Don Gaetz promises more testing reform in 2016

DON GAETZ

by: Micheale Auslen
Michael AuslenMichael Auslen| Tampa Bay Times
September 2, 2015
After an effort in the 2015 session eliminated some tests students have to take that lawmakers said were duplicates, state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, the education budget chairman and former Senate president, says he’s going after even more.

It doesn’t make sense for the state to require students to take tests proving they have mastered a subject that has already been tested on a well known, national exam like the SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate, Gaetz said. A bill he says he will introduce would allow those exams to replace other mandated tests.

But he’s also trying to inspire more reforms down the road and make it clear to Education Commissioner Pam Stewart that the Legislature is focused on the issue.

“We weren’t able to get the commissioner of education’s attention last year,” Gaetz said. “But maybe if we pass a law, maybe we could get her attention.”

The 2015 legislation eliminated an 11th grade English test and capped the number of hours students can spend on state-mandated testing. But the Times/Herald reported in April that Republican lawmakers were reluctant to go much further to alter an education accountability system first created by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

Gaetz, a self-described “Bush accolyte” says his reforms wouldn’t shine a bad light on the Republican presidential hopeful’s education legacy in Florida.

“Gov. Bush believes in high standards, he believes in fair assessments, but he also believes in better tests and fewer tests,” Gaetz said. “And that’s what we’re talking about … Florida scraping some of the barnacles off our hull.

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