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Florida lawmakers talk about help for high performing students



State Rep. John Legg, R-New Port Richey, has talked for years about the need to create more programs for Florida's gifted and high-achieving students. He has found little success so far. But he's not giving up.

"Right now, there is little incentive for schools to allow our higher performing students to soar," Legg recently told the Gradebook. "No Child Left Behind unfortunately means no child that is behind gets left behind, but no child who is ahead gets pushed ahead."

This is a discussion that has generated much debate in recent months. See, for instance, the Fordham Institute's Do High Flyers Retain Their Altitude? and Rick Hess' Our Achievement-Gap Mania and, from the opposite perspective, the Center for American Progress' Phantom Menace and the National Education Policy Center's review of the Fordham Institute report.

It is one that the Florida Legislature is about to plunge into.

"It's likely that this committee will be considering legislation relating to student acceleration options during this session," said Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, chairwoman of the House K-20 Innovation Subcommittee.

The panel held a two-hour hearing on Tuesday to listen to presentations of existing programs, such as Advanced Placement and dual enrollment (backing documents here). It has not yet filed any bills.

Legg has said he hopes to see some legislation that will focus on "allowing students to excel" with incentives for districts and principals that do so. One model he was evaluating would allow principals to establish at least one class per grade level of high achievers, based on FCAT scores, in which teachers would push students harder with deeper, more enriched versions of the curriculum. Students and parents might have to agree to certain requirements, such as maintaining certain grades, in order to remain in the class.

Legg said he's not talking about ability grouping, but he wants to see students challenged.

"It's my last year in the House," he said, "so we're pushing it." Stay tuned.

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 2:04pm]


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