Chatter from the Florida Senate was unusually quite over the weekend for a bill which would take in the most oxygen on the floor this week. Perhaps it’s because even senators aren’t sure what’s going on. From Lynn Hatter for WFSU on amendments proposed by Senator’s Alan Hays which appeared to have been replaced by one from David Simmons:
Hays had a broader proposal that would have stopped testing all together. But it was replaced with the graduation and retention language by Republican Senator David Simmons. Teachers would still be evaluated and paid based upon results of the Florida Standards Assessment. But low performing third and tenth graders could use an alternative assessment to determine whether they are held back or graduate. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli told reporters Friday he isn’t keen on the idea of giving those students a pass:
“We feel like we shouldn’t be taking that approach but there will be conversations between the House and Senate moving forward.”
Throughout session the Senate has insisted on “safety provisions” in case districts experience big problems with the new Florida Standards Assessment. The Senate bill includes a provision that allows districts to apply for a school grade waiver from the state. So far—technical glitches plagued the online writing version of the exam—and teachers, parents, and district administrators are skeptical whether the rest of the tests will be any better. Andy Ford, President of the state teacher’s union the Florida Education Association—says even with the changes in the bill, problems remain:
“This is not an easy situation everyone finds themselves in, and Testing season has already begun and what you’re talking about, trying to put the breaks on may not be possible at this point,” he said.
Most members of the Senate Appropriations Committee doesn’t deal with education, and Wednesday marked the first time many of them had seen the proposal. The issue is complicated, and even after two hours of discussion, Democratic Arthenia Joyner expressed her exasperation with the issue, calling it a “quagmire” and a quandary”.
“I must confess, after 15 years this is the most confused I’ve been at the end of a long day about a bill,” she said.
No news reports were filed over the weekend. The Florida Senate website makes no mention of either Hays or Simmons amendment. Scathing Purple Musings made these observations last week.
In Gradebook, Jefferey Solochek provides a text of the Simmons amendment:
So what exactly did the Senate panel adopt? Its language refers to how test results will be used in the transition to new Florida Standards Assessments (see the TRANSITION section of the main bill, starting at line 493). The amendment reads:
(c) Until such time as an independent verification of the psychometric validity of the statewide, standardized assessments first implemented in 2014-2015 is provided, for purposes of determining grade 3 English Language Arts student performance retention pursuant to s. 1008.25(5) and high school graduation requirements pursuant to s. 1003.4282, student performance on the 2014-2015 statewide, standardized assessments shall be linked to 2013-2014 student performance expectations. Students who score in the bottom quintile on the 2014-2015 grade 3 English Language Arts assessment shall be identified as at-risk students. School districts must notify parents of such students, provide evidence as outlined in s. 1008.25(6)(b), and provide the appropriate intervention and support services for student success in fourth grade.
This wording does not end or put off the retention of third graders.
Rather, it gives schools the responsibility to prove that children scoring in the lowest 20 percent (“bottom quintile”) on the state reading test deserve promotion according to existing law. That law sets forth seven acceptable good cause exemptions for promotion, such as a portfolio demonstrating the student’s abilities.
“If they can’t prove promotion, they won’t be promoted,” bill sponsor Sen. John Legg explained.
Did, Legg, SB 616’s sponsor, just agree to add Simmons’ amendment without reservation? Will the senate still face some sort of vote on Hays-Simmons?
Joyner is sure not to be the only senator who isn’t quite sure what happened during last week’s Appropriations hearing when Hays-Simmons was up. The Senate’s republican leadership often keeps things quite. The confusion in a public forum leads one to believe there are a lot of balls in the air right now on SB 616. The only clue as to what’s about to happen comes from the calendar which reads this from a March 27 update:
• Pending reference review -under Rule 4.7(2) – (Committee Substitute)
• Placed on Calendar, on 2nd reading
• Placed on Special Order Calendar, 04/01/15