Uncertainty Remains in Senate on Hays-Simmons Hold Harmless Amendment to SB 616

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 From Lynn Hatter for WFSU on amendments proposed by Senator’s Alan Hays which appeared to have been replaced by one from David Simmons: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 amendmentScathing 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

Stay tuned.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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1 Response to Uncertainty Remains in Senate on Hays-Simmons Hold Harmless Amendment to SB 616

  1. Simple questions for you to ask YOUR representative and Senator: “Are you representing your constituents and the children and educators of your district? Or do you just push the buttons they tell you to push?” “Did you make a back room deal, or do you really believe (not) that the education bill now presented actually helps alleviate the problems of Common Core and High Stakes Testing?” If you do, exactly what improvement was proposed? Then watch them squirm…

    I CHALLENGE you to do this, and do it NOW. They will vote in session on April 1 (April fools day-how appropriate) for a bill that KEEPS COMMON CORE, KEEPS HIGH STAKES TESTING, KEEPS the contract with AIR ($220 million) in spite of the FSA failures, and still spends BILLIONS to administer computerized tests which benefits the corporate cronies (Bill Gates, Pearson, GE, George Soros, Rupert Murdock, Walmart, HP) who are funding Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.

    You know, I have spent a lot of time in the State Capitol talking with legislators to let them know we have been FOOLED about the many claims by Bush, Rick Scott, and their sycophants have made false statements about how GREAT Florida schools are- How we have “accountability,” “rigorous standards” and learning gains are enormous!

    But we have shown them the REAL story comparing our students with nationally normed and validated tests that have been in use for decades, the ACT test. It shows Florida’s results in free fall since Jeb Bush took over since 1998. We are 5th from the bottom when compared to other states in this validated test which measures knowledge, not just test taking skills.

    The FCAT and FSA is a proprietary test which does NOT provide accountability to taxpayers and parents. It has no relationship to other states. Listen to what Senator Gaetz, a former superintendent of schools, now huge supporter of Jeb Bush says.

    In committee January 7, 2015, Senator Gaetz said: http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/1715-senate-education-prek-12-committee/. At hour 1:15, after Commissioner Pam Stewart’s presentation.
    “Here’s what I’ve learned today”
    1 “We don’t know how much time is consumed by Statewide Assessments.”
    2 “We don’t know how much money it costs to perform state mandated tests.”
    3 “We don’t know whether tests that are performed by state mandate are valid and reliable.”
    4.“We’ve learned today that we have no contingency plan if there are problems with statewide assessments.”
    5. “We have not beta tested statewide assessments.”

    Then he voted for it.

    WHY? Knowing all that. there is only one answer. MONEY AND POWER! Leadership controls everything in Tallahassee. Our shadow leader is Jeb Bush. His puppets are hoping for Washington appointments, jobs, endorsements, campaign money or other “crumbs from Longshanks’ table.”

    Jeb Bush’s special friends include, Rick Scott, Don and Matt Gaetz, John Legg, Steve Crisafulli, Eric Fresen, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Garrett Richter, Jack Latvala, Bill Galvano, Andy Gardiner, Blaize Ingoglia, Kelly Stargel, Janet Adkins, Marlene O’Toole and others you may find attending the Foundation for Excellence in Education, their favors funneling organization.

    Ask your legislators if they attend their functions. Ask who paid for their travel, expenses, incidentals, and what happened at the meetings they had there with Bush’s cronies, Pearson, Gates and other vendors.

    Now you know why and how your children, the future of Florida and the Nation, are being thrown under the bus. Will you stand quietly, or will you join us in holding THEM accountable for massive spending and purposely crippling our kids future.

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