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  1. Florida

Comment period opens for Florida's education accountability plan

Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart has repeatedly said the state will seek waivers to federal accountability laws rather than change Florida's rules.
Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart has repeatedly said the state will seek waivers to federal accountability laws rather than change Florida's rules.
Published Jul. 3, 2017

Aiming to meet new federal guidelines for education accountability, the Florida Department of Education has published its draft Every Student Succeeds Act plan for public input.

As anticipated, Florida's plan seeks waivers in areas where it does not agree with the federal law. Commissioner Pam Stewart has made clear since 2016 her view that the federal government cannot force states to adopt new rules beyond the scope of ESSA, which is supposed to give more leeway to states.

Stewart reiterated her point after the Trump administration repealed some of the act's key provisions, stating she would not overhaul the department's work in pursuing its accountability program revisions. She convened a group of superintendents to help with the final refinements before releasing the draft plan late Friday.

The waiver requests begin on the fourth page of the 67-page document, with its request to get around federal laws involving testing in a student's native language, if not English. The state has fought several years with the U.S. DOE over the testing of English-language learners, and how to count their test results.

The federal government has insisted on counting all student results, while Florida leaders have promoted the idea of a timely transition for students who do not have some fluency in the testing language. From the waiver request: "With the goal to matriculate ELLs out of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services in a timely manner, it is in the best interest of students to provide instruction in English and measure proficiency using a valid and reliable tool that indicates grade-level performance for all students."

Florida also seeks a waiver on the federal rule about reporting learning gains, saying it would report the information for each student subgroup separately rather than for all students jointly. In a related request, the state asks for a waiver of the rule that school grades be changed if a school does not test at least 95 percent of all students in each subgroup.

Read more about the waiver requests here.

The public has until July 31 to submit comments on the plan, through this website. The department will then revise the document, based on the comments, and send it to Gov. Rick Scott, who must submit it to the federal government by Sept. 18.

Already, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have turned in their plans.

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