By Drew Wilson
Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 7069 Tuesday, reducing the number of tests Florida public school students take as well as making changes to teacher evaluations and school year start dates.
“This legislation reduces the number of tests our students take, including the 11th grade English Language Arts test that we eliminated this year through an Executive Order in February,” Scott said in a news release.
“I agree with many teachers and parents who say we have too many tests, and while this legislation is a great step forward, we will keep working to make sure Florida students are not over tested.“
The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Marlene O’Toole of The Villages, legislates the elimination of the 11th grade English Language Arts test as well as the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, which Florida high school students are required to take.
It also limits testing to a maximum of 5 percent of a student’s yearly school hours – about nine whole school days a year. Lutz Republican Sen. John Legg sponsored the bill in the Senate.
In addition to cutting tests, the bill alters teacher evaluations by reducing the weight of student performance and instructional practice evaluations. It would also allow districts to set a start date for the school year as early as Aug. 10.
The bill aligns with Scott’s “Let’s Keep Florida Learning” plan, which he released in August 2014. Among other things, the plan calls for a “comprehensive evaluation” of every test Florida students are required to take, a financial reward system for high-performing teachers, and increased investment in technical education centers.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce applauded the signing in a news release, saying “fewer and better tests” will help ensure the state’s assessment and accountability system’s continued success. Brittney Burch, the chamber’s education policy director, praised Sens. Legg and Don Gaetz, as well as Reps. Manny Diaz, Erik Fresen and O’Toole.
“Florida wins when we invest in policies that help make our students more competitive and today, we saw the fruits of that effort,” Burch said.