updated 5/5/2006 3:25:01 PM ET 2006-05-05T19:25:01

The Legislature gave final approval to a bill Thursday that requires high school students to declare a major, similar to college students.

The measure now goes to Gov. Jeb Bush, who pushed the requirement as part of a sweeping education overhaul approved by the House 90-24. The Senate passed it earlier in the day 39-1.

“It’s important because it’ll make the high school experience more relevant for a broader range of students,” Bush said. “This will give them a chance to pursue education where their interests lie. ... There still will be core curricula credits that they’ll need to pass.”

The bill also requires that high school students take a fourth year of math and that middle school students receive career planning instruction.

The measure originally referred to major and minor subjects, but was changed to “major areas of interest” before final passage.

“We’re saying we’re trying to get students to think more in terms of, ‘What do I really like to do? What is my talent?”’ said Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Evelyn Lynn, a Republican.

A major area could include a traditional academic subject such as English, a foreign language or math, or a vocational field such as carpentry or auto repair.

The goal is to encourage students to strive for better grades and prevent them from dropping out. The majors plan was suggested by a task force of educators that examined the state’s high schools.

The measure also would set up a ready-to-work program for high school students who don’t plan to go to college, professional development programs for principals and special classes for struggling students.

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