Florida Senate plans to dive into assessment, accountability issues
For all the talk that Florida's 2017 legislative session would focus on higher education, giving K-12 a breather, the climate is shaping up for potentially major changes to the state's Jeb Bush-era test-based accountability system.
The latest signal: The Senate Education Committee has scheduled a workshop for Monday Tuesday, where it will tackle ideas in seven bills that could alter the landscape for students. The concepts on the agenda include the bill apparently favored in the House, aimed at pushing testing back to the final three weeks of school, and the Senate preferred version that would eliminate several tests and end value-added measures in teacher evaluations.
Also in the mix are bills that would create more pathways to a standard high school diploma, change testing reporting rules and perhaps most notably, end the state's mandate schools retain third graders who do not pass a reading test, unless they get a good cause exemption.
That latter idea has long been promoted by Democrats in the Legislature, with little to no support from the Republican majority. That it lands on the agenda for discussion alongside some of these other proposals marks a big shift at the capitol, where the appetite to scale back the model has to this point been muted. Even past efforts that did make changes did so only at the edges, with moves such as limiting state mandated testing to 45 hours, a level almost no school ever met.
Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, the Miami-Dade Democrat sponsoring the third-grade bill, recently told the Gradebook that he considered the legislation critical given a recent court ruling that upheld the requirement in the face of parent challenges.
"When you talk to parents, students and educators about the worst parts of our over testing regime, the situation of third graders having to repeat a grade because of one standardized test just highlights how bad the overtesting has gotten," he said. "The court ruling simply reminds us that we need a statutory change."
Just how much change is in the air remains to be hashed out. The Senate Education Committee will take its first go-round Monday, with no votes scheduled. Anything it comes up with would have to be approved in the House as well. Just about all the measures the Senate will discuss have House companions. On the workshop agenda Monday Tuesday are:
SB 584 alternative pathways to a standard high school diploma
SB 782 deleting a physical education test for high school athletes
SB 906 requiring additional reporting on test schedules
SB 926 barring state testing earlier than three weeks before the end of school, and changing the definition of "proficiency" in testing
SB 964 eliminating several end-of-course exams and VAM ratings for teacher evaluations, allowing return to paper-pencil testing
SB 1222 changing school grade method for smaller school feeder patterns
SB 1280 ending mandatory retention of third graders who do not pass a state reading test