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Letter to the Editor

Time for Bold Steps to Reframe Education in Florida

by Lee J. Dury

TO: The Honorable Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the House; The Honorable Joe Negron, President of the Senate; The Honorable Janet Cruz, Democratic Leader of the Florida House; The Honorable Oscar Baynom, II, Minority Leader of the Senate; Senator Dorothy Hukill, Chair of the Senate Education Committee; Representative Michael Bilica, Chair of the House Education Committee; and Representative Shevrin Jones, Ranking Democratic Member of the House Education Committee; and to all Florida Representatives and Senators.

In a previous article, I wrote about a currently filed proposal to create a music education pilot program for elementary school students. I will take a slight detour here, and instead of reviewing or commenting on proposed legislation, I would like to share my own recommendations to boldly reframe education in Florida.

Recommendation #1

Amend FL Statute 1003.4282 referring to the requirements for a standard High School Diploma. Currently, Florida’s high school students are required to complete only one online or blended instruction class during their high school course of study; and a class which is completed during middle school can be counted under the requirement.

In order to embrace the future of education in Florida, the legislature should amend the statute to require a minimum of one fully online course or a blended online/onsite course in each of the four years of high school, not to include any courses completed in middle school. In order to give districts time to develop plans and communicate with students, the new requirement should go into effect for students entering 9th grade in the 2019-20 school year.  

Repeated enrollment in online courses in high school will benefit students regardless of their post-secondary path into college or career. Exposure to collaborative tools, discussion boards, class calendars, etc. are commonplace within these courses (whether fully online or blended online/onsite) and will help students develop independence as well as interdependence. Many jobs in various industries already require some kind of continued education for certification purposes or for company-based onboarding & training. The earlier students become accustomed to such requirements, the more they will be prepared for these expectations.

Access to the courses can be provided by the local school district, any approved virtual provider, and any Florida College or University that accepts high school students into college-credit courses (under existing dual enrollment and/or early college matriculation agreements). Existing open-courses can be submitted by students for review and approval; alternatively, high schools and school districts can create a work-group to identify various open-courses that may be approved to fulfill this requirement. Examples include courses from MITOpenCourseware, and the OpenEducation Consortium.

Recommendation #2

Require at least one high school credit in computer coding or a computer language such as C++, Perl, Java, Fortran, etc.. This expands on the popular “Day of Coding” and other events that occur throughout schools today.  Learning and understanding at least the basics of computer languages and coding by completing a credit-bearing course is imperative. This recommendation opens opportunities for schools and students to work with innovative groups such as Degreed  Degreed, for instance, offers this course in Web Development. Courses are also available in traditional subjects such as US History, which connects back to Recommendation #1, if students wanted to use Degreed to complete academic courses in Software Development or Learn to Program: The Fundamentals.  

Recommendation #3

Amend the Florida Constitution to allow for the dissolution of larger school districts, enabling a municipality to form its own local school district, separate from the county-wide school district. The Florida Constitution and related statutes define a county school district and allow for school districts to combine or share certain services {FL Constitution Article IX Sec 4 (a)}. However, by providing the ability to create new – read that as more localized –  school systems then communities, families, and students of Florida would be able to more directly control their education.

It is conceivable that the residents and businesses in the City of St. Petersburg, for example, decide that they can more closely and more effectively guide the education of its students, as compared to Pinellas County. A similar sentiment could be expressed for Ocala, Tallahassee, and other larger cities. However, an argument could be made that smaller municipalities such as Boca Raton, Bartow, or Kissimmee would utilize the new statute to create small city school districts. As an illustrative example, the State of Georgia operates mostly county-wide school districts, but also has a number of smaller city-based districts such as Commerce City, Gainesville City, and Cartersville City.

Along with passing the statute or amending the Constitution, rules should be enacted to guide the process. Suggestions include issuing guidance on initiating a community petition to explore dissolution, which would be followed by a series of public meetings and workshops examining all aspects of the current system’s services and the impact that dissolution would have on each of those services – especially potential student learning outcomes.

A timeframe, anywhere from 1-3 years, should be proposed in order for there to be sufficient public input workshops, hold a special ballot measure/election regarding the creation of a new localized school system, and begin to formally review all services and contracts. The election of a new School Board, School Superintendent, and other legal issues need to be guided clearly by rules put forth by the FLDOE or the State Legislature.


Note: The opinions expressed are that of the author, and the publication of the document and associated links do not constitute an endorsement by edCircuit.

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