House lawmakers teed up legislation implementing parts of the state’s new education standards and revamping standardized testing requirements for a final House vote.
The bill (HB 7079), sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis, helps achieve the goal of testing students less and adding Gov. Ron DeSantis’ priority of adding more civics education to the curriculum. It also accelerates the process that school districts have to correct low-performing schools.
The bill is controversial, with some school administrators complaining it unfairly penalizes schools with large low-income populations.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has argued the curriculum for new standards, called Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST), will be more rigorous than Common Core, which justifies giving students fewer tests. The ninth grade English Language Arts and Geometry assessments would be phased out in the 2021-2022 school year. The standards instead require all students to take either the SAT or ACT, which would take effect in the 2022-2023 school year, but there’s no particular score required to graduate. A civics test for high school seniors becomes a requirement for the school year starting this fall, but students don’t have to pass it to graduate. A passing score exempts them from having to take a civics test in college.
“We’re trying to scale back the number of high-stakes tests our students are taking currently,” Aloupis said.
Aloupis has amended the bill to include turnaround school language from another bill. Under the additional language, schools that earn the lowest grades on the state assessments tests, scoring a D or a F, must create a turnaround plan. It’s aimed at addressing the more than 60 schools that exited the turnaround program only to get another low performing score.
Currently, a school wouldn’t have to do that unless it received two consecutive D’s or one F. The bill would give the schools the rest of the school year plus an additional year to turn things around or they would face closure, conversion into a charter school or relinquishing control of operations to an outside entity.
Aloupis says schools that have the most success staying on track have good leadership at the district and school level.
“I would say the one factor that I see working particularly well in Miami-Dade County is the heavy focus on data,” he said.
The legislation is now on third reading and ready for a floor vote.