- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Senate on Friday moved to try to address sliding test scores for nursing school graduates and a glut of poorly performing programs, passing a measure that would require accreditation for all new schools within five years of accepting students.

The bill would also allow nurses currently certified by one of the two top accrediting agencies in the U.S. to be exempt from the current biennial continuing education requirement.

The measure is a response to legislation passed in 2009 and 2010 that loosened requirements to open nursing education programs. Program operators were allowed to apply through a formulaic application process designed to streamline the process for licensure and opening.

Many of the new schools, though, churned out graduates who could not perform well enough on the national test that is required by the state.

Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, sponsored both the old bills and the new one.

“It has become clear that we have nursing programs that are not performing adequately,” Grimsley said earlier in the session. She said the new bill would address “a serious situation that is beginning to develop.”

In addition to the dropping test scores, many of the new schools were not performing up to state standards, graduating students that could not achieve the test standards required by the state.

The earlier bills resulted in a 139 percent increase of nursing education programs, adding 231 since 2009, bringing the state total to 370 by the end of last year.

But 73 percent of graduates of nursing programs created since 2009 were 10 percentage points or more below the national test average for 2013, according to a legislative analysis.

The accreditation provision, it’s hoped, will stem the underperformance, although it will take time; while five years can seem long, it’s hardly unusual.

“It can take at least a couple of years,” said Ann-Lynn Denker, a Board of Nursing member who teaches at the Barry University graduate program for nursing. The process entails a personal visit and an analysis of faculty, with some requirements for that faculty.

“For schools that don’t do it, this is going to be a lot of work,” she said.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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