Saturday, September 22, 2018
Education

To walk or not to walk? That is the question for the Class of 2019.

Next spring, Florida school districts won’t be allowed to begin state testing until May 1.

That could cause problems for seniors "on the bubble" for meeting their graduation requirements in time for commencement, Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning warned. Their scores might not be available in time to know if they graduated.

The question to the School Board becomes, will those students be allowed to participate in the celebration, or not?

"Historically, we have not allowed people to walk without meeting all the requirements," Browning told the board. "We have to get your sense of where to go with this."

Should the district let students who haven’t fully met the requirements march across the stage and get a certificate of completion, with a diploma to come when their scores arrive? Would the board like to postpone commencement from late May to mid-June, to give them a chance to earn the diploma outright?

"Even then, it’s going to be dicey if you will get some of the FSA (Florida Standards Assessments) results back," Browning said.

The board must decide how tough it wants to be, he said. "Think about it, because we are being forced to do that now."

The district Student Progression Plan states that students who have not met grade-point or credit requirements may not participate in the ceremony. It adds: "Students pursuing the 18- or 24- credit option who meet all graduation requirements with the exception of the 10th grade FSA ELA (English language arts test), and or the Algebra 1 EOC (End of course test), may participate in regular high school or adult education graduation ceremonies."

Board members did not weigh in. They plan to hold a workshop on graduation and related issues on May 1.

DEAD WEEK? Board member Colleen Beaudoin had more immediate concerns for this year’s senior class. To wit, their final exams are scheduled to end May 11, but their last day of classes is May 18.

The scenario makes it appear that students could get a week of additional instruction before taking their tests, Beaudoin said. She’s heard from several parents and teachers raising the issue.

"If there is anything we can do to help our schools extend that testing window, it would help them," Beaudoin said. Right now, "we’re telling them to stop testing on the 11th, and to babysit kids for a week."

Browning said he has registered the complaint, but he wasn’t ready to budge.

"There are other things at play," Browning said.

He noted that several seniors will be taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge AICE (Advanced International Certificate of Education) tests the week of May 14. Each of those programs also has exams in the first weeks of May.

"At this point, I am not inclined to move the testing schedule," Browning said.

HEAR US: Plaintiffs in the ongoing legal challenge of the School Board’s 2017 west-side attendance boundary shifts are not easing on the throttle.

The group’s attorney has urged the Second District Court of Appeal to reschedule oral arguments in the case, which were removed from the court’s calendar in late January.

"The case before this court is not moot, and appellants are entitled to a decision on the merits," lawyer Sharon Carlstedt Britton wrote in her filing.

She suggested that the list of issues still open for a court decision include the district’s rezoning procedures, the extent of due process required for public hearings, and the question of whether future boundary changes must deal with school choice and student "grandfathering."

"Not only are the issues in this case of general importance across the state of Florida, they are virtually certain to recur, given the School Board’s announced intention to complete the rulemaking process with respect to the Pasco County West Side Middle and High Schools within the next two months," Britton wrote.

The district has not responded. The court has acknowledged the group’s filing, and admonished the group to not make arguments or requests for relief in future status updates, "or they will be stricken."

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.

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