Florida House member wants to offer alternatives to high-stakes high school tests

Published Jan. 24, 2017

Florida Senate leaders have made the big splash this legislative season in talking about the need to scale back student testing.

State Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Citrus County Republican, has been busy filing legislation to make it happen, and hoping a senator will join him with companion bills.

Massullo's first bill proposes doing away with a required physical education test for high school student-athletes. His second measure, filed Tuesday, would give high schoolers a way to earn their standard diploma without passing the Algebra I end-of-course exam or the tenth-grade language arts Florida Standards Assessment.

HB 407 would allow students who have earned 24 credits and maintained a 2.0 or better grade point average to still graduate, if they earn a related industry certification, complete a portfolio of classroom performance or gain an adequate score on an alternate test such as an Advanced Placement exam or the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test.

"We still have almost 20 percent of kids who don't graduate from high school. That's sad, because you put a scarlet letter on them," Massullo told the Gradebook. "To give them a few alternative pathways provides them a way to build up their esteem in a legitimate way."

He suggested that the added options could build students' vocational abilities, making them better prepared for careers if they don't go to college, while not turning back on any academic standards the state has adopted. At the same time, he said, the effort makes state government less of a gatekeeper in students' lives.

"Government should be less intrusive, more local, and people should have more individual freedom," Massullo said.

He planned to speak with key senators, who have made clear their intent to propose changes to the state testing model. Those senators have not yet presented any legislation, but proposals are anticipated soon, with the session scheduled to open in March.