2014 Legislative Session Winner: Florida Students and Teachers

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Florida students and teachers are among the biggest beneficiaries of a strong 2014 legislative session.

The House and Senate demonstrated their commitment to providing every Florida student with a quality education by passing Senate Bill 1642 to improve Florida’s accountability system. Lawmakers voted to restore focus, clarity and confidence to one of the A+ Plan’s hallmark principles, A-F school grading.

Hardworking teachers and student-centered reforms are working. Florida has further to go, but we are headed in the right direction and are on a path that fundamentally puts student learning above all else.

A simplification of the school grading formula will bolster the intent of Florida’s comprehensive reforms and will reinforce public confidence that school grades actually mean something. These grades determine in part which top-performing schools get performance bonuses, and which struggling schools must up the game with new staff or face closure.

At the same time, SB 1642 offered a one-year reprieve from sanctions or penalties as a result of school grades. As the state transitions away from the FCAT and to a new assessment, the first year of testing will be used as a baseline to measure schools in the future.

Detractors, mainly Democrats, threw criticisms that school grades would be inappropriate even after next year. For example, Rep. Karen Castor Dentel opposed SB 1642 saying that it would allow Florida to continue to rely on “the test-obsessed genie of reform” and that “we are simply trading a one-trick pony for a three-ring circus.”

I don’t know, but to me, Castor Dentel’s so-called “one-trick pony” is precisely what got Florida out of the gutter in academic performance.

Prior to the implementation of the A+ Plan, half of Florida fourth-graders were functionally illiterate and our high school students — even the unimpressive percent that graduated — were laughable in terms of national comparisons.

If a one-trick pony works… let it keep performing. And that’s why Florida students are the big winners of the 2014 session.

SB 1642 heads to Rick Scott for his signature.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.