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Apr 14, 3:49 PM EDT

Florida governor signs bill to limit standardized tests

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida will scale back the use of high-stakes standardized tests under a bill signed into law on Tuesday by Gov. Rick Scott.

The measure followed months of debate, and criticism, over the amount of tests given to public school students, many of which are tied to the system primarily put in place by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

"I agree with many teachers and parents who say we have too many tests, and while this legislation is a great step forward, we will keep working to make sure Florida students are not over tested," said Scott in a statement.

The changes, though not as wide as critics wanted, still represent a departure for Republicans who had fully embraced the reforms championed by Bush during his eight years in office. Bush is touting his reforms in what appears to be a likely presidential campaign.

The new law signed by Scott limits the amount of state testing that can be done in public schools, including a firm cap of 45 hours. It also permanently eliminates an 11th-grade standardized test and lets school districts move up the start of the school year to Aug. 10.

Bush's A+ plan, which was first passed in 1999, expanded the use of standardized tests from the third grade to 10th grade. It also created an A-to-F grading system of schools tied to test results. Schools with top grades are rewarded with extra money, and chronically failing schools can be subject to sanctions.

Over the years the state added more tests, including ones given at the end of the school year in certain core subjects. This year, Florida switched to a new statewide test based on new standards primarily founded on Common Core. But the rollout of that test was marred by technical glitches.

But even before the test was given this year, a backlash was growing. A school board in southwest Florida voted last August to opt out of statewide testing. The board reversed the decision a week later.

The bill signed by Scott would delay the release of this year's school grades until an independent review of the new test can be performed. Other sanctions associated with annual testing would also be put on hold while the review is underway.

Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, had urged the governor to sign the bill. But Ford, who sent a letter to Scott about the legislation, said there are still problems with the state's testing system, including the heavy reliance on online testing. Ford said students were losing instruction time because of how long it takes schools to schedule and administer online tests.


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