KIPP seeks expansion in Jacksonville


Students congregate outside KIPP’s Jacksonville Campus.

The Duval school board is set to take up a plan next week that would allow for a substantial expansion of one of Florida’s most high-profile charter school endeavors.

KIPP Jacksonville has applied to open a new K-8 school that could eventually serve 1,800 students, roughly tripling its current capacity.

The new school won’t get that big overnight. Its plans submitted to the school district call for the new school to expand methodically over an 11-year period. It would add one grade each year, and gradually increase the number of students at each grade level.

“We want to make sure we scale and grow with quality,” said Tom Majdanics, KIPP Jacksonville’s executive director.

About 660 students currently attend KIPP’s existing middle and elementary school in Jacksonville. Enrollment is expected to reach about 860 students once KIPP Voice Elementary, now in its third year, reaches full capacity.

The application for the new school, which is set for a vote at the school board’s Nov. 4 meeting, calls for enrolling 50 kindergarten students during the 2015-16 school year. It would grow to 100 kindergarten students and 50 first-graders the next year, and eventually reach approximately 750 students in grades K-4 in the new school’s fifth year. It could eventually grow to a K-8 school serving 200 students per grade.

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Florida roundup: School choice, campaigns, Common Core and more

florida-roundup-logoCampaigns. A national teachers union leader heads to Broward to talk testing in the waning days of the governor’s race. Gradebook. Sun-Sentinel. The Florida PTA quizzes gubernatorial candidates on education policy. Gradebook.

School board races. Hillsborough’s superintendent weighs in on a school board race. Tampa Tribune. A school board candidate’s fears over yard signs lead to a 911 call. Florida Today. A Marion County school board race takes a nasty turn. Ocala Star-Banner.

School choice. Florida gets high marks on school choice and other education policies from the American Legislative Exchange Council. Gradebook. Fort Myers News-PressSunshine State News. EdFly.

Common Core. Teachers are divided in their views of the Common Core standards. Orlando Sentinel.

School boards. A former Broward school board member faces ethics charges for taking payments from developers. Sun-Sentinel.

Administration. A story about a cancelled chorus concert is a really a story about school bureaucracy. Naples Daily News. Leon County Schools face an FBI subpoena involving construction contracts. Tallahassee Democrat.

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Rich or poor, public or private, parents seek school choice

A wealthy enclave of Miami-Dade County is considering buying space for its residents in a local public school.

Setting aside whether this is fair to other families hoping to enroll their children in Henry S. West Laboratory School, this story in the Miami Herald should lend further credence to idea that parents – including those who can afford to send their children to private schools – want more options from the public school system.

Students in Coral Gables are five times more likely than the average Florida to attend private school, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. And families there are more likely to be able to afford it without the help of a private school choice program. The median household income is roughly twice the average for Miami-Dade County as a whole.

Yet the Herald reports that families in the city are lining up for slots in the popular magnet school, which is located within the city’s limits, but is oversubscribed due to high demand from all over the county. The city government is looking for ways to accommodate their desires to enroll their children.

“In my neighborhood, everyone goes to private,” said Dave Kelly, a Coral Gables resident. “It’s not because they don’t want to go to public schools. They just can’t get in.”

To give residents a better shot at landing a seat, Coral Gables officials on Friday discussed paying the school district a one-time fee of $23,000 per student to establish a separate lottery program just for residents who want their children to attend West Lab. As it stands now, the proposal is to buy between 22 and 44 seats per grade level.

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Florida education reformer joins Step Up For Students board



A prominent figure in Florida’s education reform movement has been tapped to help oversee the largest private school choice program in the country.

Patricia Levesque last month was elected unanimously to the governing board of Step Up For Students, the non-profit that administers tax credit scholarships and Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts for more than 70,000 students (and co-hosts this blog).

Levesque is CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which Jeb Bush founded before he was elected Florida’s governor.

Before joining the foundation in 2007, she was a key member of the legislative staff that helped enact Bush’s first-term education agenda. She then joined the governor’s office as an education policy adviser in 2002.

Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up, said Levesque was recruited for the position because she’s “one of the country’s leading thinkers when it comes to personalized learning,” which he believes is important terrain for the future of education policy.

This year, she was an outspoken advocate for legislation creating the scholarship accounts, which gives families of students with significant special needs a way to pay for a mix of educational expenses, from therapies and private school tuition to curriculum and private tutoring.

“A more customized approach – whether choosing the school, supports or services that meet a child’s needs – is a good thing,” Levesque said in a statement. “It breaks down barriers to success and gives parents the power to help their children reach their full potential.”

Florida is the second state to create a personal scholarship account program. Many advocates view similar programs as part of the next wave of parental choice.

Levesque joins an eight-member, all-volunteer governing board, which last year added former Democratic state Sen. Al Lawson.


Florida schools roundup: Campaigns, lawsuits, corporal punishment and more


Lawsuits. Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute picks apart some of the facts cited in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s school choice legislation.

Special needs. A new state law has the state pushing more students toward a standard diploma. Lakeland Ledger.

Campaigns. Central Florida legislative candidates weigh in on school choice and education reform during an Orlando forum. Orlando Sentinel. The Bradenton Herald breaks down the differences between two local school board candidates.

Homelessness. A new Hillsborough school will be aimed at homeless students. Tampa Tribune.

Coporal punishment. The Bay County school board votes to eschew spanking in district schools. Panama City News Herald.

Technology. The Polk school district plans to shell out $1 million for technology-related expenses. Lakeland Ledger.

STEM. A Brevard student is set to meet President Obama after excelling in science. Florida Today.

Class size. Classes are getting smaller in some Broward schools. Sun-Sentinel.

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Districts and charter schools, working together: Sarah Yatsko, podcastED

The four Florida school districts planning unprecedented collaborations with high-impact charter schools can look around the country for models of what to do – and what not to do.

SarahIt’s not unheard of for districts and charter schools – often thought to be competitors – to find ways to work together.

Dozens of school districts around the country are doing it now, and about 20 of them have entered formal “compacts” with charter operators in their jurisdictions. Sarah Yatsko, a senior research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, has studied many of those collaborations.

“These sectors – by their very nature, there is a competitive element to them, and that just simply can’t be ignored,” she says. podcastED-logo

The collaborations that succeed tend to be the ones where both sides recognize their “mutual self-interest.” One aspect of a collaborative effort that seems to be going well, she points out, is Philadelphia, where districts and charters are working together on a joint mentoring program aimed at preparing top educators for administrative positions.

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Florida schools roundup: Campaigns, facilities, STEM and more

florida-roundup-logoCampaigns. StateImpact compares the education plans of gubernatorial contenders Charlie Crist and Rick Scott. Florida’s governor’s races is among the targets of teachers unions’ campaign operations. Intercepts.

School boards. A 20-year Hillsborough school board veteran is poised to retire. Tampa Tribune.

STEM. Science programs help students improve their problem-solving skills. Florida Today. Duval middle schools plan to invest in STEM labs. Florida Times-Union.

Facilities. An administrator and track coach plans to walk from Orlando to Tallahassee to raise money for athletic facilities. Central Florida News 13.

Administration. An administrator who left the district in the wake of a sex abuse scandal accuses the Manatee school district of failing to follow through on an agreement. Bradenton Herald.

English language learners. The federal government has yet to respond to Florida’s request for a hearing on accountability rules for students still learning English. Gradebook.

Teachers. A Boynton Beach teacher goes missing. Palm Beach Post.


Florida school boards: Standard charter contracts unconstitutional

Florida school boards are questioning the constitutionality of standard charter school contracts as the state Board of Education gets set to vote on rules creating them.

Their objections appear in hundreds of pages of recent comments and letters to the state Department of Education. The Florida School Boards Association wrote in July: “We view this as an unconstitutional encroachment on the school board’s authority to operate, supervise, and control all public schools within the school district.”

The comments and letters were obtained by redefinED through a public records request. They reflect more  than a year of public pushing and behind-the-scenes wrangling over standardized charter school contracts. The rules creating them are set to come before the state board at its November meeting.

The proposed contracts were set in motion by a 2013 law. Backed by charter school advocates, the law required the Department of Education to develop a standard contract that would serve as a starting point for agreements between charter schools and every district in the state. The stated goal: To streamline the contract process, set a baseline for expectations and create an opportunity for more meaningful negotiations.

In a state with nearly 650 charter schools, and dozens more opening each year, charter advocates have also raised concerns that districts were trying to constrain charter schools with troublesome contract provisions that went beyond requirements in the law.

DOE officials started drawing up the draft contract in the summer of 2013. They started with a draft that combined provisions from existing charter contracts used by several school districts, then spent more than a year revising the proposal based on feedback from half a dozen public hearings and written suggestions from districts and charters alike.

But even as they suggested changes, school boards, superintendents and their Tallahassee associations began raising constitutional objections. Continue Reading →