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Governor Crist Signs School Accountability Measure

Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law Friday a bill that would require low performing schools to show they are improving or be forced to make some changes.

Crist and the Jeb Bush-backed education advocacy group Foundation for Florida’s Future heralded the bill as a step forward for quality education. But some school district officials are not so sure.

“All of Florida's children, no matter their location, should have equal access to a quality education,” Crist said via a press release. “The expansion of this program ensures that all schools receive the support they need, and I commend our Legislature for continuing to make the success of our students a priority.”

Under the program, schools would be placed into six categories based on a state-assigned letter grade, percentage of federal proficiency requirements met – sometimes called “adequate yearly progress” - and the number of years they have failed to meet those requirements.

The Department of Education, which backed the bill, has a sliding scale of how to better support schools that are not making progress and improving their grades. Changes could be small like hiring more reading specialists, or large, like hiring a new principal.

“It is huge. It is daunting,” said Darvin Boothe, a lobbyist for Seminole County Public Schools. “Right now in Seminole County, (only) one of our high schools meets adequate yearly progress.”

Florida Education Association spokesman Mark Pudlow said the association was worried about potential problems for school districts, especially ones with small budgets. Bill proponents have said that there will be no costs.

Patricia Levesque, executive director of Foundation For Florida's Future, released a statement supporting the bill and saying that it made Florida a leader in accountability.

“In the coming year and beyond, the Foundation for Florida’s Future is committed to expanding school choice, raising standards across the board, increasing performance-based funding, restoring reading as a nonnegotiable priority, improving teacher quality and guaranteeing every Florida student access to a high quality education,” she said.

The Department of Education is creating a matrix of intervention and support strategies for schools that do not improve. The State Board of Education will set rules in the next year regarding the process.

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