Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Blavatt expresses concerns over different designations for high school diplomas

Graduates make their way to the stage to receive their diplomas at Nature Coast Technical High School on Friday night.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2009)

Graduates make their way to the stage to receive their diplomas at Nature Coast Technical High School on Friday night.

BROOKSVILLE — The sweeping education bill signed into law last week by Gov. Rick Scott enjoyed nearly universal support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers and received high praise from superintendents, teachers and other educators.

But not from Hernando County School District superintendent Bryan Blavatt.

His sticking point: the creation of two different high school diploma designations — one for teenagers seeking technical training and another for those pursuing college-level classes.

"I think it could lead to a real strong feeling of the haves and the have-nots," Blavatt said shortly after Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law. "I just feel like it's a move back to what was going on when I was in high school 50 years ago."

That's the type of concern that has stymied past efforts in Florida to differentiate diplomas.

One recent example: During the 2012 session, Rep. Bryan Nelson, a Republican from Apopka, filed a bill that would have created a career-oriented path to high school graduation for Florida teens. It never made it out of committee.

So what's the difference?

That bill would have created an entirely different career diploma, not just a designation. Standard diploma recipients would have needed to finish eight elective credits; career diploma students would have needed to earn seven credits in career or technical training, with no less than a C grade-point average, and one-half credit in career preparation or planning.

Though in the minority, Blavatt is not the only one concerned with the move.

When the proposal first surfaced, it met some resistance from the Foundation for Florida's Future, former Gov. Jeb Bush's education think tank. Executive director Patricia Levesque opposed dropping geometry from the graduation requirements and voiced concerns about creating a watered-down path to graduation.

Citing the many changes made to the bill, the foundation changed its tune in the end.

Lawmakers have insisted that the new law won't water down the curriculum, saying the qualifications needed to graduate with either diploma designation are strenuous and both result in a standard diploma.

All students will need to take 24 credit hours and pass standardized exams in language arts and Algebra I. They will no longer have to pass end-of-course exams in geometry and biology to graduate. Instead, those exams would count for 30 percent of a student's final grade in that subject.

A "scholar" designation will be given to students pursuing the college-level classes, and a "merit" designation to those pursuing technical training.

The revised requirements will apply to current freshmen and all future high school students.

The law doesn't force students to choose a designation and doesn't set a deadline for when they need to make their decision.

Statewide, school superintendents lauded the move, citing concerns that a new, more rigorous curriculum to be implemented by 2014 would prevent thousands of students from earning a diploma. They also felt the new law would help students be more engaged in their schoolwork and less likely to drop out.

Edward Fletcher, an assistant professor in the department of adult, career and higher education at the University of South Florida, said the "college for all" mentality is not necessarily the only way to succeed in high school.

"I'm thinking that people are starting to realize that we can't just pigeonhole all students into one type of track," Fletcher said. "The data doesn't support that."

Ideally, he said, "we want everyone to get some kind of post-secondary education after high school, but in reality that's not happening. People are starting to realize the importance of career and technical education."

While Blavatt said he understands the need to prepare students for the workforce, he doesn't want to see a situation where "you have one group that is clearly in the rarefied air."

That could create a greater disparity among students, which he says is already a significant issue in Florida.

"I'd love to be wrong," he said. "My concern is that we may be going back to what we did before that wasn't successful."

His biggest concern, he says, isn't that there will be a watered-down curriculum — it's that students might be discouraged from seeking out high-level courses.

Creating two classes of students has long been a concern of tracking programs, said Pedro Villarreal, a clinical assistant professor of higher education administration with the University of Florida. Also, these programs have often funneled students based on race and socioeconomic class.

"That unfortunately has been the historical legacy of previous tracking programs," he said.

Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reporter Kathleen McGrory contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.

New high school graduation requirements

• To earn a standard diploma, students must take 24 credit hours and pass standardized exams in language arts and Algebra I.

• For a scholar designation, students must complete the requirements for a standard diploma, plus complete at least one college-level course, earn two credits in a foreign language, and pass end-of-course exams in Algebra II, biology and history.

• For a merit designation, students must complete the requirements for a standard diploma plus earn industry certification in one or more fields. Students seeking a merit designation can substitute some industry courses for advanced science and math courses.

Blavatt expresses concerns over different designations for high school diplomas 04/26/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 10:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Dirk Koetter to Bucs: Take your complaints to someone who can help


    TAMPA — It was just another day of aching bellies at One Save Face.

    Dirk Koetter: “All of our issues are self-inflicted right now.”
  2. Seminole Heights murders: fear and warnings, but no answers


    TAMPA — Interim Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan elicited loud gasps from the crowd of about 400 who showed up at Edison Elementary School on Monday night to learn more about the string of unsolved killings that have left the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood gripped by fear.

    Kimberly Overman, left, comforts Angelique Dupree, center, as she spoke about the death of her nephew Benjamin Mitchell, 22, last week in Seminole Heights. The Tampa Police Department held a town hall meeting Monday night where concerned residents hoped to learn more about the investigation into the three shooting deaths over 11 days in southeast Seminole Heights. But police could give the crowd at Edison Elementary School few answers. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem


    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

    One of Tampa Bay's largest religious organizations, Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST), voted Monday night to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year. FAST believes civil citations could help Pinellas County?€™s teen car theft epidemic by keeping children out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  4. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.
  5. Trump awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Army medic (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday turned a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Vietnam-era Army medic who risked his life to help wounded comrades into a mini homework tutorial for the boy and girl who came to watch their grandfather be enshrined "into the history of our nation."

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23:  Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary Rose (L) receives a standing ovation after being awarded the Medal of Honor by U.S. President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rose, 69, is being recognized for risking his life while serving as a medic with the 5th Special Force Group and the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group during ‘Operation Tailwind’ in September 1970. Ignoring his own injuries, Rose helped treat 50 soldiers over four days when his unit joined local fighters to attack North Vietnamese forces in Laos - officially off limits for combat at the time.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 775062921