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Accountability Pause Sought for Florida Schools in Democratic Senator's Bill

Legislation proposed by a Democratic Florida senator and the CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents would suspend the state's  A-F school accountability for a transition period of several years, while a new accountability system is created.  

The bill from Sen. Bill Montford, who is vice chairman of the senate education committee, would also modify the percentage that state assessments would count towards teachers' evaluations. In addition, Senate Bill 1368 would create a new task force to make recommendations about the nature of the new accountability system.

While the state would officially suspend A-F accountability for those three school years, the associated data from tests used to generate those grades will still be publicly reported. Montford's bill would ensure that schools wouldn't suffer any negative consequences from that data under that A-F regime, although low-performing schools would still be entitled to additional resources and attention from the state. 

(Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart proposed her own protections for schools under A-F last month.)

The bill from Montford creates a three-year period for Florida to reboot these policies spanning the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 school years. The 2014-15 academic year is the first time that students will take a new assessment based on the common core, although since the state backed away from one of two consortia developing assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards last year, it's not clear what test they'll take (Florida is actually supposed to pick that new test this month). 

Regarding the need for a new accountability system, the bill states in its introduction, "The Legislature finds that this new system is necessary to ensure transparency in public education so that parents have accurate information concerning the achievement and academic growth of their students. Such transparency enables the Legislature to make sound public policy decisions and the most effective investments of resources provided by taxpayers."

As for that change to teacher evaluations? If you look at page 28 of the bill, you'll see that under current law, at least 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation must be based on student learning growth using state and local assessments. Montford's bill decreases the minimum value of test scores in evaluations to 30 percent. 

The new accontability system, meanwhile, would be based on recommendations of the task force, which would be made up of parents, "leaders in education," and the members of the business community. That system would be put into place beginning in the 2017-18 school year. 

Florida's not alone in considering whether to reconsider accountability in its various forms. As I wrote about earlier this week, New York state is also mulling a pause for certain policies in light of the new standards and assessments. But that proposal would suspend the consequences of new tests for both teachers and students. 

You can read Sen. Montford's bill below.

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