Florida Senators Advocate for Looser Academic Requirements in Certain Grades K-12

With the legislative session approaching, Florida senators are seeking to revamp public education by giving parents more control over third-grade students’ promotions and eliminating certain high school graduation requirements, among other measures.

Sen. Corey Simon, who represents multiple north Florida counties, is the sponsor of the “Deregulation of Public Schools/Assessment and Accountability, Instruction, and Education Choice” bill. Simon defended his legislation against criticism that it would diminish academic standards and devalue a high school diploma during public comment.

The proposed bill would have a significant impact on high school students since it would no longer be necessary to pass the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam and Grade 10 English Language Arts assessment to graduate.

Nathan Hoffman, a senior legislative director for the Foundation for Florida’s Future, expressed concerns about removing these graduation requirements.

“In our opinion, a high school diploma should indicate to employers and post-secondary institutions that a student is prepared for the workforce or further education without the need for remediation,” Hoffman said. “Eliminating these passing requirements significantly diminishes the value of the diploma.”

Simon passionately defended his bill, stating that employers, universities, and colleges do not prioritize end-of-course exams. Instead, they focus on grades, the diploma, and scores on tests like the SAT. Simon argued that the reform would provide more flexibility for students interested in pursuing a trade or joining the military after high school.

“Let’s not pretend that people are concerned about this temporary test,” Simon said. “We are hindering an entire generation of students who have no intention of attending traditional post-secondary institutions.”

The bill would also empower parents to have greater influence over their child’s promotion to fourth grade if they are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Instead of solely relying on a passing English assessment score, parents could collaborate with the school to create an intervention plan.

Nancy Lawther, the Florida PTA’s legislative advocate, expressed minor concerns about the change to third-grade retention. While Lawther supported a “shared decision-making process,” she also suggested closer monitoring of learning disabilities for students who are promoted to fourth grade through an exception.

Simon claimed that elementary school teachers have been steadily promoting students from kindergarten to second grade with the assumption that third-grade retention would act as a safety net.

“With this reform, we will be able to identify these students much earlier in the process and provide them with the necessary support before they reach the third grade,” Simon said.

Simon also withdrew a proposal to allow districts more flexibility in scheduling recess following significant public opposition.

Simon’s bill, along with two other education reform bills, passed unanimously through the Senate Committees on Fiscal Policy and Education. This positive outcome bodes well for their chances in the forthcoming legislative session. Representatives from Miami-Dade, Seminole, and Hillsborough counties, which are predominantly blue, expressed support for the reform introduced by Republican lawmakers.