Education

School districts hit by Irma ask Florida to postpone testing

Three Florida school districts are asking the state to push back standardized testing dates after they lost considerable class time to Hurricane Irma.

Miami-Dade, Collier and Lee counties have requested that the Department of Education revise the state testing calendar to account for school closures during and after the storm. Miami-Dade students missed seven school days while students in Collier and Lee counties missed 12.

The lost class time “is certain to create a disadvantage to our students” on state assessments, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho wrote in an Oct. 3 letter to Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. He said the school district was working to recoup some of the lost time, but would be unable to make up for all of it.

The Collier and Lee county school districts cited similar concerns, noting that some families were still recovering from the storm. “Resuming life as it was known before Irma will be challenging and could take many months,” said Lee County Schools Superintendent Gregory Adkins.

In Monroe County, home to the devastated Florida Keys, some students lost as many as 18 school days. District officials have spoken to the Department of Education about testing concerns, but have not submitted a formal request to change testing dates, said district spokeswoman Lynsey Saunders. It’s unclear whether they plan to do so.

Schools across the state closed as Hurricane Irma approached so they could serve as evacuation shelters for some of the 6.5 million people who fled their homes ahead of the storm. In Miami-Dade, schools closed the Thursday before Irma hit and remained closed through the following Friday. Many schools were left without power and had to clean up debris after the storm.

In his letter, Carvalho indicated that another hurricane could also impact testing outcomes. Hurricane Maria is expected to send hundreds of Puerto Rican students fleeing to Florida, forcing them to start school in a new language. “Even a small increase in time to settle in and assimilate would benefit these vulnerable children,” Carvalho wrote.

Stewart made some revisions to the state’s testing calendar after the hurricane, extending the window districts have to administer several tests this fall. She plans to wait until the end of hurricane season to decide on any further changes, a department spokeswoman said. In an email sent to Florida superintendents shortly after the storm, Stewart said the impacted school districts “have our full support” and encouraged school leaders to contact the department of education with any concerns.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include Commissioner Pam Stewart’s decision to wait until the end of hurricane season to decide on any further changes to the state testing calendar.

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