Florida House Plans to Retain Algebra I and 10th Grade English Tests for Graduation

Florida’s public high schools’ standards are under scrutiny, with the state House deciding to maintain strict requirements. The House mandated that students must pass the statewide Algebra 1 and 10th-grade English Language Arts exams to earn their diplomas.

Approval from the Senate is still pending for this legislative decision.

At the start of the current legislative session, the Senate introduced bills seeking to “deregulate” Florida’s public schools by eliminating the graduation prerequisites for Algebra I and 10th-grade ELA exams.

House Speaker Paul Renner strongly opposed any relaxation of graduation criteria. Republican Rep. Dana Trabulsy, the bill’s sponsor in the House, echoed Renner’s stance, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the Algebra 1 and ELA 10 graduation requirements.

Upholding quality standards

Addressing the House, Trabulsy highlighted concerns about potential adverse impacts on students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, if standards were lowered. She stressed that Florida’s high education standards are vital in preparing all students adequately for their futures.

Although receiving bipartisan backing, Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman expressed a desire for certain provisions, such as eliminating graduation requirements, to be restored to the bill.

Bartleman underlined the significance of eliminating barriers that standardized testing might pose for high school graduation, especially for students experiencing testing anxiety.

Critics like the Foundation for Excellence in Education warn that waiving the Algebra I and 10th-grade ELA exam requirements could diminish the value of high school diplomas.

Patricia Levesque, CEO of ExcelinEd, lauded the House’s rejection of elements from the Senate’s proposal, emphasizing Florida’s commitment to maintaining high education standards.

On the contrary, proponents of removing high-stakes tests contend that a single exam does not capture the full extent of students’ knowledge.

Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar highlighted the need to shift the focus from high-stakes testing to teaching and learning to enhance student outcomes.

Revising book challenge fees

Originally, Trabulsy’s education deregulation bill included a $100 “processing fee” for subsequent challenges filed by individuals with five unwarranted challenges in a district where they lack enrolled children. However, Trabulsy removed this fee and any book ban restrictions from the bill due to another related bill (HB 1285) that the House recently passed, which still awaits Senate approval.

House Speaker Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo expressed their support for reducing book challenges during a press briefing.

Furthermore, parents of students in kindergarten through 2nd grade must have a voice in deciding whether their children should be retained at their current grade if they struggle in ELA and math.

Proposed deregulation measures have undergone significant modifications from initial discussions in November. Previously, senators considered allowing parents to choose whether to retain their 3rd-grade children for reading difficulties and permitting schools to provide 100 minutes of recess weekly instead of the current daily 20-minute requirement.