New law reduces testing at Florida public schools

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 14, 2015 5:21 PM

By Bill Cotterell

TALLAHASSEE (Reuters) - Governor Rick Scott signed legislation rolling back testing in Florida public schools on Tuesday but said the new law was no rebuke to former governor and possible presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, who championed school grading and student testing 16 years ago.

“I think everybody in the system believes in accountability, believes in measurement, but we want learning — we don’t just want tests,” Scott told reporters at the Capitol after signing the measure.

The new law abolished an 11th-grade English examination, which Scott had suspended by executive order last January, and cancels the requirement of final exams in all courses.

It also limits most testing to 45 hours per school year, responding to an outcry by parents and school administrators who said students were losing classroom time and tying up computer laboratories with marathon testing.

The new law put a dent in Bush's legacy as governor when he championed an “A-plus Education Plan” in 1999, creating a grading system — A through F — for public schools, along with teacher evaluations based on student achievement. Legislators have added to the testing requirements since he left office in 2007.

The parental and teacher backlash grew louder recently when technical glitches disrupted the already heavy testing regimen.

Some parents have asked Scott to take further executive action by suspending school grades for a year, but Scott was dubious.

“I think this is a good bill,” Scott said. “I think we did the right thing through the legislative process.”

Florida Republican Party Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, a state legislator who supported the new legislation, said conditions have changed since the Bush initiatives were adopted. Ingoglia said Bush wouldn't be hurt by having his signature initiative overhauled.

“Accountability in the system is always going to be a good thing,” Ingoglia said. “I know that’s what the governor (Bush) was pushing for in the past.”

Bush, who left the governor's office in 2007, has yet to decide on a presidential campaign. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Miami, a close legislative ally of Bush when they were in Florida’s Capitol, announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination on Monday.

(Editing by David Adams and Ted Botha)