No waiting: Bill would let Florida students progress faster through grades
If a kindergartner starts school already knowing how to read, or a high school sophomore understands geometry before the end of the school year, why wait until the following year to move the student up?
That's the thinking behind a bill filed Monday by Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg). The bill would establish a "competency-based innovation pilot program" which would allow students in Pinellas and Lake counties, and P.K. Younge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, to advance to higher levels of learning after demonstrating a mastery of the subject instead of after a specified timeframe, like a semester or school year.
"I think it’s more like CLEP-ing in college," Brandes said. "If they have demonstrated competency, you could have that opportunity in K through 12."
Brandes said he was inspired by Bill & Melinda Gates' Foundations grant to implement personalized learning in schools. Pinellas and Lake were the only two counties in the state to win the grant. Personalized learning brings more flexibility and freedom to the school day and tailors instruction to a student's specific needs. For example, less time would be devoted to a subject a student is proficient in, while more time would be dedicated to a subject that the student struggles in.
"Pinellas County Schools has been working on us with this idea," he said. "It's a discussion of seat time versus competency."
The bill directs the counties to establish pilot programs at schools. It is up to the county to determine which schools would qualify, and those schools would determine which students would qualify for the program.
And because students could pass the class and move on, Brandes says the program could result in a net savings for each district.
"Students shouldn’t be taking classes they already have knowledge of," he said.