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Manatee County School District holds to requiring test score for college-level courses

Superintendent Diana Greene and Manatee County School Board member Dave Miner listen to Amy Lee as she addresses the student progression plan during public comments at a workshop Monday at the School Support Center in Bradenton.
Superintendent Diana Greene and Manatee County School Board member Dave Miner listen to Amy Lee as she addresses the student progression plan during public comments at a workshop Monday at the School Support Center in Bradenton. gjefferies@bradenton.com

Manatee County high students who want to take a college-level course will still be required to show some type of standardized test score before being able to enroll in the course, despite an outcry from some parents in the community.

During a workshop on Monday, the Manatee County School Board continued to discuss proposed changes to the district’s student progression plan, which outlines how students are to move from one grade level to the next. The board also heard proposed changes to the Code of Student Code, which outlines how students should behave in school.

The discussion regarding the proposed changes to the Student Progression Plan began during a workshop last week and spilled over to this week. After parent requests, and board discussion, the proposed changes were edited to give parents and principals more discretion over whether students are placed in remediation courses for have low scores on the state-administered FSA exams.

Parents in Manatee and across the state have voiced opposition to the state tests, which were administered for the second time this year. Parents also chose to opt their children out of taking the tests, as an act of defiance to the state. But that has led to some unintended consequences, including how to place students into AP, IB or AICE courses in high school if they don’t have a test score.

“There has to be a minimal test score in place in order for you to go to college,” Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Cynthia Saunders said during the workshop.

In Manatee County, a 3.0 GPA and a Level 3 or higher on the state FSA would allow the student to enroll in one of the college-level courses. The district also allows students to use scores from the SAT, ACT or PERT exam that are equivalent to a Level 3 or higher on the FSA to take the courses.

Parents were hoping the district would allow the principal to have more discretion in the process, especially for students who have refused to take the FSA and may not have taken one of the equivalent tests yet.

“I’m asking the board to consider some other options,” parent Amy Lee said, pointing to other school districts, like St. John’s County, that use other criteria to place students in the college-level courses.

Board members did not object to using the GPA and one of the standardized test scores. The board is set to vote on the student progression plan changes at the July 26 meeting.

A student who refuses to be searched by a school administrator who reasonably suspects the student may be carrying an unauthorized or illegal item may be subject to the same punishment as a student who was found carrying the unauthorized or illegal item, according to updates provided to the board.

Skip Wilhoit, an intervention specialist for the school district, said that was put in place to make sure school administrators had some kind of enforcement mechanism. If students refuse a search, they may be able to dump the unauthorized or illegal item they were carrying.

Board member John Colon objected to the change.

“I don’t give up my constitutional rights because I’m a student,” Colon said.

Wilhoit said asking students who an administrator reasonably suspected to be violating school policy to empty their pockets or take off their shoes wasn’t out of the question. Wilhoit also pointed out that students who refused to be searched are not guaranteed to face punishment, but it created flexibility for administrators.

The school board took no final action of the proposed changes to the code of conduct.

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney

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