Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's education org objects to test score waiver


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An influential education organization founded and chaired by former Gov. Jeb Bush is criticizing parts of a decision by the state Department of Education to waive accountability measures tied to state exams.

The department on Friday issued an emergency order nixing consequences tied to standardized test scores for students and schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It said graduation for high school seniors and promotion for third grade students this spring will not be contingent on passing exams. Similarly, end-of-course exam scores can be waived when determining whether students get promoted to the next grade levels.

The non-profit Foundation for Florida’s Future, founded by Bush, released a statement Friday that said parts of the emergency order “raise concerns.”

Executive Director Patricia Levesque wrote that waiving exams as a graduation requirement “waters down the hard work” of students and teachers.

“State policy is clear and consistent on provisions that ensure students are ready to move to 4th grade and that guarantee Florida’s high school diploma has meaning and value,” Levesque said in the statement.

The foundation supported one part of the emergency order that allows schools to opt in to receiving school grades, which are based on student test scores.

“The provisions released today that allow school districts to choose to earn a grade if they maintain assessments for a certain level of students is a thoughtful measure —- schools that have improved student performance deserve recognition for that improvement,” Levesque wrote.

The group’s criticisms came as many education officials applauded the waivers. Miami-Dade County Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho said Friday that the order was received with “a sigh of relief and celebration” in his district. Gov. Ron DeSantis also expressed support, saying in a statement that it will “empower students, families and teachers.”

As governor, Bush pushed through a series of accountability measures, including what was known as the “A-plus” plan. That included school grades and an emphasis on the results of testing.

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