Education Reform

Lawmakers Consider Expansion of Competency-Based Schools

A Florida competency-based education pilot program that started in 2016 and was expected to expire at the end of the 2020-2021 school year could grow, if a proposed law passed. HB 523 would rename the pilot, originally titled the "Competency-Based Education Pilot Program," to the "Mastery-based Education Program" and expand the experiment to all districts, not just the five in the original program. The current bill would have an effective date of July 1, 2020.

The legislation would also allow participating schools and districts to use an alternative interpretation of letter grades to measure student success in grades 6 through 12. However, districts would also be required to continue using a four-point scale for calculating a student's grade-point average.

Under the program, students progress from grade to grade at their own pace, based on mastery of concepts and skills laid out in Florida's Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. The idea is that some students would progress more rapidly through a course without having to meet the minimum instructional hours' requirement, while others would take more than 135 or 120 hours of instruction to work through the course content.

The participating districts have tried out the experiment at least partially in 64 elementary schools, two middle schools, 10 high schools and one K-12 school.

The bill, which has received unanimous bipartisan committee support, has been placed on the special order calendar for a second reading tomorrow in the House. If approved, it will move to the Senate for consideration.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.