Law seeks to give school districts new alternatives to grading standards

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
January 4, 2018

Photo David Mark / Pixabay

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- A Florida lawmaker is looking to give school districts in the state new alternatives to traditional grading standards.

The Competency-Based Education Pilot Program was implemented in five Florida school districts in 2016. It gives students the option of showing their mastery of a subject instead of completing traditional credit hours.

Newly filed legislation would open the program up so other school districts can join. The proposal would also allow districts in the program to reinterpret the standard letter grading system.

Bill sponsor Jennifer Sullivan (R - Eustis) says the pilot program would allow students to focus on individual skills instead of trying to achieve a standard letter grade.

"Personalized education is a way for students to be able to truly learn," she explained. "We need to be able to meet them where they're at."

Andrea Messina, the executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, says the new system could cause inconsistent standards for student achievement.

"That lack of calibration and continuity and consistency can be problematic," Messina said.

Education advocates say there could be resistance from universities and colleges because the bill requires them to grant equal access to students with non-traditional high school diplomas.

Messina says there's no way to guarantee a non-biased admissions process.

"The college admissions have so many factors involved. While we can say that they should be taken as equal, we don't know if in fact that will be the case," she said.

Representative Sullivan says schools currently in the program still tend to issue standard letter grades alongside the mastery component. That way, parents and colleges can have some traditional reference for student achievement.

The pilot program is slated to end in 2020, regardless if the new legislation passes.

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