Florida roundup: Charter privatization, teacher quality, dual enrollment & more

Charter schools: Pembroke Pines city leaders release a privatization plan for its charter schools system that could result in hundreds of teachers losing their jobs. Miami Herald. The city plans to contract with Charter Schools USA for $10 million a year to operate the system. Sun-Sentinel.

florida roundup logoSchool grades: Education officials from across the state head to Tampa today to talk with Board of Education members about the state’s school-grading formula. Miami Herald.

Budget cuts: Lake County School Board members on Monday discussed changing school start times and cutting courtesy busing to fill a $16.3 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year. Orlando Sentinel.

Prison: Former Rosarian Academy teacher Stephen Budd faces a life in prison surrounding allegations that he traded candy for sex with 9-year-old students. Palm Beach Post.

Lawsuit: Palm Beach County schools sues the city of West Palm Beach for unpaid stormwater fees. Palm Beach Post.

Tony: Education Commissioner Tony Bennett talks Common Core, charter schools, teacher quality and more. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →


Study finds teacher prep programs inadequate for future educators

The National Council on Teacher Quality released its first Teacher Prep Review today, and the findings show only a handful of colleges and universities adequately train aspiring teachers.

TPR_2013_icoWhich means many of the programs are leaving new teachers ill-equipped to keep up with the growing rigor of public instruction – and that’s bad news for a country about to raise the bar on education benchmarks with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards.

“The problem is worse than we thought,’’ said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News & World Report, which published the study. “The data show that the academic caliber of many incoming students is quite low, and what they are taught often has little relevance to what they need to succeed in the classroom.

“Very few schools meet even a minimum standard of quality when it comes to using the best practices for educating teachers,’’ he said in a prepared statement.

If the goal is to help all teachers succeed, “we not only need to change what happens in the schools where they work, we must also address the preparation of the next generation of educators,’’ said Kate Walsh, president of the national council. “New teachers deserve training that will enable them to walk into their own classroom on their first day ready to teach, but our review shows that we have a long way to go.’’

The study looked at 1,130 institutions, including 32 in Florida. Among the findings:

  • 19 percent of elementary programs nationwide provided strong preparation to teach elementary math similar to practices of higher-performing nations such as Singapore or South Korea. None of the elementary programs in Florida provided such training.
  • 71 percent of elementary and secondary programs failed to ensure a high-quality student teaching experience, with students assigned only to highly-skilled teachers and receiving frequent feedback. In Florida, 23 percent of the programs failed in this area.
  • Nationally, 23 percent of evaluated programs earned a perfect four stars for providing feedback to teacher candidates on classroom management strategies. Florida saw 29 percent of the programs earning the designation.
  • 11 percent of the nation’s elementary programs earned three or four stars for providing adequate content preparation, compared to 3 percent in Florida. The results were better at the high school level, where 35 percent of the national secondary programs earned four stars for content preparation and 37 percent did so in Florida.
  • 29 percent of evaluated elementary programs prepared teacher candidates in effective, scientifically-based reading instruction compared to 43 percent in Florida.
  • 28 percent of national elementary and secondary programs restricted admissions to the top half of the college-going population. In Florida, it was 20 percent.
  • NCTQ issued a consumer alert for 112 elementary programs and 51 secondary programs nationwide, meaning those programs did not earn a single star. Five programs in Florida received a consumer alert.


John Legg: Why conservatives support Common Core State Standards

Education policy must now, and always, be state-driven and implemented at the local level. Washington bureaucrats will never know what is best for each individual state and should not assert to know as such. As conservatives, we must stand firm against the dangers of nationalization of school curriculum and be ever vigilant to not allow infringement on our 10th Amendment rights.

Sen. John Legg

Sen. John Legg

The Common Core State Standards are built upon strengths of current state standards but are internationally benchmarked, preparing all students to succeed in our global economy and society. Our framers, in their brilliance, allowed for this independence and collaboration through the 10th Amendment, which has produced results that are unparalleled. America’s prosperity is heavily dependent upon states learning from one another other and challenging each other to improve through competition, comparison, and collaboration.

There is little debate that our education standards nationwide have been stagnant. According to the report, The Learning Curve, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the United States ranks 17th out of 40 countries in overall educational performance. Common Core State Standards present a path by which states can improve this ranking by setting rigorous, measurable standards based on 50 separate laboratories of learning that design their own curriculum and decide on implementation and assessments at the state and local levels, not the national level.

The movement to Common Core asserts higher-order thinking across disciplines and concepts, which will yield a higher quality of comprehension for students, ensuring they are prepared for college, the workforce or to become a business owner/job creator.  Common Core is a set of academic standards and does not pose an identity or security risk to students.

Florida, as an education reform leader, has adopted its own rigorous standards beyond the minimum Common Core State Standards, and local districts have the authority to increase expectations for their students even further. Our students deserve the best and if Common Core provides foundational standards for our students without 10th Amendment infringements, conservatives such as I, could not be more supportive.

Maybe Washington could learn from Common Core implementation regarding other areas of government by providing reasonable standards, then getting out of the way and letting states do what they do best.  This is indeed what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.

John Legg is a Republican senator from Pasco County, Fla., and the current chairman of the Florida Senate K-20 Education Policy Committee. He is also a certified teacher with more than 10 years of classroom experience and a charter school administrator.


Florida roundup: Budget shortfalls, Common Core, FCAT scores & more

Summer school: Pinellas County school officials expect 8,500 students to participate in the Summer Bridge program. Tampa Tribune.

florida roundup logoBudgets: The numbers aren’t final, but the Collier County school district projects an $8.3 million shortfall while Lee County school officials expect to make $13 million to $15 million in cuts. Naples  Daily News. Baker County school officials blame a drop in enrollment for an estimated $1.3 million shortfall. Baker County Press. Flagler County school officials take another look for new ways to cut the budget after voters reject a tax hike. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Cell towers: Parents and teachers worried about the health and safety of students at Naples Park Elementary have started a petition against a cellphone tower on school grounds. Naples Daily News.

Fired: A Duval County paraprofessional is fired after an investigation found he forcibly removed a student from the school bus. Florida Times-Union.

Lawsuit: A parent is suing the Polk County school board, alleging that a science teacher slapped her son last year at a Lakeland elementary school. The Ledger.

Grads: High school graduation speeches deserve a lot of scrutiny, say principals and others. Tampa Bay Times. Friends since preschool, these two recent grads are headed to Harvard. Pensacola News Journal. Continue Reading →


New advocacy group to focus on helping Jewish day schools thrive

Students at the Hebrew Academy of Tampa Bay rehearse for their final performance of the school year. The Jewish day school is among a growing number that are turning to public aid for support.

Students at the Hebrew Academy of Tampa Bay rehearse for their final performance of the school year. The Jewish day school is among a growing number turning to public aid for support.

Finances were always a struggle for the Hebrew Academy of Tampa Bay, a small Jewish day school in Florida. But when the economy tanked a few years ago, the struggle turned into a fight for survival.

“We had to go out and find those dollars,’’ said Sulha Dubrowski, the school’s founder and director. A Homeland Security grant paid for a new gate and door locks. The state’s Voluntary Prekindergarten Program, which supplements tuition for 4-year-olds, helped fill preschool seats.

Sulha Dubrowski

Sulha Dubrowski

Three years ago, the academy discovered Florida Tax Credit Scholarships, a state program that uses tax-credited corporate contributions to help low-income children attend private schools. Now, 18 of the academy’s 35 students use the scholarships to pay half of the school’s $8,500 average annual tuition.

The scholarships, Dubrowski said, “helped us keep our doors open.’’

Saving Jewish day schools like the academy is the primary mission of the newly-formed Jewish Leadership Coalition, a nonpartisan advocacy group based in South Florida that includes rabbinical and lay leaders, educators and the Orthodox Union, which represents Orthodox congregations across the country.

Florida currently has about 35 Jewish day schools, but it’s getting harder every day for many to remain open, said coalition director Elliot S. Schreiber.

“Jewish day schools are hurting financially and are faced with the painful decision whether to continue providing general and Jewish education services to the community,’’ he said. “The result has been exorbitant tuition costs for low- and middle-income families with the community at large having to come up with huge sums to keep Jewish day schools in operation. It is unsustainable.’’ Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: Tax credits in Arizona, vouchers in Wisconsin, charter schools in New Mexico & more

Illinois: The Chicago Teachers Union and privately-run charter schools railed against potential district funding cuts (Chicago Tribune). Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration  will partially restore funding to the United Neighborhood Organization so the charter school operator can finish a new soccer academy high school by this fall (Chicago Tribune).

MondayRoundUpArizona: The Senate approves the expansion of a school choice program that adds kindergartners and increases funding for students who leave charter  schools for private schools (Associated Press). More from the Arizona Daily Star. The legislature passed a bill expanding the type of corporations eligible to participate as donors in the state’s tax credit scholarship program and streamlined the approval process (Cato Institute).

Louisiana: Lawmakers find new funding stream for voucher program (Education Week). More from the Associated Press.

Indiana: A new state law will give high-performing school districts or schools more flexibility in designing their own curriculum, professional programs and schedules (Indianapolis Star). Another new law limits how much state aid charter schools can receive to target adult drop0outs (Associated Press).

Wisconsin: Wauwatosa School District officials protest the opening of an independent charter school in the city because it could directly compete with them for students and state funds (Journal Sentinel). Gov. Scott Walker says he is comfortable with the slow expansion of the school voucher program (Associated Press). Critics of the statewide school voucher expansion continue calling attention to campaign donations given to Sen. Alberta Darling, co-chair  of the committee that recommended the start of the expansion (Wisconsin Public Radio). State Superintendent Tony Evers speaks out against the state budget proposal to expand the voucher school system (Journal Sentinel). A traditional elementary school starts a special program for gifted students with great success (Education News).

Maine: Senate Democrats pass a bill that gives communities more input and control over approval of charter schools, but there still are more hurdles (Morning Sentinel).

Florida: Nearly every teacher and parent at Rowlett Magnet Elementary voted to go forward with plans for a charter conversion school (redefinED). Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Common Core, summer camps, digital classrooms & more

Common Core: Sen. John Legg tries to clear up confusion about the Common Core State Standards. Tampa Tribune.

florida roundup logoStepping down: An elementary school principal makes good on his threat to retire following an ethics complaint against a Palm Beach County school board member whose children attended the school. Palm Beach Post.

Going digital: Students at Cardinal Newman High, a private school with less than 700 students, will either lease an iPad from the school or buy their own and bring it in to school next year. Palm Beach Post. Lawmaker says state needs to phase out pencil-and-paper school tests and go digital. StateImpact Florida. Lakes Wales’ charter school hosts technology summit – for teachers. Ledger.

Failing: Poor performance that is not acceptable at a charter school is just as unacceptable at other public schools, editorial notes. Tampa Bay Times.

CAPE: Pinellas County school board looks at district’s career academies and number of student certifications. Tampa Tribune.

STEM camp: Hillsborough County is seeing more summer camps devoted to the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math. Tampa Bay Times.

Special Ed: Hillsborough County schools will use the summer to focus on special education needs and train workers, including aides and bus drivers. Tampa Bay Times.

Lawsuits: A mother sues the Pinellas County School Board, alleging her son was beaten so severely by other students that he had to have a testicle removed. Tampa Bay Times. An Atheist group sues the Orange County school district for blocking the distribution of pamphlets in schools. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


A charter conversion with parents and teachers speaking in one loud voice

Rowlett Magnet Elementary teachers react after hearing the final vote count for converting their district school into a charter school. Florida law requires a majority of teachers and parents vote for the conversion.

Rowlett Magnet Elementary teachers react after hearing the final vote count for a charter conversion school.

In a state that has found itself politically deadlocked over whether parents should be given the power to change who runs a public school, a Bradenton elementary magnet school pulled its own type of trigger this week. The vote to convert to a charter school was made under existing Florida law, which calls for both parents and teachers to approve, and the results were a disquieting declaration of educational independence. Parents: 480-26. Teachers: 57-4.

This is an arts school mimicking art, conducting what amounts to its own version of Won’t Back Down, the Hollywood drama that featured a band of parents and teachers who fought to turn their own school around. Yes, there are clear differences: Rowlett Elementary is not suffering. It is a popular magnet school that has received an A or B rating from the state over the past five years and has enjoyed the financial fruit of a Rowlett Family Association that raised $170,00 just last year.

Parents gathered at Rowlett Magnet Elementary in Bradenton, Fla., recently to witness the final vote count to turn the district school into a charter school.

Parents gathered at Rowlett Magnet Elementary in Bradenton, Fla., recently to witness the final vote count to turn the district school into a charter school.

But Rowlett is a racially and economically diverse school, in a middle- to low-income neighborhood, and what is familiar is the powerful sense of self-determination. The campaign has brought together teachers and parents who in other circumstances might have been skeptical of such tools. One of the parents is an active member of a group in Florida, Fund Education Now, that has taken credit for defeating the parent trigger bill the past two years.

“It’s not the direction I thought we would be going in after 13 years,” said principal Brian Flynn, a 34-year school district employee who has led the school since it opened in 2000. “It’s not about wanting to leave the district. We wanted to be able to continue the type of programs that we have always offered.”

“We will be able to continue the excellence, the programs, the tone, that Rowlett already has,” parent Glorianne Flint told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “What is the School Board going to do to continue the wonderful programs that Rowlett has? The district can’t give us that answer.” Continue Reading →