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Published in St. Petersburg Times

To the editor

Your May 9 editorial, Political Demotion, correctly noted student performance in Florida is rising. However, it misstated facts related to the issue of social promotion in our school system.

The FCAT is a standardized achievement test. As such, it cannot "decide" to retain students. It is, however, the best tool we have to measure basic skill proficiency and identify students who may need help.

Educators in local schools interpret the data to determine which students are not prepared to succeed in the next grade level. The primary difference this year is, in order to promote a child who did poorly on the FCAT, educators must demonstrate (through another method) the student has mastered the skills in question.

We understand behind every test score is an individual child with unique circumstances and requirements. Some will achieve with a little extra attention and others gain ground through different teaching methods. Some will benefit from extra time in their current grade. Florida educators have known for years that the end of social promotion was near. In preparation, we have provided annual funds to support their remedial efforts. Most schools have used these funds wisely; others will now have to.

The tragic legacy of social promotion in Florida is clear. More than 13,000 high school seniors failed six attempts to pass a test measuring 10th grade competency. The options outlined by Education Commissioner Jim Horne indicate our open-ended support of those who wish to overcome this obstacle and strive for better opportunities.

Rising test scores in Florida mean more than lines going the right direction on a graph, validating our education reforms. They mean more children in Florida are learning.

Jeb Bush, Florida Governor

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