If someone has a new idea or theory about education, Florida might be the state most willing to give it a shot. Florida pioneered school choice, voucher programs, testing both student and teacher performance and other reforms now considered nationwide.
Those ideas included the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, a statewide test of math, reading and science given to elementary, middle and high schoolers. The state introduced the second generation of the test this year. Those test results carry consequences, serving as the basis for school report cards and teacher evaluations.
Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, is using a $100 million Gates Foundation grant to develop a new system to evaluate and train teachers. That system will be applied to Florida teachers statewide in 2012.
Florida voters also approved a state constitutional amendment in 2002 limiting class sizes — as few as 18 students for prekindergarten through grade 3. Voters reaffirmed the amendment in 2010, but lawmakers have exempted schools from some of the mandates due to budget cuts and growing schools.