redefinED roundup: D.C. vouchers, Bill de Blasio, black voters and more

MondayRoundUp_magenta

Arkansas: Gubernatorial candidates discuss education and school choice (Arkansas News Bureau, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette).

D.C.: Harmony Public Schools runs 40 charter schools in Texas and hopes to expand into the district (Washington Post). Critics contend gentrification, not education reform, is driving D.C’s NAEP score gains but researcher Mathew Ladner says gentrification is only playing  a small role (Foundation for Excellence in Education). The U.S. Government Accountability Office highlights weaknesses in administration and oversight of the Opportunity Scholarship Program (GAO, Washington Post, Education Week, Huffington PostThe Answer Sheet).

Delaware: The Appoquinimink School District hopes to enroll 465 students from outside the district (Middletown Transcript).

Florida: Private schools enrolling special needs students through the McKay scholarship program may lose up to $800 per pupil in funding if the student also enrolls in a class with the Florida Virtual School (redefinED).

Georgia: Hundreds of parents in Macon hope to enroll their child in a new charter school set to open in August, 2014 (NBC/WMGT 41).

Louisiana: The Obama administration is trying to stop the expansion of vouchers based on faulty logic and data not supported by research (National Review, Wall Street Journal). Many charter schools have been eligible to return to the Orleans Parish School District but none have elected to do so yet (The Lens). Another report shows vouchers did not increase racial segregation in Louisiana (this was the basis for the DOJ suit to stop vouchers in the state) (Times Picayune, Cato Institute). Republicans in Louisiana are reaching out to black voters with education and school choice (Times Picayune). The chairman of the Republican National Committee says Louisiana’s voucher program provides an escape route for students in bad schools (Times Picayune). Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Special needs, tech center, dual enrollment & more

Special needs: The special needs student population in Palm Beach County School District is booming this year — both at district-run and charter schools. Palm Beach Post. Special needs students lead the homecoming court at a Miami-Dade high school. Miami Herald.

florida-roundup-logoTechnical center: Pasco County’s superintendent no longer supports the building of a technical center on the Pasco-Hernando Community College’s east campus. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter schools: A Polk County charter school starts an IT academy for middle-schoolers. The Ledger.

First year: One year after being hired to confront the district’s most stubborn stains, Duval County’s Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has become the city’s education leader by being visible and vocal. Florida Times-Union.

Common Core: As Florida looks to quell the controversy over its new education standards, state education officials try to figure out how those standards apply to nearly 2 million students. Tallahassee Democrat. OrlandoCommon Core comments run from “great” to “commie brainwashing.”  Orlando Sentinel.

Dual enrollment: Pasco County’s superintendent vows to continue fighting the new fees districts must pay to state colleges. Tampa Bay Times.

Anti-bullying: Equality Florida recognizes the Broward County Public school district for its anti-bullying policies. StateImpact Florida.

Teacher pay: Santa Rosa County teachers will get raises of about 3.7 percent while support personnel receive an $800 flat-rate bump. Pensacola News-Journal.

Free meals: At least two Escambia County schools are being investigated for reportedly receiving federal reimbursement for thousands of free and reduced cost meals that were never served to students. Pensacola News-Journal.

Searching: After two tries and more than a year of searching, the Palm Beach County School District may have finally found an outside agency interested in investigating complaints against top district officials. Palm Beach Post.

Tuberculosis: Two active cases of tuberculosis are confirmed in Seminole and Orange county schools. Orlando Sentinel. Duval County schools report two cases. Florida Times-Union.

New name: Duval schools officials plan to survey several Forrest High stakeholder groups about renaming the school. Florida Times-Union.

Tony Bennett: Florida’s former education commissioner faces an ethics complaint in his home state of Indiana. StateImpact Florida.

Conduct: A state Department of  Education investigation into a former Lee County superintendent is over. Naples Daily News. More from the Fort Myers News-Press.

State prize: A Port St. Lucie third-grader wins the state’s top prize for his 38-pound cabbage.  TC Palm.

Grammar lessons: A fifth-grade teacher in Gainesville uses music to teach nouns and verbs. Associated Press.

Math help: Hillsborough County students bone up on Algebra skills with a new interactive program called Algebra Nation. The Tampa Tribune.

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McKay Scholarship docked when students enroll in Florida Virtual School

Florida is reducing state-funded scholarships for private school students with disabilities if they take online courses through Florida Virtual School.

McKayThe state Department of Education last week began notifying the 1,200 private schools accepting the McKay Scholarship that quarterly payments for students will be docked starting in February – in some cases, by as much as $800.

Since then, some school operators, such as Donna Savary of Savary Academy in tiny Crawfordville, have pulled McKay students from the FLVS programs to avoid the unexpected costs. They also have warned parents they’ll have to pick up the tab for courses their children already completed.

“We’re not happy,’’ said Savary, whose academy has 16 students of which six receive McKay Scholarships. “The kids are not happy. The parents are really upset.’’

In a letter dated Nov. 8, the department cited the recently-amended education funding formula as cause for the reduction. DOE officials reviewed the new law that went into effect in July and determined last month that it did apply to recipients of the McKay Scholarship because the funding comes from the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP).

School districts and Florida Virtual School also are funded by the FEFP, and have been hit with similar cuts when public school students enroll in the online provider’s program.

“If they (DOE) had told me about this in the beginning of the school year, my kids wouldn’t have been in Florida Virtual School at all,’’ said Savary, who told one of her families this week it will owe $800 in February for two courses completed since August. “This is a rural area. Parents here don’t have $800 lying around.’’

The DOE decision means parents of McKay Scholarship students are the only ones in Florida directly assessed for FLVS courses, said Robyn Rennick of The Coalition of McKay Scholarship Schools. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Magnet programs, charters, Common Core & more

Magnet programs: Pinellas County school administrators want to add four new middle school programs next school year, including ones in engineering and the arts. Tampa Bay Times.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools: A Monroe County charter school’s disciplinary practice of making students walk in circles or back and forth for an extended period of time raises concerns. Keynoter.

Common Core: “As a strong supporter of education in the Sunshine State, I believe that these standards are a powerful tool to make sure our young people are ready for the world and workplace that await them,” writes Marshall Criser III for the Miami Herald. House Speaker Will Weatherford says Florida likely won’t repeal the new standards, but modify them. Tampa Bay Times. Julio Fuentes of HCREO writes about what’s missing from Common Core coverage: the increasing number of Florida students ill-equipped for college and forced into remedial coursework because their high-school curriculum did not adequately prepare them. Orlando Sentinel.

FCAT replacement: Florida advertises for companies that would like to provide the state’s next generation of standardized tests. Sun Sentinel.

Teacher pay: Of the seven largest school districts in Florida, only Palm Beach and Orange counties have not reached at least a tentative agreement on pay raises. Palm Beach Post. The Hernando County School District and teachers union remain at odds on how to distribute $3.8 million in state dollars earmarked for raises. Tampa Bay Times.  Brevard teachers vote Monday on whether to approve this year’s contract and a 4.5 percent raise. Florida Today.

Mentoring: A mentoring and job-shadowing program for high school students with disabilities and other special needs is being offered at some Collier County schools. Naples Daily News. Continue Reading →

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Marco Rubio’s school choice bill stuck in committee

Nine months ago, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., shined a national spotlight on school choice by introducing a bill to create a federal tax credit scholarship program for low-income families. Since then, the Educational Opportunities Act has languished in its first committee.

Sen. Rubio

Sen. Rubio

A spokeswoman for Rubio’s office in Washington, D.C., declined to comment on what that might mean or where the proposal, which hasn’t garnered any additional sponsors, is headed.

Its predicament isn’t unexpected.

Democrats are the majority party in the U.S. Senate, and a Democrat chairs the Senate Finance Committee, where the bill was referred in February. And while Democrats are increasingly embracing school choice, including private school vouchers and tax credit scholarships, it remains politically sensitive for many of them.

Rubio’s bill, his first in Congress, creates a federal corporate and individual tax credit, and allows contributions to go to a scholarship granting organization. Dollars are distributed to needy families, who use the money to help pay for private school tuition or expenses. The proposal mirrors scholarship programs that exist in 11 states, including the nation’s largest in Florida, which serves about 60,000 students. (Step Up For Students, the nonprofit that co-hosts this blog, administers the Florida program).

The House companion to Rubio’s bill may get more traction.

Introduced in March by U.S. House Rep. Todd Rokita, a Republican from Indiana, it was referred that month to the Ways and Means Committee, of which Rokita is a member. In July, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education,  which Rokita chairs. It has nine sponsors, all Republicans.

Rokita’s office did not respond to requests for comment. But in a prepared statement from earlier this year, Rokita offered his reasons for introducing the legislation: “For too long, bureaucrats and power brokers in Washington, D.C., have kept millions of families from accessing a full range of education options,’’ he said. “The hardest-hit victims have been those trapped in failing school systems who don’t have the means to choose another school. This bill returns power to where it belongs – parents and families – and gives them a ladder of opportunity.’’

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Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: school choice critics, campers and elections

MrGibbonsReportCardEd Hughes – Madison (Wis.) School Board president

There is no end to the strange arguments made to oppose school choice and Ed Hughes, president of the school board in Madison, Wis. has come up with a new one about vouchers.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Hughes weighed in against vouchers by saying, “The issue is whether the state should be subsidizing a private school. We all pay our property taxes for the full range of services the state provides. If I don’t like a state campground, I can’t ask taxpayers to pay for me to stay at Jellystone Park.”

yogibear

Public education, it’s just like… camping?

School choice opponents often argue how unique education is, which is why they often say it can’t be compared with anything else (like supermarkets or any other businesses for that matter). So it’s interesting to see, in this case, public education compared with public campgrounds.

The problem is, no one is forced to attend a state park or campground based on their zip code. We all get state park choice.

For what it’s worth, the private Jellystone Park outside Madison actually looks like a lot more fun (putt-putt golf and a swimming pool!) than some of the state parks in the area …

Grade: Needs Improvement

 

Douglas County and Denver school boards:

There’s progress on the education front in Colorado.

Education reformers in both Douglas County and Denver won re-election in local school board races this month. Board members in Douglas County started the nation’s first district-wide private voucher program and faced a tight race against opponents who planned to roll back school choice. Reformers in Denver won more easily.

Critics contend the reformers were supported by “big money” from out of state, but to be fair, the National Educators Association and its affiliates were putting their own “big money” elsewhere (including $4 million into a statewide ballot initiative to raise taxes and increase per-pupil spending).

Congrats to the reformers.

Grade: Satisfactory

 

Gary Rubinstein – Teach For Us

Over at the Teach For Us blog, Gary Rubinstein attacked the idea of the “D.C. NAEP Miracle,” as he called it, after the latest NAEP results were released last week.

Rubinstein posted a chart, created by researcher Matthew Ladner, that showed the top three states in NAEP gains to be big school choice and education reform areas (D.C., Indiana and Tennessee). Ladner shows the biggest gains came from states implementing several different education reforms, including A-F school grades, teacher evaluations, rigorous standards and charter schools.

To attempt to prove Ladner wrong, Rubinstein put the chart “into context.” He examines cumulative scores for students overall (adding up the point totals for the four core NAEP tests), cumulative scores for low-income students, and then the achievement gap between “haves” and “have-nots.”

Cumulative scores show states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington, Hawaii and Wyoming at the top, whereas D.C., Indiana, and Tennessee have mixed results (Indiana doing well, Tennessee average and D.C. at the bottom).

But, Rubinstein doesn’t make a single chart looking at gains – an impressive feat given his entire premise is education reform doesn’t improve education. It’s as if he believes education reform must immediately result in states performing No. 1 overall.

Grade: Needs Improvement

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Florida schools roundup: Charters, magnet schools, digital learning & more

Charter schools: The Schools of McKeel Academy board takes no formal action against the charter’s superintendent following an investigation into employee grievances. The Ledger.

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools: Duval County Public Schools strikes out on a $12 million federal grant that would have helped create five new magnet schools. Part of the reason was due to the district’s desire to create two single gender schools. Florida Times-Union. A Lee County high school teams up with Chico’s to create the Cambridge AICE Art and Design program. Fort Myers News-Press.

Digital learning: The first phase of a $63 million rollout of digital equipment in Miami-Dade schools is pushed back. Miami Herald. Pinellas County School Board members vote unanimously to hire a new technology chief and change the job’s qualifications simultaneously, without any discussion. The Tampa Tribune.

Fun and math: A baseball themed math game endorsed by Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. could be a new teaching tool in Manatee County Schools. Bradenton Herald.

School safety: The Polk County Sheriff’s Office partners with the school district, assigning a captain to oversee the Safe Schools program. The Ledger.

Pay raises: Collier County school support employees are upset about proposed raises that are less than what teachers will receive. Naples Daily News.

Start times: High school start times in Okaloosa County likely won’t change anytime soon. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Deaths: Lou Eassa, a former Palm Beach County School Board member from 1978 to 1986, dies during a cruise to Panama. He was 74. Palm Beach Post.

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The high school choice that Michelle Obama made

Michelle-ObamaPresident Obama may need a dose of his wife’s popularity at the moment, but don’t discount the importance of her visit to some fortunate sophomores at Bell Multicultural High School in D.C. on Tuesday. This is a first lady from a tough part of Chicago who beat the odds to Princeton University, to Harvard Law School, and to corporate executive offices. And her high school choice, to which she spoke, is worth underscoring.

“Even though my parents didn’t have a lot of money, they never went to college themselves, they had an unwavering belief in the power of education,” Mrs. Obama told the students. “… So when it came time for me to go to high school, they encouraged me to enroll in one of the best schools in Chicago. … My school was way across the other side of the city from where I lived. So at 6 a.m. every morning, I had to get on a city bus and ride for an hour, sometimes more, just to get to school. And I was willing to do that because I was willing to do whatever it took for me to go to college.”

The school was Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, opened in 1975 as Chicago’s first public magnet school.  It was ranked this year by Newsweek as fifth-best high school in the Midwest. A fourth of the students are black, two-thirds are minority, and just under 4-in-10 are on free or reduced-price lunch. The academics speak to excellence: 82 percent of students take Advanced Placement classes with an 80 percent pass rate; the average ACT score last year was 27.1, with four students scoring a perfect 36; every single one of its 2012 graduates was accepted into a four-year college.

While much has been made about the private school choice the Obamas made for their daughters in D.C., Mrs. Obama’s own choice for high school is at least as relevant. She wanted a different future for herself at a time when she says some of her own teachers were telling her that Princeton was an unrealistic dream. So she chose a public school outside her neighborhood that she saw as worth the hour bus ride each way. This was the late 1970s, don’t forget, at a time when children in American public education had precious few options. But Michelle Obama found one, and it worked for her.

Forget the political backdrop here. Her message, particularly to students of color, is compelling.

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