Student’s Thoughtful Letter To Gov. Scott: Please #Veto7069


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A high school student has now added his voice to the growing chorus opposing HB7069. Jonathan Suarez is a Junior at the School for Advanced Studies in Miami-Dade County, Florida. He wrote his own letter to Governor Scott urging him to veto HB 7069.

His letter was published in full in the Washington Post today:

“The part of this bill that causes the most insecurity to me, as a student and so many others is how little time was allowed  to properly debate and discuss this massive 278-page bill, a fact that caused Senator David Simmons – a Republican who favors most of the provisions in this bill – to vote against the bill. The process and little time given for the public and other senators to properly read the bill compromises the integrity of our own political process. Democracy requires adequate debate and anything less is just plain wrong.

Please do not allow the Florida legislature to deprive our already underfunded public schools of needed funding. Public schools serve 75% of all students in Florida and provides millions of poor Floridians their only chance at success. Handing over public funds to private corporations, that have not proved they are better at educating children will destroy not only public schools, but school communities. Florida has already documented tens of millions of dollars lost to charter school mismanagement and fraud, with no way to recover those losses. That’s a loss to my education and to the education of every public school student.”

Since May 8, when HB7069 narrowly passed in the Florida Senate, just about every public education stakeholder has voiced serious concerns, calling on Governor Rick Scott to veto the bill. While the outcry from educators and grassroots parents has been authentic and loud, some proponents of the bill are being paid to promote it, while others stand to profit. Those opposed include the Florida Association of District Schools Superintendents, Florida School Boards Association, individual school districts, Florida Education Association, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida PTA and numerous other parent advocates across Florida.  Today, the First Amendment Foundation joined the opposition, for the bill’s utter lack of transparency and for skirting the legislative process.

As of today, even though the state’s main budget has been submitted to the Governor, House Speaker Corcoran and Senate Majority Leader Joe Negron have still not submitted HB7069. Once the Governor receives it, he will have 15 days to veto it. If he does nothing, it automatically becomes the law, even without his signature. So what’s the hold up? Here’s today’s update on the GOP’s delay tactics

A list of the worst of this bill can be found here.

We urge you strongly to send your own appeal to Rick Scott urging him to veto HB 7069.

Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Call: (850) 488-7146
E-mail the Governor

From student, Jonathan Suarez:

“When I read the bill I was shocked at how bad it actually was. I discussed it with teachers in my school and they agreed. I’m aware of the impact this will have on millions of children and those who need the most help in our society. I figured maybe I can’t do much, but I can add a student voice to help balance the voices of those who would support this bad bill.  Hopefully, the Governor will hear us.”

Jonathan’s complete letter:


Dear Governor Scott,

As a student at the School for Advanced Studies in Miami-Dade Public Schools, I took notice of the education bill passed in the Florida legislature this week: HB7069. I read the bill and discussed its effect on the future of millions of children’s education with teachers and my community.  All my teachers have voiced their fears and concerns about the bill.

My public school’s merit and accomplishments are in no small way a result of the great teachers who help shape our minds every day. Yet, many of these passionate individuals barely make a living wage and any raises are minimal. There is a severe teacher shortage in Florida and HB7069 fails to address this dire public concern. The bill expands the “Best and Brightest” bonus program, however those bonuses are determined by how teachers performed on their high school SAT/ACT exams – rather than their actual performance as teachers. The solution to dealing with the teacher shortages and concerns about their performance is to increase salaries and properly evaluate their teaching, so that more trained individuals can be confident that the teaching profession can offer them a successful career and a way to support their families. Teachers and their unions have spoken out against this bill. The legislation can claim that this is their attempt to bypass unions and reward teachers directly, but they fail to acknowledge that unions are the teachers – and they don’t support HB7069.

Next there is the issue of “Schools of Hope” – A plan to attract for-profit charter corporations from out of state to set up shop in neighborhoods with failing schools. Why would we want to send Florida tax revenue out of Florida? HB7069 would set the schools up in these areas and would provide them one hundred and forty million dollars in funding. These funds would be given to charter schools so they can construct schools, hire teachers, train teacher, and recruit students.

Why not simply use those funds to help established, but struggling public schools to pay for improvements, such as infrastructure, better funded after-school programs, new books or technology, and all at a lower cost than it would take to start a new charter school, which has profit as a goal. 

From personal experience, charter schools are NOT the solution to the problems in public education.

I attended International Studies Charter High school from sixth to tenth grade before transferring into School for Advanced Studies. During my time in this charter school, I observed the truth that arises from the fact that charter schools are businesses first. I saw teachers getting replaced by less experienced teachers after teaching for years simply because their salaries became too expensive; the cafeteria being turned into classrooms after lunch because the school wanted to bring in more students to increase profits; and the struggle my peers and I went through walking miles home because the state doesn’t require charter schools to provide transportation and, therefore, they did not, as it was viewed as an unnecessary expense. HB 7069 is supposed to offer hope to poor families, but poor families can’t afford transportation for school.

Poor families. These are the ones who will suffer the greatest harm from this bill. Millions of children throughout Florida and the United States are given opportunities through Title I funds in public schools. These programs provide structure to fragile schools that educate multitudes of children suffering from poverty. Under HB7069, the threshold for which schools will qualify for Title I funds would be lowered, which will result in many public schools receiving less money at the district level. This would result in the loss of millions of dollars to programs that offer a glimmer of hope to children living in the harshest conditions.  We, as fellow citizens, have an obligation to help provide children in need with the necessary resources to succeed in life.

Many kids fall behind in school, not because they don’t work hard, but due to homelessness, economic instability, or serious family issues. These children would either typically not be allowed into charter schools or would be dismissed because the cost of helping them to catch up threatens profits. With their schools deprived of the necessary funds to help them realize their potential, poor and struggling children will be left to go the underfunded public school, a block away from the new charter school. Starving neighborhood schools of needed resources so families see no options but charters is not a valid “choice.” That is the reality of the charter schools that would be funded by this bill: it is not about choice, it is about profit. 

The part of this bill that causes the most insecurity to me, as a student, and so many others is how little time was allowed  to properly debate and discuss this massive 278-page bill, a fact that caused Senator David Simmons – a Republican who favors most of the provisions in this bill – to vote against the bill. The process and little time given for the public and other senators to properly read the bill compromises the integrity of our own political process. Democracy requires adequate debate and anything less is just plain wrong.

Please do not allow the Florida legislature to deprive our already underfunded public schools of needed funding. Public schools serve 75% of all students in Florida and provides millions of poor Floridians their only chance at success. Handing over public funds to private corporations, that have not proved they are better at educating children will destroy not only public schools, but school communities. Florida has already documented tens of millions of dollars lost to charter school mismanagement and fraud, with no way to recover those losses. That’s a loss to my education and to the education of every public school student.

HB7069 has some merit to it. There are aspects to the bill that would offer recess to kids, but it also exempts charter schools from providing recess. Do charter operators not want recess for their students? Bright Futures funding was increased, but only for top performers. This will limit many students with learning disabilities from pursuing a college education. It should be increased for all students. Recess and Bright Futures come at the expense of every public school student, current and future.

I ask you respectfully, Governor Scott, please do justice by the students, teachers, and future children and educators of this beautiful and amazing state of ours and line item veto the parts of this bill that will hurt the future of millions of students and millions to come, or veto the bill so that legislators can start over. Florida can and must do better than this. We are counting on you.

Jonathan Suarez, Proud student
School for Advanced Studies, MDCPS
For the latest news updates on the bill, you can search #Veto7069 on Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Why EVERYONE Should Care About The 3rd Grade Retention Lawsuit


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In our last post, I shared the background and chronology of the case to date and why it’s so very important for EVERYONE to support these families in this fight:
Clearing Hurdle 1 to Protect ALL 3rd Graders

The most recent update:
April 5: Parents continue challenge of Florida’s third-grade retention law – Tampa Bay Times

Here is even greater reason to support this cause:

16 other states also practice mandatory 3rd grade retention

This 2014 link contains a table with the 50 states and their policies, showing which states still practice mandatory retention, with caveats and remedies, if any:

The states with mandatory third grade retention on the books:

Last year, Michigan joined this dubious list.

From Monty Neill, Executive Director of FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing:

This malpractice is growing while high school exit exam scores are declining.

I had never heard this about CA, so I followed a source to national conference state legislatures:

They have an interactive map in this report , so I clicked on CA. That took me to the CA law from 1998. Since then, the state has dropped the grade 2 test noted in the law and in ECS and NCSL. Beyond that, the CA law actually says that it is up to the districts to set up a retention policy and districts can choose between using grades and using state test scores. If the one used indicates retention, the child shall be retained “unless the pupil’s regular classroom teacher determines in writing that retention is not the appropriate intervention for the pupil’s academic deficiencies.”

So, CA does have a retention policy, but it is not so clear cut as those states that say it must be based on the state exam, never mind the few that provide no way for a teacher/school to get around the requirement.

If anyone wants to pursue their state (or another) listed as having a retention requirement and gather the details, please share them. (You may email Monty Neill at

Grade retention is generally a bad educational decision, made worse when done on the basis of test scores. It would be great for test resisters to regularly raise this issue and make it an important part of the fight. A few states and districts have seen some progress, from dropping some grades with test-based grade promo policies (e.g., TX) to districts pretty much removing it (e.g., NYC, in part due to new state law). OK dropped retention from “mandated” to “allowed” due to a strong battle led by an alliance of the NEA affiliate and some civil rights and parent groups.


We have met the short term fundraising goal to help the families get before the Florida Supreme Court, in order to advance their larger case. The documents are filed. There is a long road ahead. They must overturn the issue of venue before their case can even be heard in court.

If they are ultimately successful, powerful people will be unhappy. But children will be protected from harm.

So please keep giving and please keep spreading awareness of this lawsuit and fundraiser: StopGr3Retention
In a recently published longitudinal study, Dr. Kathleen Jasper tracked 23,000 students from 2003/4 to 2013/14 in a single school district in Florida.

Key points from Dr. Jasper’s study:
In a single school district over a 10 yr period COST: $587 Million
93% Remained Below Proficiency On The Grade 10 Reading FCAT
67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT.
41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.
Dr. Shane Jimerson, of the University of California – Santa Barbara is one of the most recognized experts on grade retention. He has published numerous scholarly articles related to grade retention.

Additional research and information regarding grade retention, social promotion, and effective alternatives:

Researchers, scholars, educational professionals, policymakers, and families may benefit from the research available below, recommended by Dr. Jimerson.

The following PDF files are available for you to view by clicking on the name listed below:

Synthesis of Retention Research – CSP 2001
Meta Analysis of Retention Research – SPR 2001
Characteristics & Consequences – JSP 1997
Dropout & Retention – PITS 2002
On the Failure of Failure – JSP 1999
Retention and Dropout – CSP 2002
Exploring Successful Failures – PITS 2001
Beyond Grade Retention and Social Promotion – PITS 2006

Additional reading for parents

K-2 Testing: Why Should I Opt Out?


by Sandy Stenoff

I recently received this private message from the parent of a third grader:

“My daughter is supposed to take the SAT10 next week and I was going to opt her out but I have seen that many parents allow their children to take this exam instead of the FSA. My kid is in 1st so she doesn’t take the FSA Yet. Is the SAT10 a valid and good test ? Is it high stakes for the school or teacher ? Any help would be great.”

It would be one thing if these tests were simply one diagnostic tool among many to help inform instruction – with NO stakes attached. However, because there is no mandate for state testing for K-2, these tests are being used, primarily, to evaluate teachers.

One reason children are so ceaselessly tested is that the laws created in Tallahassee have for too long been driven by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future. They are a powerful special interest group and while they control a great deal of campaign funding, they are only as powerful with our legislators as we allow them to be. The Foundation has been steadily losing credibility with legislators as year after year, they have had to “direct” testing reforms meant to “correct” prior years’ legislative reforms ad infinitum.

This is the kind of fear-based rhetoric promoted by the Foundation:

And it is baloney.

MOST concerning to parents is the fact that high stakes testing assures that districts force teaching only what is tested now, RESULTING in students NOT having the comprehensive knowledge and skills needed to successfully compete for good jobs.

As to the second statement, oft heard in schools…

If you worry about how your child will ever get into college without the SAT… DON’T.
FACT: The most elite colleges are reducing their reliance on testing for admissions criteria, because they have realized that it limits their pool of desirable applicants AND that the most reliable predictor of college success is STILL the GPA. Based on the work of FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, nearly a thousand colleges are now “test-optional.” (See more below)

I would argue these are REAL concerns for parents of young children:

  • What is my child missing while she is made to focus on testing so much?
  • Why does my child not have at least 20 minutes of daily recess?
  • Why is my child reluctant to go to school?
  • Does my child seem overly stressed or anxious about school?
  • When was the last time my child seemed to enjoy school?
  • How much “screen time” is my child getting in school?
  • What data is being collected about my child and who has access to it?

I’m just a parent. What can I do?
Some courageous legislators have been increasingly willing to stand apart from the crowd and speak out about and stand up to the powers that be. The Foundation remains powerful, because parents, as a group have remained relatively silent, making the Foundation the loudest voice in the room. The answer for parents is to join the conversation and be heard!

Write an e-mail, even a brief one to your legislator. It makes a difference.

Beyond teacher evaluations, districts have no business piling on the testing of our youngest children simply because “they have to do it some time” or because they need  a test score to evaluate teachers. There are better ways to evaluate teachers and it’s NOT the job of our youngest children to do it for the district.

While some teachers say SAT10 is a better test than the FSA, because it can provide useful data, by testing 5 -7 yr olds for “data,” are we saying that the data is valuable at any cost?

So if it is, or if it isn’t just to evaluate teachers, does it matter to you?

On principle, if you think they shouldn’t be testing your 6 yr old, you can just opt her out. There should be no consequence for students in K-2. Further, if your child does test and fails, you will be providing the data with which to remediate or retain her, even if she is proficient and is merely a poor test-taker.

Here are a few questions I’d like my district to answer:

  • What is the purpose of this testing for my 5-8 yr old child?
  • Who, or what law mandates this test for my 6 yr old child?
  • What is the consequence, if any, if she does not take this test (or any district’s progress monitoring test)?

In this case, for first grade, a district will typically say they need an assessment to drive instruction. They even call it “data-driven instruction”. Some even think this is a selling point with parents.

From “5 Doubts About Data-Driven Schools” (NPR – June 3, 2016):

“Educational transcripts, unlike credit reports or juvenile court records, are currently considered fair game for gatekeepers like colleges and employers. These records, though, are getting much more detailed. Arguably, they more closely resemble credit reports, court records or even psychological dossiers.”

Do parents want this kind of data collected about their youngest children? And more importantly, WHO has access to it AND how is it being used?

Here is something that parents can (and should) say in great numbers to their school boards:

“This district has seen fit to hire teachers, to entrust them for 180 days per year with the daily task of educating the children, who will grow up to lead our communities. As an informed parent, I believe that my child’s teacher is the trained professional, educated and experienced in pedagogy and child development.

My child’s teachers works with her daily. My child’s teacher knows my child’s strengths as well as her areas of greatest challenge. Her teacher knows this because she is constantly assessing her by spelling tests and unit tests, by reading with her, by communicating with her and simply, but no less importantly, by observing her as she goes about her daily task of “learning.” These daily classroom assessments provide immediate and arguably, more valuable feedback than can the SAT10, IOWA or any other single standardized test administered under stressful conditions. (The FSA is arguably, the most stressful test administered to 8 yr olds. Like it or not, they ALL know what is at stake for them with this test.) There is NO single test devised that can provide similarly valuable feedback to inform my child’s instruction than the daily assessments performed by my child’s teacher throughout the school year.

Just as there is NO single test devised that can provide similarly valuable feedback to inform my child’s instruction than the daily assessments performed by my child’s teacher – no single test should be used to evaluate my child’s teacher to the extent it is currently being used.

Please stop using children to conduct the district’s adult business.”

Since so little of this data is being used to actually help your child’s education, you can think of it as your child performing free labor for the data-collectors.

Parents should understand that to the districts, to the FLDOE, and to the Florida legislature, your silence (and compliance) is understood as agreement. It is your consent. If you do not agree with state and district accountability policies, it is your parental duty to say so. On the record. The high quality education you want for your child depends on you for that.

If you’re meeting with your child’s school about opting out…
Stay calm and don’t be ruffled. Most of all, at the begining of your meeting, acknowledge that they’re just doing their job and that you respect that. And while you appreciate their concern, you are the parent and are obligated to do what you believe is in your child’s best interest. Hopefully, this will help to put them more at ease so they can sincerely listen to your concerns.

It has been our experience that schools are not deliberately misleading parents. They are often simply sharing information they receive from their districts – which we have found is often inaccurate or incomplete.  Often, asked for the source of the information, schools are unable to produce it.

So ask them for it! You will often find it does not exist.

Parents can be confident that the materials we share in The Opt Out Florida Network is primarily from the Florida Statutes, from the FLDOE, or from direct communications with school districts. All have sources cited.

Parents should feel free to print out any of the materials from the opt out guide or the pocket guide, including the portfolio checklist and instructions (for 3rd grade). The materials should help to demonstrate that you are informed and are not messing around – and hopefully, you will leave the meeting with the staff being more informed as well.

From FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing:
Click on the links below for new and updated materials that parents, teachers, students and their allies can use to battle the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.

Clearing Hurdle #1 to Protect ALL 3rd Graders


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The Bottom Line Right Up Front:
Hurdle #1: We have 2 days to help raise $1200 to get the plaintiffs to the Florida Supreme Court.
 There will be other hurdles to overcome, but they have to get over this one first. The families will cross the finish line when they prevail in court, but they’ve got to get to court. And they need YOUR help to do it. If you’d like to skip right to the donate section, scroll on down to “3 ways to donate”!

Nearly a whole school year has already passed. The parents would not allow their children to be retained and the children are either in private schools or homeschooling. The families are no longer fighting to protect their own children. This fight continues for the sake of ALL current and future third graders. Prevailing in this case will also help to chip away at both the “A+ Plan” and “school grades.”

Is there any other reason why the FLDOE and the 5 districts would have 30 (yes, thirty) attorneys working on this case against a single attorney for the plaintiffs?

Below are the key issues about the 3rd Grade Retention Lawsuit and why the families are now focused on getting their case to the Florida Supreme Court

(The chronology of this lawsuit are listed below)…

62 of the 67 Florida districts DID follow the law and promoted students by alternative assessments where it was appropriate – including a teacher-portfolio meeting state guidelines. Only the 5 districts in the lawsuit (Hernando, Orange, Osceola, Pasco and Seminole) are still insisting that in order to be promoted, they must have either a passing FSA score, or another test, which is what the parents refused, as was their right, under Florida Law.

Because the DCA ruled against plaintiffs on venue, they must now either –

a) go back to each of the 5 districts to get their case heard, or
b) ask Florida Supreme Court to overturn the ruling on venue so that the case can go back to Judge Gievers Court to be heard on the merits of the case.

If the DCA’s ruling on venue is allowed to stand, the implications go much farther than education – If individuals in multiple districts have a valid complaint against state policy, they would now be made to take it up with their local courts and would be refused the efficiency of joining each case to that of other plaintiffs experiencing the same situation in other districts.

Fragmenting the plaintiffs’ case and sending them to their local districts will break the case – AND THE DEFENSE KNOWS THIS. This could result in 5 different outcomes – which might not result in systemic change.

To date, the outstanding legal bill is in excess of $60,000. The attorney is only asking for her outstanding expenses to be covered – the $7,400 – in order for the plaintiffs to progress with the case to the Supreme Court of Florida so that the case can be heard.

From the TB Times Aug 26 article following Judge Gievers’ initial ruling FOR the plaintiffs, Judge’s ruling is a blow to Florida’s third-grade testing rules

“Gievers has yet to conduct a full trial on the parents’ over-arching complaint challenging the third-grade retention law.”

Check back for updates!

It is especially notable that SO MANY educators have donated (some regularly) to this cause. No contribution is too small. You can also help by sharing this post.

There are 3 ways to donate:
2) Paypal link on
3) To avoid GoFundMe fees, you may send a check directly to the attorney for the Plaintiffs:

The Law Office of Andrea Flynn Mogensen, P.A.
200 South Washington Boulevard, Suite 7
Sarasota, FL 34236

Please note on your check: “Third Grade Florida Supreme Court” and please notify us at

Once we meet this urgent goal, please continue to give generously. There are already other hurdles (legal fees) still to clear.

Thank you VERY MUCH for your support! It is greatly appreciated.

The Chronology (click on links to articles for details):
July 18 2016: Group seeks support to fight Florida’s third-grade retention law

Tampa Bay Times: 
“”Courageous parents have refused all further testing for purposes of promotion,” according to the Opt Out Florida Network, which is supporting the effort. “They are demanding that their children be promoted based on the work they did all year long, evidenced by satisfactory report cards or actual portfolios of their children’s work (which includes tests done in school) – a more thorough and rigorous evaluation than any single test could possibly be.”

The families have talked with lawyers, and are aiming to get the courts to find the retention law unconstitutional and unenforceable.

If successful, their effort could have widespread effect. Florida’s third-grade retention law has been replicated (in various forms in 15 other states) throughout the country as other states seek to hold schools accountable for student learning.”

Aug 10 2016: The suit is filed in Leon County, where the FLDOE is located.
Aug 2016: Parents file motion for emergency injunctive relief as school year began.
Aug 12 2017: Parents have their first “day in court” – Parents sue when third-grade honors students are not promoted to fourth grade
Aug 26 2016: Favorable outcomes – Judge blasts state, local schools in 3rd-grade retention case
Aug 26 2016:  Judge’s ruling is a blow to Florida’s third-grade testing rules
Aug 29 2016: Judge rules. Plaintiffs prevail, mostly – Judge issues mixed ruling on Florida’s third-grade retention law (Judge Gievers rules overwhelmingly for plaintiffs – orders districts to promote and to use portfolios as parents requested. Says they met minimum requirements for “participation” in testing.)
Aug 29 2016: And yet… Kids who defied Florida’s third-grade testing rules hit roadblocks as they return to school
Aug 30 2017: (Districts) appeal third-grade retention ruling
Sep 2 2016: Editorial: Hernando school district loses lawsuit, punishes kids

Sep 2, 2017: ABC7 Editorial (VIDEO): “Civil disobedience is democracy’s way of saying enough is enough.”
Dec 29 2016: Florida lawmaker files bill to clarify third-grade retention rules
Jan 7, 2017: DCA agree to hear oral arguments on venue.
Feb 7, 2017: District Court of Appeals hears oral arguments – where plaintiffs’ lawyer is prevented from arguing her case, having to contend with off-topic questions and statements from the bench.
Mar 7 2017: District Court of Appeals rules against parents for FLDOE and districts on venue – only.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The DCA ruling on venue does not overturn the merits of Judge Gievers’ ruling – but parents must now seek to overturn the DCA ruling on venue in the Florida Supreme Court… or take it up with their local school districts.

Life Under Florida’s 3rd Grade Mandatory Retention Regime. Tell your stories!


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In spite of decades of reliable research that mandatory third grade retention borders on education malpractice, Florida remains one of just 14 states still practicing mandatory third grade retention as a consequence of failing a single test, even for proficient readers. Your help is needed to get this bad law off the books so that schools can more effectively meet children’s real educational needs.

At 4:00PM on Tuesday, March 21, Florida’s Senate Education Committee will workshop a series of proposed bills. Among them will be SB1280. This bill is proposed by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriquez (companion HB131, Rep. John Cortes) and would remove mandatory 3rd grade retention from Florida statutes. You can read the full text of SB1280/HB131 here.


“Mandatory Retention; Removing the requirement for mandatory retention of a third grade student based on his or her performance on the English Language Arts assessment, etc.”

Laura Jimenez, Legislative Assistant to Sen. Rodriquez is asking for input from families on how current law has impacted their children in the third grade. It is imperative that they hear from families who have been affected by mandatory third grade retention. Please share your personal stories and why you would support SB1280 to remove this punitive practice. Please send the facts of your 8-yr old children’s experience in school, under the year-long threat of mandatory retention.

We hope that educators will also share their professional input with legislators as to how this law has affected their students.

REALITY-CHECK: Parents must proactively un-stack the deck!
In the COMMITTEE MEETING EXPANDED AGENDA, there are 17 separate bills being discussed and SB1280 is the last agenda item. We anticipate that few may be allowed to give public comments. Therefore, it is IMPERATIVE that you email your personal stories to the committee this weekend. It will be interesting to see who is allowed to comment.

This is a critical request for action. It’s not just the children who face retention who are affected by this law. Mandatory 3rd Grade Retention is the muscle behind the Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan. ALL children in school today are affected by it. Do all parents understand that? 

If your child is now past the third grade, this is your opportunity to share your children’s stories of public shaming, humiliation, unnecessary retention and remediation, bullying and intimidation and most importantly, education malpractice as a result of this poor law, which does little to genuinely help children and punishes them for failing a single test.

Action must be taken by noon, Monday March 20th to give staff time to compile them to use as an introduction to SB1280 when it comes up for discussion. Plaintiffs from the Third Grade Retention Lawsuit are working on a statement to be read on their behalf, and public participation here is crucial.

Please attach any study (see links below) disputing the benefit of grade retention, such as the recently published longitudinal study conducted by Dr. Kathleen Jasper which tracked 23,000 students from 2003/4 to 2013/14 in a single school district in Florida.

Key points from Dr. Jasper’s study:
In a single school district over a 10 yr period COST: $587 Million
93% Remained Below Proficiency On The Grade 10 Reading FCAT
67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT.
41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.

Send your e-mail to Laura Jimenez and the Senate Education Committee today and ALSO give the committee a call on Monday.

Subject line:
SB1280: 3RD Grade Retention Story

Chairman Sen. Dorothy Hukill ( R )
(850) 487-5014
Vice-Chairman Sen. Debbie Mayfield ( R )
(850) 487-5017
Sen. Gary Farmer ( D )
(850) 487-5034
Sen. Bill Galvano ( R )
(850) 487-5021
Sen. Tom Lee ( R )
(850) 487-5020
Sen. David Simmons ( R )
(850) 487-5009
Sen. Wilton Simpson ( R )
(850) 487-5010
Sen. Linda Stewart ( D )
(850) 487-5013
Sen. Perry Thurston ( D )
(850) 487-5033

Please check for updates next week at The Opt Out Florida Network. We will post the link to the Florida Channel‘s Live-Streaming of this workshop and will host live discussion.

To help our elected officials to better understand the damaging effects of grade retention, below are links to notable research on the practice of third grade retention that you can share with them. You should be able to copy/paste them directly into your e-mail.

Dr. Shane Jimerson, of the University of California – Santa Barbara is one of the most recognized experts on grade retention. He has published numerous scholarly articles related to grade retention.

Additional research and information regarding grade retention, social promotion, and effective alternatives:

Researchers, scholars, educational professionals, policymakers, and families may benefit from the research available below, recommended by Dr. Jimerson.

The following PDF files are available for you to view by clicking on the name listed below:

Synthesis of Retention Research – CSP 2001
Meta Analysis of Retention Research – SPR 2001
Characteristics & Consequences – JSP 1997
Dropout & Retention – PITS 2002
On the Failure of Failure – JSP 1999
Retention and Dropout – CSP 2002
Exploring Successful Failures – PITS 2001
Beyond Grade Retention and Social Promotion – PITS 2006

Additional reading for parents


2016-2017 Opt Out Guides are here!


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They’re here, folks!

Complete Opt Out Guide for 2016-2017

Steps to Opt Out

Refusing a Paper Based Test
Refusing a Computer Based Test
What do we know about NR2 and NT codes?
Emails from FLDOE RE: NR2/NT scores

Alternative Assessment
Third Grade Resources
Test Questions Every Parent Needs To Ask
State of Florida Testing Calendar
Schedule to Transition to Computer Based Testing

Pocket Opt Out Guide for 2016-2017 – the print-and-share version of the complete guide.

Read it. Find your local group, connect with your opt out community and let’s grow this movement.

It’s hard to believe, but there are still parents out there who don’t know that they can opt out of the tests.

Knowledge is power. The more parents are informed, the more powerful we ALL can be!
Would you print just five or ten copies of this Pocket Opt Out Guide and share in your travels?

Please FOLLOW and keep checking back on this site for more info to help your kids to opt out successfully and to keep you going strong. Thank you for joining us in this fight for kids and our public schools.

All of this information may be wonderful for you, but it’s POWERFUL when it’s shared!

IMPORTANT RESOURCES to keep you informed. SHARE.
* Comprehensive 2016-2017 Opt Out Guide:
* Pocket Opt Out Guide 2016-2017:
* Opt Out Third Grade 101:
* Navigating Gr 3 Retention Threat:
* VIDEO How To Opt Out of Computer Test:
* What Does This Bully Letter Really Mean?:
* It’s going to be Oh-Kaaayyy. Really:
* Special Opt Out group for Third Grade here:
* Find your local Opt Out group:
* 8 Yr Old Talks Test Prep:

Remember… if this was easy, it wouldn’t be called a struggle.

Kathleen Jasper, EdD: Why we should IMMEDIATELY stop retaining 3rd graders


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by Sandy Stenoff

This week, Educator Kathleen Jasper, Ed.D. published her doctoral dissertation for Florida Gulf Coast University, “THE EFFECTS OF MANDATED THIRD GRADE RETENTION ON STANDARD DIPLOMA ACQUISITION AND STUDENT OUTCOMES: A POLICY ANALYSIS OF FLORIDA’S A+ PLAN” adding credibility to what many experts have stated for decades – that third grade retention does not work, is harmful to children and is a financial burden, both on the victims of Florida’s failed accountability system, as well as on this state.

Jasper’s dissertation is an indictment of Jeb Bush’s hallmark education legislation, “Florida’s A+ Plan”, which has become the fulcrum about which Florida’s convoluted accountability system pivots. The Big Daddy of high stakes – school grades – rests on the state’s authority to retain third grade children in order to artificially bolster test scores in the 4th grade. Even if retained children, in the short-term, are shown to perform better on testing in the 4th grade, the data show that the benefits diminish over the long-term. By the numbers – this research shows that children retained in the third grade ultimately fare worse throughout their education and even later on in life.

School grades holds sway over teachers’ livelihoods and professional ethics. They hold public education hostage by the state’s preferred tools of educational torture for teachers and children alike – rigid pacing guides, scripted curricula (test prep) and the almighty test. Under the state’s thumb of school grades, the districts’ moral duty to the real education of young children may be crushed. Collateral damage.

In the protection racket called “school grades”, the heaviest weapon in the reformsters’ arsenal is the reality that is Third Grade Retention.

The FLDOE consistently cites one study (Green and Winters, 2006). Kathleen Jasper’s study shows that the Greene and Winters study did not go far enough, and that in the end, Greene inflated the success of the A+ Plan.

Following last week’s celebrated rhetoric in Tallahassee, if legislators really want meaningful accountability and value their reputations and credibility,  they CANNOT ignore these important findings. They must acknowledge the implications of their decisions on the lives of children as we proceed through the current legislative session.

These research findings should be shared with every parent, public school teacher, policy-maker and legislator in Florida and beyond.

Kathleen Jasper’s executive summary is shared here with permission:

3rd Grade Retentions
In 2003-2004, across Florida, over 23,000 3rd grade students were retained in accordance with the retention mandate in Florida’s A+ Plan. In some Miami—Dade Public Schools, 50% of third graders were retained.

Did students catch up?
In a study of third graders in Southwest Florida, 93% of the retained group in the study remained below a level 3 on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. In addition, 67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. Further, 41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.

What did it cost?
Between 2003-2013, it cost Florida tax payers approximately $587 million FTE funding for the retained students.

Standard Diploma Acquisition
The non-retained group were 14.7% more likely to graduate with a standard diploma than the retained group.

Retention Demographics
Approximately 6% of white students were retained while 20% of nonwhite students were retained. Of the students retained in 2003-2004, 69.8% were on free or reduced price lunch.

There was a statistically significant difference between retained students and non- retained students regarding Grade 10 Reading FCAT mean scale scores (.000). There was also a statistically significant difference between ethnicity and Grade 10 Reading FCAT scores (.003).


1. How did state-mandated third grade retention policies, under the A+ Plan, impact standard diploma acquisition in retained students as compared to academically similar non-retained students?

✦ Students who were not retained were 14.7% more likely to receive a standard high school diploma. How did the retained group compare to the similar non-retained group on the Grade 10 FCAT Reading?

2. How did the retained group compare to the similar non-retained group on the Grade 10 FCAT Reading?
✦ Both groups had difficulty catching up. In the retained group, 93% remained below proficient into their 10th grade year. In the non-retained group, 85.8% remained below proficient.

3.How did socioeconomic status and ethnicity impact retention rates of certain groups?
✦ Students of color and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to be retained than white students and students who were not from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

4. Based on the data, what was extrapolated, in terms of economic outcomes, when evaluating consequences of students who were unable to acquire a standard high school diploma as a result of the A+ Plan?
✦ The district spent $587 million on FTE for retentions between 2003-2013.
✦ The total difference in combined loss in earnings was approximately $141 million per year.

Summary of the Research
In a study of first, third, and sixth graders, researchers asked students to rate a list of 20 stressful life events based on level. Researchers found students, across grade levels, rated the top three stressful life events in this order: losing a parent, going blind, and being retained in school (Anderson, Jimerson, and Whipple 2005; Andrew, 2014). Sixth grade students rated grade retention as the most stressful life event, rating retention more stressful than losing a parent or going blind. (Anderson, Jimerson, and Whipple 2005).

Researchers in other studies found students who were retained faced difficulty in catching up to their peers, achieving academically, and obtaining a high school diploma (Anderson, Jimerson, & Whipple, 2005; Andrew, 2014; Fine & Davis, 2003; Jimerson, 1999; Moser, West & Hughes, 2012; Nagaoka, 2005; and Ou & Reynolds, 2010).

However, in 2003-2004 approximately 23,000 third graders were retained in Florida under the third grade retention mandate outlined in the A+ Plan. This was an effort to increase student achievement by increasing the use of accountability measures.

The current study includes an examination of educational outcomes of students retained in a large southwest Florida school district under the A+ Plan in 2003-2004. Researchers used a match control group, consisting of similarly non-retained students, who scored at level one on the Grade 3 Reading FCAT. The control group was compared to the retained group. Also compared were student achievement levels on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT of the retained and non-retained group. This provided longitudinal data to examine whether or not students who were retained increased their reading achievement over time.

Longitudinal data was evaluated for both the retained and non- retained students. Researchers found 93% of the retained students continued to score below proficiency (below a level 3) seven years after retention on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT as compared with the 85.8% of the non-retained students. See chart below.

Grade 10 Reading FCAT Scores: 7 Years after Retention

Economic Outcomes
Economic outcomes were extrapolated using the data from this study and the data from previous economic studies. If the averages used in this study were applied to the 23,348 retained students in 2003-2004, 41% of the 23,348, did not graduate with a standard diploma; approximately 13,730 did not receive a standard high school diploma. These students’ failure to receive a standard diploma resulted in loss of wages. After evaluating the 13,730 who did not receive a standard diploma and using the 2010 U.S. Census employment by education level data, researchers found Florida students earned 33% less than they would have if they had obtained a high school diploma. The total difference in total combined loss in earnings was approximately $141 million per year.



If you would like to read the executive summary or the full study, click the titles below:

Executive summary (Short Version) 


Kathleen Jasper, Ed.D. has been an educator for over 10 years. Starting as a high school classroom teacher (Biology, Reading and English), she later became a curriculum specialist, working on academic plans, professional development and assessment. In 2011, she became an assistant principal at Estero High School in Lee County. She began her doctoral work at that time and resigned from the district to do research and work on policy-making in order to effect greater change in the public school system. Currently, she is an adjunct professor in the College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is also the founder and CEO of NavaED, an education consulting company. 

Kathleen’s Certifications: Elementary Eduction, Biology 6-12, English 6-12, Reading, ESOL, Educational Leadership

Kathleen Jasper Ed.D. | CEO – NavaED
@KathleenJasper | 

1/7/17 UPDATE – 3rd Grade Lawsuit


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In a Dec 28 update from Andrea Mogensen, Attorney for the plaintiffs:

“Oral argument has been granted. It is scheduled for February 7th at 9 a.m. in the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee. Not every case that’s up on appeal is granted oral argument. This case, I am sure, was granted an argument because of its importance.

This is good news, because the case is being giving the weight it deserves.

Most appeals are decided just on the briefs that are submitted. Oral argument is where the attorneys appear and are questioned by Justices of the District Court of Appeals. Judges don’t necessarily ask questions but each party will be given 30 mins to present their argument.

The court will not make its decision at the hearing. It will make its decision in writing sometime thereafter, and there is no way to tell how long it will take after the oral argument is heard for the high court to rule. However, for oral argument this is being set rather quickly.

These court proceedings will be open to the public and will be streamed live on the Florida Channel.”

It will also be streamed live at The First District Court of Appeal’s website.



With the exception of Andrea Mogensen, who represents the plaintiffs, the rest of the names on the list above represent the THIRTY-ONE (yes, 31) attorneys for the FLDOE and the five school districts defending this lawsuit – Hernando, Pasco, Orange, Osceola and Seminole.

Everyone should be asking – What is the cost to taxpayers for the state and districts to fight a judge’s lawful court order?

Things have been quiet as we have all waited for the suit to proceed. We remain especially grateful to the plaintiff families and their attorneys still embroiled in this lawsuit, fighting mandatory retention in Hernando, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Pasco Counties.

In this Florida Channel video – 12/7/16 House “Legislator University” Training: An Overview of School Accountability at about the 25:30 mark, Florida House Rep. Wengay Newton asks for confirmation that all the children retained had been promoted. The correct answer, Sir, is NO, they have not. Since Judge Gievers’ ruling on September 26, only the children from Sarasota and Broward Counties were promoted when their families agreed to withdraw from the suit.

So where are the children?

From August through November, one child from Seminole County, gifted and documented as reading above the 7th grade level LAST YEAR, was forced to repeat the 3rd grade in Seminole County. She is now enrolled in a private school. So that they would not be subjected to the psychological and emotional harm of having to repeat a year of 3rd grade work unnecessarily, the rest of the children are now all being either homeschooled, or enrolled in private schools at considerable expense.

We eagerly await the ruling of the Appellate Court so that the lawsuit can proceed in earnest. We remain hopeful for systemic change.

In the meantime, please continue to support the effort to make #180DaysCount with your generous donation to the legal fund:

Recommended reading: 
Tampa Bay Times – 12/29/16:
Florida lawmaker files bill to clarify third-grade retention rules

Previous updates:

In Peace and Solidarity, with Gratitude


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Festive Christmas Card With Chalkboard, Red Gifts Or Presents, Christmas Balls, Snowflakes And Candles. Christmas Decoration With Rustic, Vintage Brown Wooden Background. English Text Thank You

The holiday season is a time for giving, for sharing and for reflection.

Please join us in acknowledging the MANY volunteers – parents AND teachers – who give of themselves all year long, sacrificing precious time with their families in order to help the public to understand the truth about their rights and options regarding testing in Florida.

The Opt Out Florida Network is ALL of these people – from 35 local Opt Out groups all over this state – who stay up night after night after their kids (and significant others) are fast asleep, or after grading papers and planning lessons – reading emails and messages from parents, researching local and national news articles, DOE documents, and state statutes, even reviewing videos of the state legislature and so much more – in order to provide the factual, documented and verifiable information needed to stand up to poor enforcement of policies in OUR public schools.

Group administrators lead the way in their communities by moderating discussions in local opt out groups, by sharing information both to and from the district, and by showing up and speaking at Florida Board of Education meetings and local school board meetings. They work with their local teachers’ unions to support teachers by  demystifying school district propaganda to teachers about the opt out movement. In other words, they help others to find their voice so that they, too, may speak truth to power.

We are parents, students, teachers and former teachers, who share many different perspectives – from different backgrounds, different religions, different customs, different beliefs, and different political persuasions – but we all fight for the same thing – to return our public schools to places of real teaching and learning, where classrooms can be filled with wonder and curiosity and amazing questions – instead of training children how to succeed on a test.

So what do we have to be grateful for?

The most important growth and change that anyone can experience usually comes out of our most challenging times. It’s easy to be angry and resentful of any harm to our children as a result of poorly implemented policies. It’s harder to keep the bigger picture in mind when we want immediate relief for our children and it isn’t forthcoming. But many of us would admit that were it not for a particular misfortune that befell our children, we would still be blissfully ignorant, even accepting – of testing, of test prep that has taken over our children’s school experience, of poor placement, of promotions denied, and on and on.

Being informed can be hard… It’s not easy being “woke.” But it’s far better to be informed, or else we could not call out the monsters by name.  We can be grateful that our eyes have been opened to the truth, as distasteful as it is, so that we can fight it. We can be grateful that there are others like us, here and across this country who have joined their voices with ours to fight to stop the testing monster. And we can be grateful for a community of activists, who gather to share experiences and information with the hope that no child will continue to suffer the same.

Although things have been quiet, we remain especially grateful to the plaintiff families and their attorneys still embroiled in the 3rd Grade lawsuit, fighting mandatory retention in Hernando, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Pasco Counties. The FLDOE and the various districts have an army of 25+ attorneys to defend this lawsuit. It bears repeating that as of last September, only the families who agreed to withdraw from the suit have had their children promoted – contrary to what a FLBOE member recently said in a public meeting.

We eagerly await the ruling of the Appellate Court so that the lawsuit can continue in earnest. We remain hopeful for systemic change.

In peace and solidarity, with gratitude to each of you, who ARE The Opt Out Florida Network.

Courage Is Not Required for Seminole Board To Do The Right Thing


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by Sandy Stenoff

At the last Seminole County School Board meeting, parents and teachers provided input about the Third Grade lawsuit, involving Seminole County students. After Jodi Parham read for Rhonda Nickerson (at 58:00), the board stated (at 1:01:35) that they would typically not accept public comments about pending litigation. The attorney for SCPS provided a brief update on the lawsuit to the board (at 1:02:05).

My speech was cut short (Video from 1:04:15 to 1:06:58).

The next day, I sent my complete address, with references, to the board to be entered into the record:

Dear Drs. Calderone and Griffin, 
Thank you for the opportunity to address you yesterday evening.  Had I been permitted to complete my statement, this is what I would have shared with you. While I do understand that the district may not be able to comment publicly on pending litigation, I would put forth, respectfully, that the public certainly has the right to provide comment – of course, with no expectation that the board would respond publicly. I sincerely hope that you will give this serious consideration. Other districts have successfully worked with parents in the lawsuit. 

I appreciate that this will be added to the record of yesterday’s meeting. Thank you for your consideration.

Sandy Stenoff


I’m here today, because of two proficient children from Seminole in the lawsuit, who are still officially retained in the third grade simply because they have no test score, against the Judge’s order and against Florida education statutes.

The parents requested early in the school year to have a portfolio compiled, as the law allows. The state statute as well as numerous publications from the DOE state:

“A parent of a student in grade 3 who is identified anytime during the school year as being at risk of retention may request that the school immediately begin collecting evidence for the portfolio.”

They were denied.

I believe there must be a disconnect in the district’s understanding of what a portfolio is. State statute, FLDOE TAP reports and Just Read Florida state that “Portfolio Evidence is to include multiple choice items.”

Nowhere does it say that a portfolio must be made up exclusively of multiple choice test items.  A real portfolio, which meets the state guidelines, as Sarina Nickerson’s portfolio does, is without question, a more through and rigorous measure of her teacher’s and this district’s accountability than any single test.  It should be held up as an example for all. Instead, it is dismissed, as was this student’s educational rights.

Currently, Sarina must be homeschooled for her own protection from the actions of this district.  Fortunately for her, her family is able to do this. Camryn Weaver is not so lucky. She is gifted, and reads above the 6th grade level. She is in 4th grade math, but 3rd grade for everything else. The law dictates strict parameters for how a retained student must be remediated. If that were happening for Camryn Weaver, she would not be repeating third grade work right now. That she is in 4th grade math tells me that the district has the authority to be flexible. It was also the district’s legal option to place her in a 4th grade class, pending a mid year promotion, but that is not happening either (See References – Attached is an e-mail excerpt from the FLDOE to Senator Darren Soto attesting that this is an acceptable course of action).

Her mother tells me that Camryn now says things like, “I’m just stupid.” (I did not state this at the meeting, as Camryn was in the audience, but it is what she now says, where she never did before.)What have we become when children need protection from public education?

I have watched every minute of the 9-hour evidentiary hearing and I have read Judge Gievers’ 53-page ruling numerous times.  In a nutshell, the judge’s ruling overwhelmingly found for the plaintiffs – the main points being:

– That they had the right to request a teacher-compiled portfolio over one based on tests – Page 19 Item 32 *

– Promotion is not to be based solely on a test or tests. Page 13, Item 18 **

– Districts are ordered to stop refusing to allow a portfolio Page 14, Item 19 ***

And finally, regarding the automatic stay as a result of the district appealing the venue, from the Tampa Bay Times – Sept 13:

Judge Gievers:

“To the extent that the evidence and law warranted the provision of injunctive relief as to the State Education Defendants and the School Board of Hernando County, the automatic stay of the order as to the challenged injunctive relief *does not authorize the Defendants to ignore the mandatory provisions of the statutes in question*.”

Research consistently shows that students are better off being promoted and provided the intervention and support they need. The short term gains in improved test scores in the 4th grade, are outstripped by the long-term harm of retention. I ask you to consider this for each child as you go forward. By law, retention decisions are never supposed to be made on the sole basis of a test score, but that is exactly what has happened to these children. Parents are supposed to be included in these decisions. If the children are simply collateral damage, please ask yourselves, To what end?

I have met with some of you personally and I believe you when you say that, as a district, you put children and teachers first. You have said that your hands were tied because you were obligated to follow the law. The Judge’s court order has untied them now.  Just a year and a half ago, when the law about minimal participation was unclear, you led the way with your courageous decisions to treat children ethically and with respect (here and here). Districts across the state followed your lead. The law is clear now. Courage is not required, only the will to do right by these children.

Please restore our trust that this district puts children first.

It isn’t part of the educator’s creed to “First do no harm”, but it should be.

I will leave you with this quote from over 2,400 years ago by Aristotle:
“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”


10/22/16 – Ft Lauderdale Sun Times
Broward promotes twins who opted out of state test
08/11/16 Sarsota Herald Tribune
Sarasota School District relents, advances 3rd grade student

Judge Gievers’ 53-page ruling from Aug 26 2016:

* Page 19, Item 32 The Plaintiff may pursue administrative proceedings regarding her preference for a teacher-compiled portfolio based on school work completed in the year to one based on standards assessment testing, if she wishes.

** Page 13, Item 18 The School Board and State Education Defendants had no right to ignore the legislatively adopted portfolio option. No statute limits promotion to grade 4 solely to tests; the Legislature has made clear that the portfolio option is an alternate option that is still available to all of Florida’s children. Section 1008.25(5}, Florida Statutes.

*** Page 14, Item 19 Accordingly, the Hernando County School Board is ORDERED to immediately refrain from further actions contrary to the availability of the portfolio option, and is ORDERED to immediately provide the portfolio option, at minimum, to any parent who has requested one or who requests one going forward.

Pages 5-6:


B-1. Why would a teacher use a student portfolio?
Section 1008.25(6)(b)4., F.S., states that a student who scores a Level 1 on the grade 3 statewide FSA-ELA may be promoted to fourth grade if the student demonstrates through a student portfolio that the student is performing at least at Level 2 on the statewide standardized assessment.

B-2. When should the teacher and students begin the third-grade student portfolio?
A parent of a student in grade 3 who is identified anytime during the school year as being at risk of retention may request that the school immediately begin collecting evidence for the portfolio.

B-3.  Are there guidelines provided by the state for the third-grade student portfolio?
Yes. As provided in the updated Rule 6A-1.094221, F.A.C., to be accepted as meeting the portfolio option for demonstrating mastery of the required reading skills, the student portfolio must:

•Be selected by the student’s teacher;
•Be an accurate picture of the student’s ability and only include student work that has been independently produced in the classroom;
•Include evidence that the standards assessed by the grade 3 statewide English Language Arts assessment have been met. Evidence is to include multiple choice items and passages that are approximately 60 percent literary text and 40 percent information text that are between 100-700 words with an average of 500 words. Such evidence could include chapter or unit tests from the district’s/school’s adopted core reading curriculum that are aligned with the Language Arts Florida Standards or teacher-prepared assessments;
•Be an organized collection of evidence of the student’s mastery of the Language Arts Florida Standards that are assessed by the grade 3 statewide English Language Arts assessment. For each standard, there must be at least three examples of mastery as demonstrated by a grade of 70 percent or above on each example; and
•Be signed by the teacher and the principal as an accurate assessment of the required reading skills. Additionally, note that the Just Read, Florida! Office has begun creating an updated Third- Grade State Portfolio.

B-4.  Do the same portfolio guidelines apply to ESE students?
Yes. The state portfolio guidelines apply to all students, including ESE students.

B-5.  Is the student portfolio the only tool used for good cause exemption and/or promoting a third-grade student to fourth grade in the middle of the year?
No. The student portfolio and an alternative assessment are the two state-approved options for good cause exemption and mid-year promotion. The student must be offered both options. However, the student must only demonstrate proficiency on one of the options in order to receive a good cause exemption or be promoted midyear.

B-6.  If a teacher is monitoring the progress of a student, is a portfolio needed?
Yes. A portfolio provides ongoing information on how a student is performing on tested benchmarks. There are specific requirements of necessary elements that must be included in a portfolio used for promotion (please refer to question B-3 of this document for the requirements). If a teacher chooses to follow the rigor of the state portfolio requirements, a portfolio may be used for progress monitoring as well as promotion.


Excerpt of e-mail from Suzan Shaw at FLDOE to Senator Darren Soto – July 12, 2016
asserting that 4th grade placement with mid-year promotion is an allowable option.

Page 10:

E-3.  Can a third-grade student, potentially eligible for mid-year promotion, be placed in a fourth-grade classroom and then promoted after demonstrating proficiency on the portfolio or an alternative assessment?
Districts need to meet the individual needs of students. This can be achieved through implementing creative multi-age grouping or a transitional-classroom setting.

E-4.  Why would a decision be made about a student’s placement during the first semester of the academic year?
Students should be promoted midyear or as soon as possible so they receive essential fourth- grade instruction. For example, if a student has attended a Summer Reading Camp and demonstrated mastery of all benchmarks but one, the student could show proficiency in the deficit benchmark and then be promoted to fourth grade. Any student meeting specified state requirements may be promoted midyear.

E-5.  How many samples of proficiency are required for each benchmark in order for a student to be promoted midyear?
In any given school year, a student must have three examples of each benchmark successfully completed on the third-grade level, with a score of 70 percent or above on each example, in order to be promoted midyear. Rule 6A-1.094222, F.A.C. 

Failing to implement a mid-year promotion, will the district adhere to the letter of the law here (below), as it pertains to students retained without any documented reading deficiency? And – Is this happening for ALL students who have been retained?

F.S. 1008.25(7)

(a) Students retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) must be provided intensive interventions in reading to ameliorate the student’s specific reading deficiency, as identified by a valid and reliable diagnostic assessment. This intensive intervention must include effective instructional strategies, participation in the school district’s summer reading camp, and appropriate teaching methodologies necessary to assist those students in becoming successful readers, able to read at or above grade level, and ready for promotion to the next grade. (Camryn Weaver has no reading deficiency. Wekiva Elementary has already demonstarted that she reads at near 7th grade level)

(b) Each school district shall:

1. Provide third grade students who are retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) with intensive instructional services and supports to remediate the identified areas of reading deficiency, including participation in the school district’s summer reading camp as required under paragraph (a) and a minimum of 90 minutes of daily, uninterrupted, scientifically research-based reading instruction which includes phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension and other strategies prescribed by the school district, which may include, but are not limited to:
a. Integration of science and social studies content within the 90-minute block.
b. Small group instruction.
c. Reduced teacher-student ratios.
d. More frequent progress monitoring.
e. Tutoring or mentoring.
f. Transition classes containing 3rd and 4th grade students.
g. Extended school day, week, or year.

2. Provide written notification to the parent of a student who is retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) that his or her child has not met the proficiency level required for promotion and the reasons the child is not eligible for a good cause exemption as provided in paragraph (6)(b). The notification must comply with the provisions of s. 1002.20(15) and must include a description of proposed interventions and supports that will be provided to the child to remediate the identified areas of reading deficiency.

3. Implement a policy for the midyear promotion of a student retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) who can demonstrate that he or she is a successful and independent reader and performing at or above grade level in reading or, upon implementation of English Language Arts assessments, performing at or above grade level in English Language Arts. Tools that school districts may use in reevaluating a student retained may include subsequent assessments, alternative assessments, and portfolio reviews, in accordance with rules of the State Board of Education. Students promoted during the school year after November 1 must demonstrate proficiency levels in reading equivalent to the level necessary for the beginning of grade 4. The rules adopted by the State Board of Education must include standards that provide a reasonable expectation that the student’s progress is sufficient to master appropriate grade 4 level reading skills.

4. Provide students who are retained under the provisions of paragraph (5)(b) with a highly effective teacher as determined by the teacher’s performance evaluation under s. 1012.34.

5. Establish at each school, when applicable, an Intensive Acceleration Class for retained grade 3 students who subsequently score Level 1 on the required statewide, standardized assessment identified in s. 1008.22. The focus of the Intensive Acceleration Class shall be to increase a child’s reading and English Language Arts skill level at least two grade levels in 1 school year. (In order to be in compliance, the district would have to expect Camryn Weaver to achieve reading at the 8th grade level by year end.)

The Intensive Acceleration Class shall:

a. Be provided to a student in grade 3 who scores Level 1 on the statewide, standardized English Language Arts assessment and who was retained in grade 3 the prior year because of scoring Level 1.
b. Have a reduced teacher-student ratio.
c. Provide uninterrupted reading instruction for the majority of student contact time each day and incorporate opportunities to master the grade 4 Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in other core subject areas.
d. Use a reading program that is scientifically research-based and has proven results in accelerating student reading achievement within the same school year.
e. Provide intensive language and vocabulary instruction using a scientifically research-based program, including use of a speech-language therapist.

SCPS FSA Q & A 022515 (2014-2015)
State portfolio guidelines are clearly outlined here as well.