On June 5, Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) signed his A++ Plan for Education, a new law that will increase the rigor and relevance of Florida’s middle and high schools to better prepare students for postsecondary education and life after high school. In addition to required course work in middle school and high school, the new law also requires students to complete a personalized “academic and career plan” while in middle school and to select a “major area of interest” in which they will study in high school.
“This bold measure will help prepare middle and high school students for the challenges ahead of them,” Bush said. “Our students will now take charge and plan for their future, realizing the decisions they make today shape their tomorrow. I commend the Florida Legislature for making these cutting-edge reforms a reality for the future generations of Florida students.”
Under the new law, middle school students must complete 12 core academic courses (3 each in English, math, science, and social studies), as well as 1 course in career and education planning, in order to be promoted to high school. Students must also complete a personalized “academic and career plan” during seventh or eighth grade. The legislation also requires every middle school to offer at least one high school-level math class for which students can gain credit toward earning their diplomas.
At the high school level, the legislation will require ninth-grade students to earn 16 core academic credits and 8 elective credits in order to receive their diplomas. Beginning in the 2007–08 school year, students will have to earn 4 credits each in English and math, 3 each in social studies and science, 1 credit in fine arts, and 1 credit in physical education and health.
The legislation will continue Florida’s strong commitment to the teaching of reading in the higher grades. It will require middle and high school students who score at the lowest level (Level 1 on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) to enroll in an intensive reading course. Students who score at Level 2 must take an intensive reading course or another course that provides reading instruction. The legislation will also make funding for reading a permanent part of the Florida Education Finance Program, which will ensure that school districts have adequate funding to serve the reading needs of their students.
The legislation also offers a series of teacher incentives that are designed to fill shortages in certain subject areas, such as math, science, and special education. It also provides additional compensation to teachers who work in low-performing schools.
One of the more controversial provisions in the legislation is its requirement that high school students select a “major area of interest” as part of their personalized education and career plans. Students must earn four credits in their major area of interest, which can be in the arts, advanced academic studies, or career preparation. Students will be able to change their area of interest and can use their remaining four elective credits to choose a second major area of interest, a minor, or other elective classes.
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Valerie Walker, a rising senior at Godby High School and the incoming student member of the Leon County School Board, in the Tallahassee Democrat. “My reasoning is that high school is a time to learn who you are and to define what you believe. It’s too premature to declare your major this early. There are other issues that need to be on the forefront. High school students have a very high bar to meet without having to decide on a major.”
More information on the legislation can be found in the press release, which is available at http://www.flgov.com/release/7878.