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Competency Education Pilot Approved For Five Districts

Some Florida students could soon be able to work more at their own pace.  A priority of the Foundation for Florida’s Future is on its way to Governor Rick Scott, and it creates a pilot program for competency based education.

The idea is this: When a student has demonstrated mastery of a subject, they can move on to the next one. But as Democratic Senator Bill Montford notes, it’s not just for kids in high-level programs.

“Let me also add we have a lot of students who can take advantage of this who have had difficulties for whatever reasons. Maybe they’ve been ill and out for a year—they can come in catch up and get to where they need to be. Its also a good program for our remedial-needed students as well.”

Montford also heads the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. The issue is a priority for the education think tank—the Foundation for Florida’s Future.

“Every child is different and has unique talents and abilities. But currently our schools treat students as if they’re the same. They’re supposed to master the same subjects, in the same way in the same amount of time," said Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation.

“Competency based learning changes all of this. It allows education to be personalized to each student. We’ve got some wonderful districts like Pinellas and Lake Counties. They’ve been doing amazing work to personalize work for their students. We want their work to expand to benefit all of Florida’s children."

The bill sets up a five-year pilot program in Lake, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Seminole counties.

“I would just ask as we move forward with it that the state collect as much data as possible. Demographic data, socio-economic data, so we know what’s working where and why," said Sen. Jeff Clemens.

But the idea of tracking student data concerns Republican Senator Alan Hays. Hays worries student data could fall into the wrong hands.

“How much information are they getting on that student? Sometimes it’s no one else’s business, and certainly not the business of public.   I think we have to be careful, keep a close eye on this program. I’m certain it’s going to pass and be implemented, but we need to be observant," he said.

And Democratic Senator Dwight Bullard worries a student’s fate could be determined by a test on a computer that some students don’t know how to work.

“It sounds great. But you may have a situation with those that can make it and those that cannot because of their inability to function on a computer.”

Still, for the majority of the Florida Senate agrees on the idea of the bill.

“There are many students who are in classrooms who are extremely bored, and they get into discipline problems," said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood. "This will give those students who excel, who have individual abilities, to move ahead at their own pace. So let’s try it, it might work.”

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. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.