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High School Grad Requirements Overhauled As State Moves To Nationalized Curriculum

Florida lawmakers are taking a closer look at the state’s high school graduation requirements as the state transitions to a national set of new education standards called the Common Core.

Florida state is planning to replace its exams with ones that reflect those national standards. The same House bill that makes that possible also sets out different pathways students can take toward graduation. But some say in doing that, the state is watering down its standards.

“Just looking at the three different pathways, and the requirements for the lowest-level pathway, Did we walk away too far from some of the course-taking requirements that this legislature has said all kids need to be successful for future college or career?”  said Patricia Levesque, who heads the education reform group, the Foundation for Florida's future, created by former Governor Jeb Bush.

The pathway system is similar to the old tracking system—where students took courses geared toward things like career and technical education, or higher ed. But Committee Chairwoman Janet Atkins says the purpose of the proposal is not to dumb down requirements.

“It’s about making sure we’re making education relevant to our students. Without that relevance, the rigor is often meaningless," she said.

The House bill gives students more flexibility in reaching their graduation requirements by counting classes like career and tech-based courses as well as standard classes. And the revisions are a priority of Senate President Don Gaetz, who has said classes should be more closely aligned with workforce needs.

As the House worked out it's plan, a Senate Education Committee approved SB 1076, called the "CAPE" (Career and Professional Education) Act.

“The great irony of our state's economy is that while unemployment still remains too high, there are thousands and thousands of high paying, high demand jobs open and available for qualified workers.  SB 1076 provides incentives to K-12 schools and higher education institutions to offer courses that allow students to earn national industry certifications in 248 different professions, occupations and careers," Gaetz said. 

"Senators Legg, Galvano and Montford have collaborated on a bi-partisan bill that will make it far more likely that students can walk off the graduation stage able to compete for real jobs in the real economy."

The House Committee is expected to adopt its version of the CAPE act next week.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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