Higher H.S. grad standards headed for full Senate vote
It's a busy day for education in the Legislature. The Senate bill raising high school graduation requirements and replacing the FCAT with end-course exams just cleared its final Senate stop before a full floor vote.
Voting no on the Ways and Means committee were Democrats Dan Gelber, Tony Hill, Al Lawson, Nan Rich, Eleanor Sobel, Gary Siplin, and Frederica Wilson.
The legislation, similar to what is moving in the House, is among a number of overhauls supported by former Gov. Jeb Bush's education foundation. If it passes the full Legislature and gets signed by the governor, it could be one of the biggest changes to the state's assessment system since Bush's A-Plus plan.
"We have kids who are graduating with a meaningless diploma," said Venice Republican Nancy Detert, who is sponsoring SB 4.
The bill adds geometry, biology, Algebra 2, chemistry or physics to the required courses for graduation. It requires students to pass end-course exams in those courses and discontinues the FCAT as the measuring stick for high schoolers' learning gains. Students who can pass the test without taking the course would be able to earn course credit.
"Everytime we have raised the bar in education, students have gone up to meet the bar," said Patricia Levesque, executive director of Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future.
Sen. Stephen Wise encouraged bill sponsor Nancy Detert to amend the bill before a full floor vote to take into account students who have failed classes more than once and who have developmental disabilities.
"We have 111,000 kids in Florida who have failed two or more times," said Wise, R-Jacksonville. "My concern is those kids and what we do with them, and kids with disabilities. We don't want to disenfranchise these students."