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Florida Inches Toward Suspending 3rd Grade Reading Gate

A Florida legislative committee has approved a measure that would suspend the state's policy of retaining 3rd graders who don't pass the state's reading test.

Senate Bill 616, approved this week by the Senate appropriations committee, must still clear both chambers of the legislature and obtain Gov. Rick Scott's signature. But if it became law, it would mark the reversal of a policy that has defined Florida's approach to reading proficiency for the past 15 years, and influenced other states to create similar laws.

The appropriations committee voted to suspend the 3rd grade reading gate until Florida's new standardized test can be validated, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Scott has already announced that he would issue an executive order suspending 11th grade testing. Commissioner Pam Stewart also wants to make the state's 11th grade college-readiness test optional and drop district-designed final exams in high school courses that have required statewide end-of-course tests. Those provisions are also included in SB 616.

Senate Bill 616 also includes a flock of other revisions related to testing and accountability, too. It caps total testing time at 5 percent of total schooling time, and requires districts who schedule more testing time than that to obtain parental permission before administering tests to any student.

The bill also allows local school boards to seek the state education department's permission to use 2014-15 state test scores for "diagnostic and baseline purposes only." The district—or specific schools within the district, if that's what the board chooses—would still have scores reported, but would not receive school grades or be subject to turnaround obligations or other consequential steps taken as a result of test performance. The district would be expected, however, to submit a plan for improvement.


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