Two years after the controversial changes in developmental education requirements in Florida that allow students to opt out of placements or developmental classes, a study shows the findings are mixed. The report shows that there was a sharp decline in enrollment in English and mathematics developmental classes, and African American followed by Hispanic students were the largest group who opted out of these courses. However the positive news is that the data shows that more students passed the first-year courses than in previous years and the gap between underrepresented minorities and white students narrowed.
Higher education policies have focused on preeminence and getting student to graduate within four years. SB 2, known as the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017,” places increased emphasis on 4-year graduation rates, which is among one of the revised performance-based incentives for the university and college system. Students must also be guaranteed a 2+2 path, where students can attend a community college for the first two years and then can attend a state university.
Another bill under consideration is SB 374, the “College Competitive Act of 2017,” which renames the Florida College System the Florida Community College System and revises the function and mission of K-20. Of note in the bill is specific mention of student preparation in “shall adopt a unified state plan to improve K-20 STEM education and prepare students for high-skill, 915 high-wage, and high-demand employment in STEM and STEM-related fields.” While communication is considered as one of the General Education areas for the State, there is no reference specifically to English. In fact, English proficiency for students is only mentioned in light of second-language. Instead, the document uses the phrase “communication and computational skills” to refer to literacy requirements.
The Tampa Bay Times addressed 2016 education policies in Florida:
School Choice (PASSED): Changes capital funding eligibility for charter schools and spending limits for traditional schools; allows public school students to attend any school in the state that has space available; increases financial transparency of charter schools; allows high school athletes to transfer schools and have immediate eligibility; codifies in law performance funding for state colleges and universities; among other provisions. (HB 7029)
Competency-Based Education (PASSED): Sets up a five-year pilot program starting in 2016-17 for Pinellas, Palm Beach, Lake and Seminole counties to let students advance through school if they can prove they’ve mastered lessons. (HB 1365)
Two other bills (HB 131 and SB 1280) on the agenda would removethe requirement that third-graders who perform poorly on the state’s English language arts test be held back from fourth grade.
While there are not a lot of bills on the horizon, testing is still in full swing in Florida. The results of K-12 assessment for 2016 provide a snapshot of the achievements of ELA students. Of particular interest are the results for the Florida Virtual School. Students who took the end of year exams in FVS scored significantly higher, over 20%, than many of the face-to-face schools.