House lawmakers passed legislation that gives low-performing schools less time to turn themselves around.
The bill advanced out of the lower chamber by a 105-11. It heads now to the Senate.
The bill (HB 7079), sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis, helps the state achieve the goal of testing students less and fulfills 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. It’s somewhat 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 the Common Core, which justifies giving students less tests. The ninth grade English Language Arts and Geometry end of course assessment is phased out in the 2021-2022 school year. The SAT or ACT becomes a requirement 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 the school year starting this fall, but students don’t have to pass it to graduate.
Under the measure, schools that earn the lowest grades on the state assessments tests, scoring two Ds or a F, must create a turnaround plan. It’s aimed at addressing the more than 60 schools that exited the turnaround and then got another low performing score. It originally called for schools to create a turnaround plan if they got one D or F, but it was amended to two Ds 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. “And helping that drive a lot of the decisions.”