2004 Florida Statutes
The Middle Grades Reform Act.
(1) POPULAR NAME.--This section shall be known by the popular name the "Middle Grades Reform Act."
(2) PURPOSE AND INTENT.--The purpose of this section is to provide added focus and rigor to academics in the middle grades. Using reading as the foundation, all middle grade students should receive rigorous academic instruction through challenging curricula delivered by highly qualified teachers in schools with outstanding leadership, which schools are supported by engaged and informed parents. It is the intent of the Legislature that students promoted from the eighth grade will be ready for success in high school.
(3) DEFINITION.--As used in this section, the term "middle grades" means grades 6, 7, and 8.
(4) CURRICULA AND COURSES.--The Department of Education shall review course offerings, teacher qualifications, instructional materials, and teaching practices used in reading and language arts programs in the middle grades. The department must consult with the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University, the Just Read, Florida! Office, reading researchers, reading specialists, and district supervisors of curriculum in the development of findings and recommendations. The Commissioner of Education shall make recommendations to the State Board of Education regarding changes to reading and language arts curricula in the middle grades based on research-based proven effective programs. The State Board of Education shall adopt rules based upon the commissioner's recommendations no later than March 1, 2005. Implementation of new or revised reading and language arts courses in all middle grades shall be phased in beginning no later than the 2005-2006 school year with completion no later than the 2008-2009 school year.
(5) RIGOROUS READING REQUIREMENT.--
(a) Beginning with the 2004-2005 school year, each public school serving middle grade students, including charter schools, with fewer than 75 percent of its students reading at or above grade level in grade 6, grade 7, or grade 8 as measured by a student scoring at Level 3 or above on the FCAT during the prior school year, must incorporate by October 1 a rigorous reading requirement for reading and language arts programs as the primary component of its school improvement plan. The department shall annually provide to each district school board by June 30 a list of its schools that are required to incorporate a rigorous reading requirement as the primary component of the school's improvement plan. The department shall provide technical assistance to school districts and school administrators required to implement the rigorous reading requirement.
(b) The purpose of the rigorous reading requirement is to assist each student who is not reading at or above grade level to do so before entering high school. The rigorous reading requirement must include for a middle school's low-performing student population specific areas that address phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary; the desired levels of performance in those areas; and the instructional and support services to be provided to meet the desired levels of performance. The school shall use research-based reading activities that have been shown to be successful in teaching reading to low-performing students.
(c) Schools required to implement the rigorous reading requirement must provide quarterly reports to the district school superintendent on the progress of students toward increased reading achievement.
(d) The results of implementation of a school's rigorous reading requirement shall be used as part of the annual evaluation of the school's instructional personnel and school administrators as required in s. 1012.34
(6) COMPREHENSIVE REFORM STUDY ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF STUDENTS AND SCHOOLS.--
(a) The department shall conduct a study on how the overall academic performance of middle grade students and schools can be improved. The department must consult with the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University, the Just Read, Florida! Office, and key education stakeholders, including district school board members, district school superintendents, principals, parents, teachers, district supervisors of curriculum, and students across the state, in the development of its findings and recommendations. The department shall review, at a minimum, each of the following elements:
1. Academic expectations, which include, but are not limited to:
a. Alignment of middle school expectations with elementary and high school graduation requirements.
b. Best practices to improve reading and language arts courses based on research-based programs for middle school students in alignment with the Sunshine State Standards.
c. Strategies that focus on improving academic success for low-performing students.
d. Rigor of curricula and courses.
e. Instructional materials.
f. Course enrollment by middle school students.
g. Student support services.
h. Measurement and reporting of student achievement.
2. Attendance policies and student mobility issues.
3. Teacher quality, which includes, but is not limited to:
a. Preparedness of teachers to teach rigorous courses to middle school students.
b. Teacher evaluations.
c. Substitute teachers.
d. Certification and recertification requirements.
e. Staff development requirements.
f. Availability of effective staff development training.
g. Teacher recruitment and vacancy issues.
h. Federal requirements for highly qualified teachers pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
4. Identification and availability of diagnostic testing.
5. Availability of personnel and scheduling issues.
6. Middle school leadership and performance.
7. Parental and community involvement.
(b) By December 1, 2004, the Commissioner of Education shall submit to the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the chairs of the education committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the State Board of Education recommendations to increase the academic performance of middle grade students and schools.
(7) PERSONALIZED MIDDLE SCHOOL SUCCESS PLAN.--
(a) Beginning with the 2004-2005 school year, each principal of a school with a middle grade shall designate certified staff members at the school to develop and administer a personalized middle school success plan for each entering sixth grade student who scored below Level 3 in reading on the most recently administered FCAT. The purpose of the success plan is to assist the student in meeting state and school district expectations in academic proficiency and to prepare the student for a rigorous high school curriculum. The success plan shall be developed in collaboration with the student and his or her parent and must be implemented until the student completes the eighth grade or achieves a score at Level 3 or above in reading on the FCAT, whichever occurs first. The success plan must minimize paperwork and may be incorporated into a parent/teacher conference, included as part of a progress report or report card, included as part of a general orientation at the beginning of the school year, or provided by electronic mail or other written correspondence.
(b) The personalized middle school success plan must:
1. Identify educational goals and intermediate benchmarks for the student in the core curriculum areas which will prepare the student for high school.
2. Be based upon academic performance data and an identification of the student's strengths and weaknesses.
3. Include academic intervention strategies with frequent progress monitoring.
4. Provide innovative methods to promote the student's advancement which may include, but not be limited to, flexible scheduling, tutoring, focus on core curricula, online instruction, an alternative learning environment, or other interventions that have been shown to accelerate the learning process.
(c) The personalized middle school success plan must be incorporated into any individual student plan required by federal or state law, including the academic improvement plan required in s. 1008.25, an individual education plan (IEP) for a student with disabilities, a federal 504 plan, or an ESOL plan.
(d) The Department of Education shall provide technical assistance for districts, school administrators, and instructional personnel regarding the development of personalized middle school success plans. The assistance shall include strategies and techniques designed to maximize interaction between students, parents, teachers, and other instructional and administrative staff while minimizing paperwork.
(8) STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION AUTHORITY.--
(b) The State Board of Education shall have authority pursuant to s. 1008.32 to enforce the provisions of this section.
History.--s. 1, ch. 2004-255.