Landmark skills bill clears House Education Committee

A bill that would allow teachers and students to focus on mastery of grade-level skills rather than grades cleared the House Education Committee Tuesday.

The bill, HB 401, would expand an existing “competency-based” pilot program to any school district that wants to participate. The program allows students to earn credits based on mastery of content and skills regardless of how much time they spend in the classroom.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Nick DiCeglie (R-Indian Rocks Beach), said it will allow educators to “meet students’ unique, strengths, interests and needs, while allowing students to play a greater role in their learning.”

“This mastery-based principle is fairly new, but it’s been successful in districts that have implemented it,” DiCeglie said. “It is innovative and thinking outside the box. Students in the state deserve that.”

Pinellas, Palm Beach and Seminole County school districts, as well as the University of Florida’s P.K. Yonge Development Research School, have been participating in competency-based learning since 2016, when the Florida Legislature permitted them to apply to the Florida Department of Education for waivers from state testing regulations.

The bill would allow participating schools to develop an alternative grading system in grades 6 through 12 if they continue to utilize a 4-point scale to determine grade point averages for college and scholarship applications.

The Senate Education Committee passed a similar measure, SB 226, last week.

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BY Geoff Fox

Geoff Fox is a communications manager in Step Up For Students' office of Policy and Public Affairs. Fox covers legislative issues and writes about charter schools and other aspects of education choice.