TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, the Florida Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee passed Senate Bill 1714, sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes, which would support pilot programs in selected Florida schools for the implementation of a new education model better designed to meet the individual needs of students. These competency-based education pilot programs would include public schools in Lake and Pinellas Counties and the P.K Yonge Developmental Research School at University of Florida.

In this new model, students advance to higher levels of learning when they demonstrate mastery of concepts and skills regardless of time, place or pace.

“The work that Pinellas and Lake County school districts are doing is transformational,” said Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future. “They are building education models that are truly centered on the students. The student learning goal is the same, but by allowing students to progress when they have mastered the material, time is the variable and learning is the constant. This flexible pace and customization to the needs of the individual student is the model we should aspire to for all of our students.”

Florida’s Lake and Pinellas County School Districts as well as the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School have already begun working on competency-based education projects – Senate Bill 1714 supports pilot programs to address certain policy barriers that could potentially impact the implementation of a competency-based and personalized-learning education system. These programs will allow Florida to see firsthand how such a system would be implemented, and will help identify opportunities and challenges to inform policymakers as they look to implement this statewide in the future.

“A competency-based system liberates educators to design courses, schedules and staffing configurations that best meet their students’ individual needs,” said Kathy Halbig, coordinator of Personalized Learning for Students for Lake County Schools. “Educators are empowered to be innovative and nimble. Free from existing—and often times outdated— policies, teachers can maximize more of the day and even utilize extended learning opportunities. This can free up needed resources for the students who are struggling the most.”

There is a national conversation underway about how the traditional education system is no longer matched to demands of the modern workforce. Florida, Idaho and Ohio are states where strategic activities to implement competency-based education are underway. In Florida, Pinellas County Schools’ “Pathways to Personalized Learning” plan aims to implement personalized learning programs in all of its schools. Its target expands from 1-percent of its students in 2015, beginning with five high schools, to 25-percent by 2020, with 11 high, 8 middle, and 4 elementary schools.

“Competency-based education represents a shift from the current school-centered system to one that is more student-centered,” said Rita Vasquez, director of high school education, Pinellas County Schools. “This new model of learning will look different in a 100-student school in rural Florida versus a 1,000-student high school in a metropolitan area. And that’s alright.”

A companion bill, House Bill 1365, has been filed by Representative Ray Rodrigues. For more information on student-centered policies, visit www.afloridapromise.org.