Florida Politics

Florida testing bill headed to Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott Miami

TALLAHASSEE A proposal that would reduce the testing requirements for Florida schoolchildren — and delay the release of school grades until the new state exams are deemed valid — is headed to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

The Florida House passed the high-profile bill (HB 7069) in a 105-6 vote Thursday.

Observers had questioned whether the conservative House would go along with the latest version of the bill, given Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s reluctance to even temporarily suspend school grades. But House Education Committee Chairwoman Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake, said the proposal maintained Florida’s commitment to education accountability.

“It looks really good,” O'Toole said. “I would not sign on if it was not.”

The bill eliminates an 11th grade English test, makes the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test optional, and prohibits students from spending more than 5 percent of their total classroom hours on state-mandated exams.

In addition, the proposal:

▪ Allows school to start as early as Aug. 10,

▪ Removes a requirement that school systems give final exams in every subject not covered by state tests, and

▪ Reduces the amount student test scores must count toward teacher evaluations.

To address concerns about last month’s testing meltdown, the Senate added a provision requiring an independent review of the new Florida Standards Assessments. Until the review is finished, tests results cannot be used for high-stakes decisions, including whether third-grade students can be promoted to the fourth grade.

Still, several House Democrats said the bill needed to go further.

“I don’t think this is a panacea,” said Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg. “I’m afraid we are going to hear a lot from educators.”

Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.