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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

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Shanahan A delegation of Florida's top education officials flew to New York Wednesday to get a first-hand look at that state's Regents exams. But it's still too early to say whether that program could be a model for Florida, said Kathleen Shanahan (left), a state Board of Education member from Tampa who returned this morning. "We got educated," Shanahan told the Gradebook. "It was really a hard-core, four straight hours of policy."

Also on the trip: Board of Education member Roberto Martinez of Miami; Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, chair of the Senate education committee; Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, chair of the House Education Council; Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, the House minority leader; and Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey, vice chair of the House K-12 Committee.

As first reported by the St. Petersburg Times in this story last month, state education leaders are seriously studying the Regents and other end-of-course exams as they look for ways to fine-tune, supplement or maybe re-shape the FCAT-heavy system pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. Shanahan said Florida officials are likely to take a close look at such exams in Texas and Virginia, too.

Legg Whatever happens, it's not likely to be done quickly, Legg (right) told the Gradebook. It will take time to develop tests, not to mention the mindset necessary among students, parents, teachers and the community to accept them, he said.

"It's going to take several years to implement," said Legg, who began talking up end-of-course exams in February. "We hope to set up a skeleton structure and appropriate money to at least begin doing it."

In the best case scenario, he said, Florida could amp up its accountability program beyond the FCAT, which he called a "minimum level competency test." That might help the state distinguish its truly brightest students for Bright Futures scholarships, which he complained seem to go to every student who graduates from a Florida high school.

"This definitely could work in Florida, and we're moving forward with it," Legg said.

- Ron Matus and Jeff Solochek

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:27am]


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