Florida Governor Rick Scott of signed a bill this week, restructuring the state’s graduation requirements.
At the heart of the legislation is the repeal of the state’s current high school graduation requirements – adopted in 2010 to be fully implemented with the graduating class of 2016 – which required all students to complete four years of mathematics, including Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II (in alignment with the state’s adopted Common Core State Standards) and three years of science, including Biology and Chemistry or Physics.
Under the new requirements, to impact the graduating class of 2014, students can choose a career pathway that would allow them to be waived from Algebra II, Chemistry and Physics courses, as well as the end-of-course assessments in those subjects and take more Career Technical Education (CTE) courses or other work-based learning experiences in their place. The Florida State Board of Education will determine which courses will be allowed to substitute the waived academic courses. If students take the new minimum requirements and earn one or more industry certification, they will receive a “merit” designation.
Or, students can earn “scholar” designation if they complete the current graduation requirements, with the goal of this pathway preparing students for a four-year degree.
The legislation includes a strong focus on career exploration and articulates that districts should work with local workforce boards, business and industry, and postsecondary institutions to create partnerships and career-focused courses, which would then need to be approved by the State Board of Education.
The legislation also changes Florida’s assessment requirements by making the currently high-stakes biology and geometry end-of-course assessments count as 30 percent of a student’s grade rather than a requirement for graduation. The Algebra I and English 10 exams will still be required for all students, but also count as 30 percent of the student’s final grade rather than be fully high stakes. Finally, the bill ensures the current economics course requirement includes an emphasis on financial literacy.
The bill aims to provide students with more flexibility and better align high school with workforce demands and many of the provisions will achieve that. However, there is valid concern that the new graduation requirements will mean not all students will be expected to learn – and therefore will have access to – the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The concern is largely around the fact that, unless the approved CTE courses, credentials and experiences are indeed rigorous both in terms of the technical expectations and academic expectations, some students will be tracked into less rigorous pathways, limiting their postsecondary and career options in the long term.
We’ll be tracking the issue and particularly the work of the State Board of Education moving forward.
Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director