Pam Stewart, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, is making her rounds of the state and appeared in Tampa this week to present the legislative actions on education passed during the 2014 legislative session in Tallahassee. The board room in the Hillsborough County Public Schools building was packed to capacity with citizens eager to hear her presentation.
Commissioner Stewart and her colleagues discussed several important implementations rolling out in the next school year of which parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens should be made aware. Within Florida Senate Bill SB188, “An act relating to education data privacy” it states “In order to maintain the eligibility of public educational institutions and agencies to receive federal funds (writer’s bold) and participate in federal programs, the State Board of Education shall comply with the FERPA…” This is made to sound as if our children’s private information will be protected, but as I discovered and stated in an earlier article, Our Children Are Not Common, “President Obama changed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) rules so that students can be monitored” and allows for data mining of information on our children.
Florida will comply with Federal Department of Education mandates in order to continue to receive federal funds.
SB 188 further states “The Commissioner of Education shall assist school districts with the assignment of student identification numbers to avoid duplication of any student identification number. The department shall establish a process for assigning a Florida student identification number to each student in the state, at which time a school district may not use social security numbers as student identification numbers in its management information systems.” This is an interesting change to how students are assigned identification numbers. School districts in Florida have not been using social security numbers for student identification. Every district has had their own system for assigning student identification numbers.
Assigning student identification numbers will now be done at the state level.
The bill also states that schools will not require students to provide social security numbers to enroll in school or to graduate and receive a diploma. It appears the Florida legislature passed this bill (ahead of an anticipated national comprehensive immigration law) which allows illegal immigrants to attend school and graduate from high school with no requirement to ascertain their immigration status. This policy has already been in place for K-12, but it appears this will allow illegal immigrants to obtain college credits for dual enrollment courses and to attend a college or university in the state university system under the in-state tuition guidelines passed this year.
Illegal immigrants will not be required to verify their legal status to attend public schools and state universities.
Another interesting issue discussed was the new diplomas students will receive at the end of their high school education. There will be different diplomas a student can receive at graduation. They can receive a general diploma, but there will also be a “scholar” diploma. It was explained that it will be like the other high school diplomas, but will have a special seal or something affixed to the diploma. They have not yet finalized the format.
High school graduates will receive either a general or “scholar” diploma.
A college bound student will take classes to obtain a “scholar” diploma. If the student does not plan to attend college, a course study will be set to permit the student to obtain an industry certification and a general high school diploma. Florida House Bill 487 addresses the Agriculture Industry Certification and other certifications, which will be determined by the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Workforce Florida, Inc. based on “critical local or statewide economic needs, [or]…linked to… the targeted occupation list, or linked to an occupation that is identified as emerging.” As one of the presenters stated:
We will be creating a workforce according to the needs of the state.
Commissioner Stewart explained that Florida House Bill (HB7031) deletes the Common Core State Standards and that Florida will not be implementing the federalized Common Core State Standards. Florida is calling it the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. They can call it whatever they want, it will still be aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
The good news is that the 2014-2015 school year will be a “hold harmless” year as far as school grading is concerned due to all of these changes. It was not clear if this applied to the students as well.