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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

New testing bill on its way, Sen. Gaetz says



As Florida's 2016 legislative session fast approaches, lawmakers keep filing education-related bills even during the holiday lull. The latest: Rep. Reggie Fullwood's proposal to create a social services oriented pilot program for the state's poorest, most academically struggling schools.

One highly anticipated measure, though, remains conspicuously absent. On the heels of spring testing troubles, and amid calls to reduce student assessments, some key legislative leaders said they wanted to give some students and schools the option of replacing state exams with nationally recognized ones.

The idea, building off a testing proposal that Seminole County officials generated, aimed to let students use single tests such as Advanced Placement for multiple purposes. It garnered support early, but also carried complications that even students easily identified.

Sen. Don Gaetz, a leading proponent of the concept, told the Gradebook that crafting the language "takes time," and that staffers are working on the details in advance of the Legislature's January return to the capital.

"We're trying to make sure we work out as many issues as we can," Gaetz said.

The former Okaloosa schools superintendent reiterated his view that the Department of Education already has the authority to set up alternate tests to the Florida Standards Assessments -- which it does in cases such as setting concordant SAT and ACT scores for the 10th grade language arts exam -- and his pending legislation would make that even more clear. Other lawmakers have questioned whether the effort should include elementary and middle grades, or just high school level courses -- perhaps an easier sell.

Gaetz has said he wants to make the options available in grades 3-12. He stressed he will not be proposing a repeal of state testing, noting "the votes aren't there."

"The FSA can always be the default position if the parents or the schools want that," he said. This idea is to "provide an alternative."

He anticipated the bill to drop in time for the first week of session.

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 29, 2015 11:43am]


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