of the major points follows:

  1. The establishment of major or ultimate, specific, uniform, statewide educational objectives for each grade level and subject area, including, but not limited to, reading, writing, and mathematics in the public schools.
  2. A uniform statewide system of assessment based in part on criterion-referenced tests and in part on norm-referenced tests to determine periodically pupil status, pupil progress, and the degree of achievement of established educational objectives.
  3. Procedures for comparing statewide results to national indicators of student performance.
  4. An annual public report of the assessment results by grade and subject area for each school district and the State, with an analysis and recommendations concerning the costs and differential effectiveness of instructional programs.

The school boards of the local districts were required to make annual reports of the assessment results by grade and subject area for each school in the district and file a copy with the Commissioner of Education.

In 1974 The Accountability Act was amended. A description of the provisions in that amendment follows:

  1. The 1971 Act specified the subject areas to be assessed without indicating grades; reading in 1971-72; reading, mathematics, and writing in 1972-73; and reading, writing, mathematics, and other subject areas in 1973-74.
    • The 1974 Act added that all students in grades three and six be assessed in the subject areas of reading, writing, and mathematics in 1974-75, and all students in grade three through six be tested by 1976.
  2. No other subject area was to be tested until the assessment of reading, writing, and mathematics had been implemented in grades three through six.
  3. Statewide results were to be compared to national indicators of student performance.
  4. An interpretation of the results for each school was to be reported in the annual report of school progress. This report was to be prepared by each school for the parents of all children in the school.

One other major change occurred in the Accountability Act as a result of legislation enacted in 1975. Both the original Accountability Act of 1971 and the 1974 revised Accountability Act directed the Commissioner of Education to develop accreditation standards based upon the attainment of established educational objectives. The 1975 Florida Legislature discontinued state accreditation which, in effect, abolished this directive.

Special Assessments

Achievement Relative to the Nation:

Although the original law which established the Statewide Testing Program mandated that nationally normed data be obtained on Florida's students, the Student Assessment Section had not been able to comply. A decision was made, therefore, that Florida would replicate the reading and mathematics portions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test in 1974-75.

Florida closely replicated the time of the year for testing, sample selection procedures, and other important procedures using NAEP guidelines. Students who were nine, thirteen, and seventeen years old in public and private schools were tested. A total sample size of 1,758 nine-year-olds, 1,714 thirteen-year-olds, and 1,755 seventeen-year-olds was used.

Assessment of Special Education Students

The Catalog of Behavioral Objectives for Trainable Mentally Handicapped Students (1974) was developed by the Duval County School Board under a USDE-DHEW Title VI-B grant awarded through the Bureau of Education for Exceptional Students, Florida Department of Education.

The Catalog was developed with the understanding that, upon approval, it would be adopted for use throughout the State. Because it was to be a statewide program, major emphasis was placed on the broad-based validation of the objectives and the criteria associated with mastery of each objective. The Catalog was produced with the cooperation of a large number of parents, teachers, and other professionals. The final product, consisting of 869 objectives, covered three competency areas: social, academic, and vocational. These three areas were subdivided into 33 skill areas or clusters. This catalog was designed to provide a framework which would be the basis for Florida's TMH instructional program.

The objectives included in the Catalog were rated by a large number of parents, teachers, and community agency personnel, and ranked in order of importance for the TMH student.

Ninety-nine objectives were chosen from the total ranked set on the basis of their importance ranking, their appropriateness for intermediate-level students, and their comprehensive but non-redundant coverage of the competencies included in the Catalog . This list of 99 objectives was chosen for the TMH assessment instrument.

The assessment of TMH students too place during the 1975-76 school year and is described in the 1975-77 section of this paper.

Florida's Fourth Statewide Assessment

A contract was written with Westinghouse Learning Corporation for assessment development for 1974-75. One of the significant requirements of the new contract was the stipulation that a field test be made of the test items and administration materials. The information obtained was valuable in making final adjustments to the assessment instruments.

A task force of local district subject-area teachers reviewed the objectives and items from the previous year of testing and made recommendations for change. After revisions, the objectives were presented for adoption by the State Board of Education.

All test items were released this year for the first time. Teachers were able to keep test booklets in order to review the format and content of the test items for interpretation purposes. Previously, the booklets had to be sent back, and the items were not available for reference or analysis.

All students in grades three, six, and nine were assessed in reading, writing, and mathematics with the exception of TMH, EMH, and blind students. This year's assessment was unique in that it marked the first time that Florida tested all students instead of using a random sample. Testing took place in February 1975 with 108,759 third grade students, 124,144 sixth grade students, and 126,816 ninth grade students tested.

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Florida's Fifth Statewide Assessment

For the fifth assessment, the tests were given in October 1975 so that results could be utilized during the school year. Also, test results were available for use in schools' Annual Report of School Progress. (House Bill 1145, which strengthened Section 229.57, Florida Statutes, provided that a summary of school performance and programs be included in these reports.) State testing at this time of the year also interfered less with district testing programs.

All public school children in grades three and six participated in the 1975-76 assessment. The number of students tested was 104,000 in grade three and 123,000 in grade six, for a total of 227,000 students.

A state-level review group approved objectives for submission to the State Board of Education. Since previous test items were released to teachers, an effort was made to generate new comparable test items based on the priority objectives. A consultant in each subject area (communication skills and mathematics) was hired for this purpose. As a part of their contracts, these two consultants developed and conducted a field test of new items. Some previously used test items were retained as part of the new assessment instrument.

There was one form per grade, involving only multiple-choice answers. All hand-scored items were eliminated. The Florida National Assessment of Educational Progress replication was also eliminated this year.

A decision was made that a fifth grade norm-referenced assessment in reading would be conducted during the Spring of 1976. Tentative plans for providing the data were presented to the district coordinators of accountability at their August 1975 meeting. Since all Florida school districts were collecting some type of nationally normed data, the Department of Education wished to make maximum use of these existing district testing programs. However, because the data at the district level were collected on a wide range of tests, the data were not uniform and comparable. In order to make data from these tests comparable, the Student Assessment Section used the Anchor Test Study conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in 1972-73. This study used one test as a common base or "anchor" to generate equivalent tables, individual score norms, and school mean norms on eight different reading tests. All but eight districts in Florida were using one of these eight tests.

With the Trainable Mentally Handicapped (TMH) assessment model completed, the decision was made to implement this testing in April of 1976. All students in the intermediate level of this program were individually assessed on an instrument designed to show progress toward priority objectives of the TMH program. The study was completed and reports of results were then made available.

An assessment of visually handicapped students also was undertaken this year. The test was basically the same as the regular assessment and was given at the same time of the year. The assessment Section analyzed the collected data in determining visually handicapped students' progress toward mastery of communication skills and mathematics objectives.

1976 Accountability Act

During 1975-76, a subcommittee of the Florida House of Representatives Committee on Education evaluated the progress made by the Florida Department of Education in implementing the 1974 Accountability Act. This evaluation, in part, led to the passage of an expanded 1976 Accountability Act. While the 1971 and 1974 versions of the Act were concerned primarily with the Statewide Assessment Program, the 1976 version consolidated and expanded existing statutes on all aspects of accountability. Sections of the 1976 law related to the management information systems, evaluation procedures, the student testing program, basic skills development, pupil progression, district planning, and cost accounting.

The changes in the assessment portion of the law were based on long-range plans developed by the Student Assessment Section. It was proposed that assessment involve students in grades three, five, eight, and eleven for the following reasons:

  1. Assessment at grades three and five provides a measure of within-school growth for approximately 95 percent of Florida's elementary schools. (If grades three and six were the grade levels tested, the number of schools in which the within-school achievement could be examined would be greatly reduced; the recent trend toward inclusion of the sixth grade in middle schools rather than elementary schools would cause a reduction.)
  2. Grade eight has additionally been involved in state-sponsored testing to increase the longitudinal aspect of evaluation.
  3. Grade eleven provides a terminal assessment point, yet occurs early enough to provide results which can be used for student planning.

A provision for special assessments was added so that other program areas could be assessed as needed.

The 1976 Educational Accountability Act incorporated these proposals for assessment and added two major changes:

  1. Beginning with the graduating class of 1978-79, all students must pass a state-administered functional literacy test to receive their high school diplomas; and
  2. Educational objectives would be henceforth be organized according to broad Minimum Student Performance Standards with specific skills comprising the broad standards. (This was primarily a change in terminology.) The standards were to be adopted for a three-to-five-year period beginning in April 1977.

Florida's Sixth Statewide Assessment

The 1976-77 assessment was based on a revised set of statewide objectives which identified basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics for all students entering the third and fifth grades. These tests were developed through contracts with three Florida universities. Reading items were developed by the University of West Florida, writing items by Florida International University, and math items by the University of South Florida. Items were written to conform to specifications provided by the Department of Education. They were field tested, revised by the Department, and reviewed by state-level task forces. The new tests were administered in October 1976 to more than 200,000 third and fifth grade students.

Dissemination efforts were expanded to provide educators with specific information which would facilitate interpretation and utilization of assessment data. For the 1976-77 assessment, several new reports were designed which made results available on a student, classroom, school, and district basis. New materials included (1) a filmstrip explaining the reports and (2) a test results folder which contained the reports for each classroom. Workshops conducted by the statewide assessment staff in the fall of 1976 were designed to help districts understand the assessment data.

Adoption of Performance Standards

In April 1977, the new Minimum Student Performance Standards for grades three, five, eight, and eleven developed by the Performance Standards and Personnel Data Section of the Department of Education were adopted by the State Board of Education. State curriculum specialists worked with teachers, district-level administrators, and citizens to validate the standards. The standards which were adopted were very similar in content to the previously used minimal objectives.

Special Assessment

Trainable Mentally Handicapped (TMH):

The second assessment of Trainable Mentally Handicapped students was conducted in April 1977. Approximately 1,725 intermediate students, ages ten to fourteen years, were tested. These students were observed and rated by their teachers on a scale designed to assess their performance on each of the 99 state-approved objectives. This was a replication of the trainable mentally handicapped assessment conducted in 1976.

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Florida's Seventh Statewide Assessment

In October 1977 approximately 440,000 students in the third, fifth, eighth, and eleventh grades took the new statewide assessment tests. For the 1977-78 assessment at third and fifth grades, approximately 30 percent of the test items were replaced with new items designed to improve the tests and/or measure new skills and standards. These new items had gone through the normal field-testing/critiquing/revising procedures which were used to revise all new test items.

Preparations for assessment at the eighth and eleventh grades began with the development of test item specifications by Dade County educators during the winter of 1975. The items for eighth grade tests were prepared at Florida State University, the basic skills items for eleventh grade mathematics at the University of South Florida, and the basic skills items for eleventh grade reading at the University of West Florida. Items were critiqued and appropriate revisions made by teachers and Department of Education curriculum and assessment specialists. These items were field-tested in a sample of volunteer schools in November and December of 1976. Scoring and analyses resulted in further revision of the items. Committees of local district educators helped select final test items which were used in the statewide assessment in the fall of 1977. Approximately 130,000 eighth graders and 118,000 eleventh grade students participated in this assessment.

Functional Literacy

In addition to the basic skills test, eleventh graders took the newly developed test of "functional literacy" to fulfill the requirement of the 1976 Accountability Act that a literacy test be developed for use as a prerequisite to graduation from high school. In late 1976 the Florida Statewide Assessment Program contracted with Educational Testing Service of Princeton, New Jersey, to develop the literacy test items. The items then went through extensive review and were field-tested in March 1977 on a sample of Florida's eleventh grade students.

After the field testing, committees consisting of teachers, administrators, testing specialists, curriculum specialists, and representatives of professional educational organizations reviewed each item for clarity, content, and format. After further revision, the items were organized into the Functional Literacy Test. Approximately 118,000 eleventh grade students participated in the first administration of Florida's Functional Literacy Test. (Note that the name of the test was changed in August 1978 to State Assessment Test, Part II.)

Special Assessment

Hearing Impaired (HI):

Items were developed during 1977 to measure performance standards for seventeen-year-old Hearing Impaired students. Field testing occurred in the fall of 1977 in preparation for this statewide assessment which took place in April 1978. Sixty-six Hearing Impaired students participated.

Free Enterprise/Consumer/Economic Education Assessment:

A consumer education assessment was implemented in February 1978 because of the concern of citizens, educators, and legislators that students have knowledge of free enterprise, consumer, and economic concepts. A contract was awarded to National Evaluation Systems of Amherst, Massachusetts, for the development of test items and general assessment support activities. The test was administered to approximately 1,600 fifth graders and 2,200 eleventh grade students. Results were disseminated during the summer of 1978.