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Graduation standards push is dead this year

The first major piece of education legislation declared dead this session is the push to raise graduation standards for high school students.

Senate sponsor Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, said tonight that SB 2654 won't be heard on the Senate floor --- though the proposal passed the House barely one week ago --- because there's just not time.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future has been pushing to raise the curriculum requirements for high school students, phasing in algebra II and geometry as required math classes, and biology I and chemistry as required science classes. In addition, the proposal would have increased the required graduation score on the 10th grade FCAT to 3 from 2.

"The bills got farther than I ever expected this year," Altman said.

While the push to raise standards enjoyed widespread support, even with Democrats, the FCAT provision was controversial. Altman said they talked about taking out the FCAT part, but it was more than that.

"I think the main thing was ... having the time to really vet these additional standards," Altman said. "I mean, that's a big thing. when you change standards."

Altman said they'll waste no time looking at the issue for next session, pointing out that committee meetings start again in the fall.

"We'll be right back at it," Altman said. "And we'll have more information, and we'll be able to talk with more of the stakeholders, and we'll be better prepared."

Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida's Future, said she still has hope for this year, but also, "If it's not going to pass this session, it will be disappointing and it will be another year wasted in the lives of kids that need to be prepared for the future that awaits them once they leave high school."