Last Minute Bills Filed in Florida Legislature

legislation1Testing, school grades, and funding bills were filed at the last minute.  Some bills may have an impact.  Will alternative tests, revised school grade formulas and changes (not increases) in funding improve Florida’s education system?

SB 1360  Senator Gaetz.  Alternatives to FSA

Florida graduation requirements.  The FSA English Language Arts and Algebra I End of Course requirements currently can be met by earning a concordant score on the ACT and SAT.  This bill also extends alternative assessments to substitute ACT/ACT Aspire; SAT/PSAT; NMSWT, CLEP, IB, AP and industry certification exam scores to meet FSA or End of Course test requirements in Geometry, Biology,  U.S. History, and Algebra II.

Extending the use of alternative tests, properly validated, is appropriate for students who are currently taking these alternative tests to meet college entrance and college credit requirements.  There may be practical timing issues.  Student grades may be calculated before the relevant test is administered.  IF EOC results are required as part of the course grade, grades could be significantly delayed in order to obtain the alternative test scores.  The impact of the alternatives on schools and students should be evaluated.

Grades 3 -8 students may substitute concordant scores on ACT Aspire to meet FSA requirements.  Grades 9-10 may substitute ACT or ACT Aspire scores.  ACT Aspire is a relatively new examination that was one of the options for the Florida Common Core assessment.  It is not clear what benefit accrues for adding this option to meet the state assessment requirement for these grades.

The use of ACT Aspire would seem to complicate rather than simplify the calculation and validity of student progress, school grades and teacher evaluations. How do you calculate VAM scores for children who take ACT on year and FSA the next?

HB 1135 Rep Mayfield.  Educational Accountability.

School grades should be reported as incomplete for 2014-15.  School gains formula should be revised to include maintaining a 3, 4, and 5 level as well as growth toward proficiency standards.  The impact may be to raise school grades for high achieving schools.  Schools maintaining a level two score also show a year’s progress but will not be rewarded because they are below proficiency. They are penalized for having students who entered school without meeting readiness levels.  Thus, they must do more to raise achievement often without the resources to do so.

HB 4047 Metz; Costello, Santiago/SB 1284 HukillRevise FEFP funding formula

Eliminates district cost differentials per the Florida Price Level Index that estimates the cost of hiring comparable personnel across districts.  The population cost average is set a 100.  Hillsborough County represents the median cost estimate.  Ten counties, mostly in South Florida, have higher than average personnel costs, and they represent nearly one half of the State’s population.

The impact should be carefully analyzed.  Currently the per student allocation is also adjusted by a sparsity supplement, declining enrollment factor, and property value differences.  The School Fairness Report gives Florida a grade of ‘D’ on funding distribution; the wealthiest districts have $1,000 per student more than the poorest districts.  Yet, students living in poverty cost more to educate.  The state can do more.  It received a ‘C’ on state effort defined as the proportion of education funding of the state’s Gross Domestic Product.  The bill’s sponsors are from Lake, Seminole, Marion and Volusia–not the wealthy districts.

Posted in Achievement, Florida, Legislation, Public Education, Testing.

One Comment

  1. Additional bills SB 1018 and HB 899 filed in Fla house and senate is connected with textbooks. It allows any taxpayer (local, national – not defined) to challenge both textbook adoption and library collections. The Naples Daily News (December 22, 2015) first reported on this and connected its origins to Florida Citizens Alliance(FCA) who want to replace current history and science texts with creationist textbooks listed on their website. The law would also allow challenges to school boards on texts that would result in expensive law suits. For more info on this see http://www.flascience.org/wp/ and http://ncse.com/news/2015/12/antiscience-bills-florida-0016838 . These bills also address history texts which is where the challenge by FCA started. The new standards explicitly include both evolution and climate change. This bill would also allow “alternative standards” (undefined) to be used when selecting text books thus bypassing the requirements of the new science standards.

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