Sunday, September 20, 2009

F.A.I.R. - AP1

We are in the midst of the Florida's new reading assessment/ diagnostic, F.A.I.R., that takes the place of DIBELS - AP1 or Assessment Period 1. One of the things that is new, besides the fact that the assessment is more comprehensive, is that Kindergarten teachers input the data on the computer as they are assessing each child individually. While this gives us access to instant data, it also means that the state and county have to have the infrastructure to make it happen. Not surprisingly, it seems that is not quite in place. We have struggled through not being able to get to the testing site, being kicked off while testing, and having data not save. Some of the problems are a result of our county computers and lack of bandwidth and some are problems at the state. If you are a kindergarten teacher, you know how dependent our youngsters are at this time of year so we are stealing minutes at a time to try to get the assessments done. To have technical glitches is so frustrating and such a loss of instructional time during these crucial early days.

This, of course, is a huge endeavor to try to get computerized assessment statewide. I can remember having many conversation with Governor Jeb Bush six years ago about this happening because it was one of his dreams for the state. As I attended meetings as the state Teacher of the Year during that time, I realized how very complex this was to do when each county had implemented a different technology system. The vision seemed so easy - all student taking computerized assessment that would input into the state to provide the state, county, school, teacher and parents with instant data to drive instructional decisions. His vision included the FCAT, our state assessment, being computerized to provide that same timely information. Can you imagine having students take the FCAT and then pulling up the results as soon as they finish?

The frustrations this week have been many. Some of the problems are with our county - computers that don't work and not having enough computers for labs or not having sufficient bandwidth with so many people on the system at the same time. Some of the problems are with our state. However, when you just can't get into the testing site all day or you're booted off in the middle of an assessment, or you give an assessment and it doesn't save, it doesn't really matter who is to blame. A teacher has limited time to complete the assessment and when you're in kindergarten you have very limited time that the students are independent enough that you can test a student individually! Oh my! You grab a few seconds here and a few seconds there, so when the technology is the problem, it is even more frustrating.

While this assessment promises comprehensive and timely data that we have never had before in the early grades, right now the technology glitches are overshadowing the possibilities. I certainly hope the county and state can figure it all out so that we can get about the business of educating our youngsters.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I agree that the obstacles may overshadow the benefit right now, but I'm hoping that won't be the case in the long run. The reports seem timely, valuable, and useable to plan instruction. So, I'm hoping the computer issues won't stand in the way too long.