Mastery-based learning proposal fails in Florida Legislature

Bills expanding a state initiative to help students learn at their own pace fell by the wayside late in Florida’s legislative session.

The House approved its version of the “mastery-based learning” bill. But Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was stymied in multiple attempts to advance the proposal in the Senate.

In a last-ditch effort, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, attached a version of the proposal to SB 88 — a bill creating a high school financial literacy course. The amendment also would have made the financial literacy course optional, watering down a longtime priority of Senate Education Chairman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange.

Late Friday, the Senate voted to reject the amendment and send it back to the House.

The bill went back to the House but was not taken up before the session ended at midnight.

The legislation would have opened a personalized learning pilot program to every district in the state. It would also have given participating school districts more flexibility to award course credit based on students’ mastery of the content, rather than the number of instructional hours.

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, sponsored HB 1035 in the House. She said she wanted to promote mastery-based learning in public schools, and that instruction should cater to individual students’ needs.

Brandes filed similar legislation. But the Senate Education Committee did not hear it during the final weeks of the session. Brandes has called personalized learning the next step in the evolution of education.

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