After Rough Start, Flores' Testing Bill Gets Moving In The Senate...With Changes

Apr 3, 2017

Credit Martha T. / flickr.com

After a rough start, a Florida Senate education panel has managed to move a major testing bill forward. The proposal is a mix of two separate testing bills.

The Senate started out with two major testing bills. One by Republican Senator Anitere Flores, the other by Democratic Senator Bill Montford. Montford’s bill had the backing of teachers, districts and even the Republican leaders like Education budget chief David Simmons. But there can only be one bill, and Monday Simmons read off a series of amendments, designed to merge the two proposals. 

Many of the amendments are similar to ideas proposed by Montford last month.

“The bill makes several common sense changes to our system. A number of state mandated end-of-course exams are eliminated, including Geometry, Algebra 2, U.S. History and Civics," Montford said at a March press conference on his proposal.

A similar amendment for Flores' bill by Simmons allows the state to use at least one of those EOC’s to comply with federal laws.  

Montford’s measure also let students to use a paper-and-pencil option to take state tests, and gets rid of the controversial value-added model, a formula based on state test results that’s used to evaluate teachers. All of those ideas are now part of Flores’ bill. But parts of her original proposal remain.

“So we’d like to move the testing window back. And we want to make sure that both the current teacher and the future teacher have information on how the student did the previous year," she said.

Flores’ bill was held up in committee last week over Senator Tom Lee’s concern that Montford’s proposal was being taken away. In a written statement, Flores said, "“I believe assessing students’ knowledge plays a large part in ensuring success, and that is the reason SB 926 is so important to me.  We need to ensure state testing serves its fundamental purpose and that legislation be comprehensive and substantive.  That is why I was happy to reach across the aisle and collaborate with Senate colleagues Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) and David Simmons (R-Altamonte) to amend my proposed bill, and in the long run, have legislation that will improve the quality of education,”

The merged proposal is now on a fast-track in the Senate. But while that chamber is proposing a testing reduction, the House companion bill doesn’t include any of the new amendments.