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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Judge issues mixed ruling on Florida's third-grade retention law



A Leon County circuit court judge has come down in favor of families challenging Florida's third-grade retention practices, ruling that school districts ignored the children's right to alternative forms of promotion and the state Department of Education allowed that to happen.

In her order, Judge Karen Gievers highly criticized the Hernando County school district for its "illegal refusal" to allow students to have a portfolio option to demonstrate their reading abilities, as permitted in statute. Notably, she also included report cards "based on classroom work throughout the course of the school year" as an acceptable option.

Gievers took a further step in undercutting Florida's long-time reliance on testing by validating the Opt Out Network's use of "minimal participation."

"The statute does not define participation," Gievers wrote in her order. "The children were present on time, broke the seal on the materials and wrote their names, thus meeting their obligation to participate."

Overall, the judge denied the individual school districts' motion to change the venue, ruling the case was properly heard in Leon County. She also took up each parent's complaint individually, as each had different circumstances.

In some instances she granted injunctive relief, such as in Hernando County, where she ordered the district to immediately provide the portfolio option for promotion to retained third graders. (They still must demonstrate their readiness for the fourth grade.)

In other areas, the judge denied injunctive relief, often ruling the issue moot as the children in question had been withdrawn from the public school system.

We are still reviewing the ruling and will update this story. Read the full story here.

[Last modified: Friday, August 26, 2016 8:17pm]


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