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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Are Florida schools meeting students' accelerated academic needs?



No Child Left Behind prompted Florida schools to pay much more attention to the educational needs of their lowest performing students. Some state lawmakers worried, though, that the focus diverted efforts away from top students who could benefit from more accelerated instruction.

The Legislature passed a measure (HB 7059) in 2012 aimed at putting the spotlight back on ways to challenge high performers. It required school districts to amend their student progression plans and make more advanced options available to children and parents. A key goal was to help bright students who missed out on the gifted designation, or did not qualify for specialty programs such as International Baccalaureate.

Districts weren't necessarily prepared when the law took effect with the 2012-13 school year. A year later, primary sponsor and Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg wants to make sure they've made strides and are taking the subject seriously.

He's asked several district officials to testify before his committee on Oct. 8, to determine whether the mandate is being enforced or sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

"This is a high priority," Legg said.

To figure out if districts are making progess, Legg plans to ask them about the specific changes they've made to their progression plans, the accelerated programs they've made available to students, the methods parents are made aware of their options and the ways districts deal with requests from parents for acceleration.

He noted that the law allows parents to sign performance contracts if they request to enter an accelerated program. "I question whether they have them," Legg said of the districts.

If the Legislature can do something to ease the process, he said, he welcomes ideas to amend the law and remove barriers. But if the districts simply are not acting, Legg added, that's just not acceptable: "If we have to take some punitive action to force implementation, we will consider that."

The committee meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

[Last modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 8:47am]


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