MIAMI (CBS4) – Governor Rick Scott visited Southwest Senior High School Tuesday morning.  His visit marks the first time he has set foot in a Miami-Dade public school.

“Who wants to go to college?” he asked a classroom full of high school seniors.

Some raised their hands.  Some didn’t worried they may not be able to afford it.

High school senior Laura Hernandez said she hopes to go but ultimately it would come down to what she can afford.  Current state law requires her to pay out of state tuition because her parents are not citizens.

It was not by mistake Scott was in this classroom.  The room was made up of students who learned English as a second language.  Miami-Dade teachers and school administrators were out to drive a message home to the Governor: fair accountability.

“I have friends that don’t speak English but they have to take SAT, ACT, and FCAT and they have to pass the English section and it’s very difficult for them because they don’t know anything,” Hernandez said.

Scott’s listening tour is traveling around the state as part of his effort to learn what the school system could use for improvement.

“What can we do at the state?  What can we do to make this a better place for our students to get a better education?” he told a reporters outside.

He met behind closed doors with a group of teachers.  The candid conversation centered on what is working and what is not.

“I think we overwhelmed him a little here.  Miami, we like to talk a lot.”  Susan Giro told CBS4’s David Sutta..  Giro teaches English Language Learning or ELL (formerly known as ESOL).  Testing was the overwhelming issue during the hour long meeting centered around testing.

“Pretty much everyone is on the same playing field and that that may not be necessarily right or fair,” said ELL teacher Diana Amor.

In Miami-Dade schools it is estimated some 70,000 students, learning English as a second language, are taking the same tests as everyone statewide.

Many grades reflect that and the same goes for students with disabilities. Everyone is graded the same.  School superintendent Alberto Carvalho made sure the Governor heard the message from all directions.

“The accountability system has to be fair to them.  The children cannot demonstrate knowledge in math science and language arts in an exam in English after one single year of English instruction.” Carvalho said.

Giro added, “We face different challenges so I think to not compare the schools on equal levels would definitely help.”

When questioned what he was going to do about the accountability concerns, Scott responded “We are going to look at it.  I mean the whole idea with this is we are getting information and saying what should we be focusing on.”

While Scott stopped short of committing to any actions he said he would consider recommendations made as they get ready for the legislative session in March.


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