Here’s some good news: James Call at the Florida Current reports that Florida Senate Education Committee Chair John Legg isn’t completely happy with the three high school graduation tracks set up by SB 1076, the bill that was wrestled through the Legislature and signed by Governor Scott last spring. The bill’s primary feature was the “Merit” track that allows students to graduate by trading in courses like chemistry, physics and Algebra 2 in return for earning an industry certification. Students who graduate on this track certainly aren’t college-ready, but they’re obviously career-ready. The new “Scholar” track exceeds the college-ready bar set by Achieve and others by a little bit. But the new standard diploma is neither college-ready nor career-ready, and that should make everybody unhappy (unfortunately, the school districts seem to like it).
Here’s what Call reports about the new “Merit” track:
“The beauty of a vocational education is it gets more kids to be successful,” said Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa, a former middle-school teacher. “We give kids another way to graduate and an opportunity to get a trade.”
The measure was praised by the business community as a way to align high schools with the job market. Having taken care of vocational-minded students this past session, Legg is now turning his committee’s attention to students on the “scholars” rout: those planning to go to college.
But what Legg seems most concerned about is 11th and 12th grade:
“There is a growing concern that many of our students allow their 11th and 12th years to get put into this orbit of nonsensical course work that is not rigorous, not relevant,” Legg said this week. “If they are not taking dual enrollment or a rigorous IB or ACE industry certification then they are caught in this ‘senioritis’ malaise of football games, prom and not relevant coursework.”
When talking about high school graduation requirements, something Legg refers to as an “ever-evolving discussion,” he said the Education Committee is going to spend a significant amount of time exploring ways to provide students a smoother transition to a post-secondary institution.
“How can we make the senior year more relevant?” Legg said. “What are we doing at the early entry level at the college level and the university level so that we don’t have this artificial barrier at the 12th grade that says to students, ‘you just need to stay here an extra year for the sake of staying here for an extra year.’”
Most of the 11th and 12th graders I know are taking four, five or six AP courses – they are making those years count. But I’m sure there are plenty that are not working at that level.
I don’t understand is what Senator Legg is trying to get at. A quarter or more of the engineering and physical science majors I work with have gaping holes in their high school backgrounds. Many students who come to our university are unable to choose majors in the most lucrative fields because of the weaknesses in their high school preparation. Shouldn’t that be what 11th and 12th grade are about? Making sure that students are ready for whatever opportunities come their way?
But the biggest problem remains Florida’s new dumbed-down standard high school diploma, which leaves students unprepared for anything of economic value. Fix that and maybe add a meaningful “Scholar” track that prepares students for all the opportunities they will have, and 11th and 12th grades will be relevant again.