Graduation-Standards Bill Signed Into Law in Florida

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Members of Florida's Class of 2000 will need a C average and a passing grade in algebra to earn a high school diploma under a bill Gov. Lawton Chiles signed into law last week.

"A Florida high school diploma should be a mark of excellence--not a certificate of attendance," the Democratic governor said after signing the education-standards legislation.

The measure received broad, bipartisan support from the legislature last month and was hand-delivered to Gov. Chiles by Republican lawmakers, with a string of reporters in tow, a few hours after its passage March 27.

In addition to setting the minimum threshold for graduation at a C average and requiring graduates to have completed Algebra I or its equivalent, the legislation raises the points required to earn that average from 75 to 77 on a 100-point scale.

Promise Fulfilled

The new law also increases the required average for students who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities to a C--up from a D-plus. And it requires schools to provide extra instruction for students who show deficiency in reading skills in grades 2-4.

The legislation responds to recent studies showing that many of the state's high school graduates have not mastered reading, writing, and math skills. For several years, Florida colleges have lamented spending millions of dollars on remedial courses, while businesses have complained that job applicants lacked basic skills.

The legislature passed a similar graduation-standards bill on the closing day of last year's legislative session, but Gov. Chiles vetoed it because of a provision allowing student-led prayer at school events.

This year, dubbed by Republican leaders the "year of education," lawmakers came back determined to pass another standards bill. The governor opened the session with a promise to sign a "clean bill"--one without a prayer provision attached. ("Fla. Lawmakers at Odds Over Tax Plan for Schools," March 19, 1997.)

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