Senate, House close to agreement on new high school graduation requirements
After tense moments when it looked like a deal was dying, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a bill (SB 1076) that would change the rules for Florida high school graduation.
The legislation creates what lawmakers are calling pathways to graduation, by permitting students to substitute career and industry certifications for course requirements that include the same curriculum standards. While maintaining the current standard diploma, it also sets up two optional designations -- one for students pursuing industry certification and another for students seeking a tougher academic path.
They are not creating three separate diplomas, including one with less rigorous requirements than the current standard diploma, as initially proposed in the House.
The Senate committee moved toward the House position (HB 7091) by agreeing to remove Algebra 2 as a graduation requirement for the standard diploma. The Senate also agreed to eliminate the requirement that students must pass all end-of-course exams to earn a diploma, leaving intact only the EOC mandate for Algebra 1 and tenth-grade English. The the end-of-course exams would instead count only as 30 percent of a student's grade for the course.
Bill sponsor Sen. John Legg told the Gradebook that the lawmakers were seeking to maintain the relevancy of the tests, but to reduce their high-stakes nature.
Students could earn the "scholar" diploma designation by passing all the end-of-course exams and Algebra 2.
The bills are high priority items for the Senate president and House speaker, but faced opposition from Jeb Bush's education foundation, which accused lawmakers of lowering standards. Legg said he and House education chairwoman Rep. Marlene O'Toole plan to meet in the coming days to work out the remaining differences between the bills, and get them to their respective floors and then the governor's desk as soon as possible.
Senate president Don Gaetz praised the unanimous passage of SB 1076, saying in a release that it promotes "an aggressive strategy to lash education to the needs of our knowledge-based economy, giving our students the tools to succeed."