Another Term Bites The Dust

Florida Man Steals $33,000 Worth of Rare Coins, Cashes Them in for $29.30
Florida Man Fire Bombs Garage That Impounded His Car,
Hits His Own Vehicle

Florida Man Bastardizes The Term Progress Monitoring

We have come to expect, even look forward to, the zany “news” stories that begin with the two-word phrase, “Florida Man.”

At this point, it’s Pavlovian. Researchers have found that a unique set of endorphins are released whenever people hear the phrase. True, it was a single case study conducted at an R2 institution in Florida, but still. (well, at least that’s what I read online)

So, we can’t really say that we were surprised earlier this week when THE Florida Man announced that Florida would be “the first state to fully transition to progress monitoring.”


There’s enough in those two tweets to fill a dozen blog posts or perhaps a two-day convening like the one being convened (I guess that’s the right verb for a convening) in November by my friends at the Center for Assessment.  [Aside: Seriously, did they test those names? Florida Assessment of Student Thinking.  Sounds like Big Brother government overreach to me.]

In this post, however, I would just like to take a moment to mourn the loss of yet another assessment-related term. We can now add progress monitoring to the long list of terms that have lost all meaning and usefulness when sucked into the black hole that is educational and psychological testing – specifically state testing.  Find a spot for it up on the wall.


And those are just the colloquial terms that have been appropriated to feed the beast.

As a field, we remain unsure about the difference between the terms assessment and test. I was first asked about the distinction between the two at my doctoral defense in 1989 – a very good year for confusion about key educational measurement terms and concepts.

And based on the teaser to the forthcoming book by NCME President Derek Briggs, it’s crystal clear that it’s not clear at all that we know what we mean by educational measurement or whether what we’re doing with all of these tests is actually measurement of any kind. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. I don’t know. Buy the book. (Historical and Conceptual Foundations of Measurement in the Human Sciences: Credos and Controversies. Routledge)

Progress Monitoring, We Hardly Knew Ye

 The term progress monitoring has an accepted meaning, even in Florida. The practice of progress monitoring involves teachers assessing students’ academic performance on a regular basis to determine whether students are benefitting from the current instructional program, thereby signaling whether an adjustment to the instructional program might be needed.  When used with regard to the instructional decisions made by individual teachers, assessment on a regular basis generally still means weekly or least monthly, assessment.

The term progress monitoring, however, long ago also came to be used to describe the practice of administering school- or district-level tests three or four times per year to enable administrators to monitor the progress of classes of students at a grade level within a school or grade-level performance of students across schools within a district.

The commercial tests that we commonly refer to as interim assessments have been routinely used for the second purpose for several decades.

Considered in that regard, the frequency and use of tests described by Florida can be described as progress monitoring. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, in a January blog post, Assessment By Any Other Name, Please, I recommended replacing the vague, undefined term interim assessment with Progress Monitoring to better describe its purpose and to better distinguish it from ongoing formative assessment at the classroom level and summative assessment at the state level.

Therein Lies The Rub, My Friends

By making the “full transition to progress monitoring,” Florida runs the very real risk of blurring the line between Progress Monitoring to inform decisions by educators, students, and parents at the school and district level and the state’s responsibility to collect summative information about the performance of its schools and districts.

I mean, they do see this initiative as “protecting Florida’s #1 in the nation accountability system.”

What are the unintended, but not unanticipated, consequences in a state known far and wide for schools shutting down instruction for weeks, perhaps months, to prep for the high-stakes state test?

What could go wrong?

I am not opposed to the idea of using a form of through year assessment to replace or supplement information from a single end-of-year test. If the claims about student and school performance are appropriately aligned, it is perfectly logical to think that a judgment of student proficiency can be made on the basis of performance on a series of tests administered throughout the year – or even better, that such a decision can be informed and supported by information gained from student performance on those tests.

Or perhaps, Florida intends to evaluate schools on some basis other than absolute student proficiency, such as the “progress” made during the year. The state’s history with gain scores doesn’t fill me with confidence, but I am open to the concept of evaluating schools based on progress.

Perhaps the fine folks in Florida, bless their hearts, have put as much thought into how this will all play out as they put into the acronyms for their F.A.S.T. assessment program and B.E.S.T. standards and the neat “one pager” describing the system.

Perhaps rather than inspiring headlines like those at the top of this post, this adventure will end with a headline more like last February’s

“Florida Man Wins His 7thSuper Bowl!”

But please Florida, can you call it something other than Progress Monitoring.

Is that too much to ask? It’s not like I’m asking you to wear a mask.

Image by Abhay Bharadwaj from Pixabay

Published by Charlie DePascale

Charlie DePascale is an educational consultant specializing in the area of large-scale educational assessment. When absolutely necessary, he is a psychometrician. The ideas expressed in these posts are his (at least at the time they were written), and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations with which he is affiliated personally or professionally..

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