Students will also have the option of merit designation, which will allow them to substitute industry-certification courses for more traditional courses in math and science. Industry certification could entail anything from automotive technician to Microsoft-certified technician to Sun-certified Java programmer.
All students will still have to pass the end-of-course exam in algebra I and a standardized test in language arts. But they will be able to customize the remaining requirements to fit their needs and interests by selecting, or declining, one or more designations.
Lawmakers insist that the new legislation wont water down the curriculum.
These are strenuous, rigorous qualifications that are not that easy, said Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat and CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.
Montford conceded, however, that lawmakers might have gone too far in raising the standards over the past decade.
Some of us were in opposition then, the former Leon County superintendent said. The beauty was, even though we [made those initial changes], we could come back and adjust it.
The law signed Monday also has dramatic implications for higher education.
For one, it will enable state colleges to waive their fees in order to offer degrees for $10,000.
All 23 Florida community colleges issuing bachelors degrees recently accepted Scotts challenge to offer programs for that price.
Whats more, beginning this summer, universities will be able to qualify as preeminent research universities based on student performance, retention rates, research spending and national rankings, among other factors.
The University of Florida and Florida State University already meet the requirements, and will see extra money coming their way.
The University of Florida will use its $15 million to hire new faculty, President Bernie Machen said. The school will receive another $15 million to develop more online degrees and market them throughout the state.
Herald/Times reporter Tia Mitchell, along with Miami Herald reporters David Smiley and Michael Vasquez, contributed to this report. Kathleen McGrory can be reached at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.