Statement on Third Grade Retention Ruling


March 8, 2017

FDOE Press Office
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Statement on Third Grade Retention Ruling

Please see the below statement from Education Commissioner Pam Stewart for the Florida Department of Education on the First District Court of Appeal’s ruling.

“Every child, regardless of their zip code or upbringing, should have the opportunity for a great education in Florida, and we appreciate the Court ruling in favor of sound public policy that has proven to be in the best interest of Florida’s students. Data illustrates the fact that Florida’s students have made significant strides since the inception of the state’s accountability system, and we have a duty to maintain its integrity. The Court’s ruling will benefit Florida’s students and families by upholding the public policies that have resulted in impressive reading gains over the past 15 years. We are committed to making Florida the best place in the world to receive an education, and we will continue advocating for our state’s students.”

Summary: Yesterday, the First District Court of Appeal (DCA) made a critical decision regarding third grade progression when it ruled in favor of the State Board of Education and reversed injunctive relief that was granted last summer by Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers. The day before the 2016–17 school year started in most areas of the state, the plaintiffs — a group of parents whose children were not promoted to fourth grade because they “opted out” of the English Language Arts assessment — filed a complaint in the Leon County circuit court. Immediately after the trial court issued its order, FDOE appealed to the First DCA. Ultimately, the First DCA reversed Judge Gievers’ injunction based on the fact that not a single required element for injunctive relief was satisfied in the preliminary hearing.

To read the full order, click here.

Key points from yesterday’s opinion are below:

  • “The evidence presented at the hearing established that the plaintiffs directed their children to ‘opt out’ … Each of the plaintiffs was offered opportunities for their children to take alternative standardized assessments, but they refused. Most of the plaintiffs were also offered the ‘portfolio option’ for their children.”
  • While Judge Gievers initially granted a preliminary injunction, it was immediately appealed to the First DCA. 
  • In its analysis, the First DCA stated, “The statute at the heart of this case is section 1008.25 … The statute expresses the legislative intent to eliminate ‘social promotion’ and to determine student progression based, at least in part, on satisfactory performance on the ELA and the other components of the FSA. §§ 1008.25(1), (6)(a), Fla. Stat.”
  • “Section 1008.25 does not define ‘participate,’ but common sense (and the statute as a whole) dictates that the term requires more than the so-called ‘minimal participation’ engaged in by the plaintiffs’ children in this case.”
  • “The purpose of the ELA is to assess whether the student has a reading deficiency and needs additional reading instruction before (and after) being promoted to fourth grade. See § 1008.25(5)(a). The test can only achieve that laudable purpose if the student meaningfully takes part in the test by attempting to answer all of its questions to the best of the student’s ability. Anything less is a disservice to the student—and the public.”
  • “Rather, the public interest is better served by maintaining the integrity of the standards and procedures established by the Legislature in section 1008.25, using the ELA to identify those students who—despite their best efforts on the test—have reading deficiencies that need to be addressed either by retaining the student in third grade or by providing the student intensive reading instruction after promotion to fourth grade under a good cause exception.”
  • DOE and HCSB argue the plaintiffs did not establish any of the requisite elements for injunctive relief. We agree.”
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