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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Bill promotes three-year transition to Florida Standards, teacher performance pay



For months, school superintendents have been asking the state to slow down the transition to new standards, statewide exams and accountability measures.

On Thursday, the CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (a.k.a. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee) put that request into a formal legislative proposal.

The bill, SB 1368, seeks to ease Florida school districts into the new accountability system.

There's a lot going on. Districts must fully transition to the new education benchmarks known as the Florida Standards by next year. The state Department of Education expects to introduce new, computer-based state tests at that time, too. (The exams have yet to be selected.)

What's more, the department is in the middle of rolling out a new performance-pay program for teachers.

Many educators worry they won't be prepared to teach and test the new standards by next year. And superintendents are concerned they won't have accesss to the technology needed for computer-based testing.

Montford's proposal would push the timeline back by three years. It would suspend the controversial school grading system until 2017-18, though schoolwide student performance data would still be reported publicly. 

The bill would also modify the teacher evaluation system during the transition. 

"The proposed legislation establishes a transition accountability system," Montford wrote in a statement. "It ensures that all of the elements are in place –- standards, assessments, instructional materials, technology, and a fair teacher evaluation system -- before high stakes are imposed on students, teachers and schools."

Montford contends that the move is necessary to restore trust in the education accountaility system.

"Unless public confidence is restored, the entire system is at risk and we could forfeit the gains we have made in increased student performance," he said.

The sponsor in the lower chamber will be Rep. Joe Saunders, an Orlando Democrat.

The measure will likely have the support of the statewide teachers union, the state PTA and grassroots parent groups, all of which have been calling upon state education officials to slow down. Groups that oppose the new benchmarks, like Florida Parents Against Common Core, have also expressed support for a three-year delay.

Winning over Senate President Don Gaetz will be more of a challenge. 

Gaetz opposes a temporary suspension of school grades. 

"I don't mean to be flip about it, but I would be in favor of suspending measuring academic achivement when we take down the scoreboards on the football fields in Florida and we take down the scoreboards in the basketball gyms," he told the Herald/Times last week. "And since we're not going to do that, since we think it is important enough to keep track of who has made a first down ... I think it's at least as important to keep track of how well students are doing, what's working and what's not working in terms of teaching strategies, and why and how and when we would adjust those strategies to make sure children do better." 

[Last modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 1:34pm]


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