Florida schools roundup: Rick Scott, PARCC, BOE appointment & more

PARCC: Gov. Rick Scott calls on state education leaders to drop out of PARCC, the assessments aligned with the new Common Core State Standards. But last year, Scott celebrated the fact that PARCC was coming to Florida. The Buzz. More from the Sun Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, StateImpact Florida, Associated Press, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Education Week, Sunshine State News, Pensacola News JournalDaytona Beach News-Journal, The Answer Sheet, Florida CurrentNPR and Wall Street Journal. florida-roundup-logoSome of Scott’s concerns  about PARCC are debunked on the Florida Department of Education’s website. Tampa Bay Times. There is nothing wrong with striving to make sure standards and assessments in Florida are as valid and fair as possible, writes Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano. “The real problem is risking everything that has already been accomplished by our students and educators by creating a mythical boogeyman just to score political points.” And this from the Tampa Bay Times: Scott’s declaration … is a serious setback for education reform.”

Board of Ed: Gov. Rick Scott on Monday appointed a former teacher as the newest member of the State Board of Education. The Buzz.

School buses: Lake County School Board members restore busing to more than 450 students who face dangerous walking routes to classes. Orlando Sentinel.

Charter schools: Academy of Arts & Minds, the high-performing but oft-scrutinized performing arts charter high school in Miami-Dade County files for bankruptcy. Miami Herald.

Teachers: The Call Me MISTER program seeks up to four black men a year to become teachers, providing scholarships for their tuition. In return, they must teach for at least five years in schools identified  as low performing. Florida Times-Union.

Achievement gap: The Tampa Tribune outlines Pinellas County’s new plan to help black students. Among the goals: Schools with high suspension rates for black students would receive training in “culturally responsive positive behavior interventions.”

Conduct: The Pinellas County School Board considers a recommendation to fire a bus driver who may have hit a student and then waited half an hour to report the accident. Tampa Bay Times. St. Lucie schools Superintendent Genelle Yost recommends firing a bus aide for allegedly verbally attacking a special-needs child. TC Palm. Hernando County’s superintendent recommends dismissing a teacher after a district investigation finds he falsified a recent application to renew his teaching certificate and failed to promptly report a conviction for driving under the influence. Tampa Bay Times.

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott: Keep Common Core, retreat on PARCC

Gov. Scott

Gov. Scott

Common Core is okay. But the new, multi-state tests aligned to them may have to go.

So suggests Florida Gov. Rick Scott in documents set for release today.

In a draft executive order, Scott says “Floridians will not accept Federal government intrusion into the academic standards that are taught to our students.” The order then says the tests being put together by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, better known as PARCC, “do not meet the needs of our students or the expectations of state leaders” in terms of cost, test length and testing requirements – and constitute “excessive involvement by the United States Department of Education.” It says the state education commissioner shall recommend to the state Board of Education that the board terminate Florida’s role as the fiscal agent for PARCC and establish a competitive bidding process for new tests.

In a draft letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Scott also criticizes PARCC, saying it “has become a primary entry point for the involvement of the federal government” in many state and local education decisions.

But the letter also notes the state BOE adopted Common Core standards in 2010 after a process that began under former Gov. Jeb Bush and continued under former House Speaker Marco Rubio.

“This process resulted in the highest academic standards that could move our students and teachers away from ‘teaching to the test’ and toward a more independent, analytical approach to reading, writing and math,” the letter says.

Here is a copy of the letter to Duncan. Here is a copy of the executive order. And here is a letter to BOE Chair Gary Chartrand.

Statement from Patricia Levesque at Foundation for Florida’s Future here. Statements from six of seven BOE members here.

Other coverage: Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay Times (editorial), Education Week, Sunshine State News, South Florida Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Orlando Sentinel, Associated Press, Pensacola News Journal, Gradebook, The BuzzStateImpact Florida, Daytona Beach News Journal, Fort Myers News Press, Sarasota Herald Tribune, John Romano, The Answer Sheet, Florida Current, NPR, Bridge to Tomorrow, Wall Street Journal.

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Seminole Indian charter school gives students the best of both worlds

The school day at Pemayetv Emahakv, a K-8 charter school in Florida, teaches students the Seminole Indian Tribe's native Creek language and culture.

The Pemayetv Emahakv, a K-8 charter school in Florida, teaches students the Seminole Indian reservation’s native Creek language and culture.

Enter Central Florida’s Brighton Indian Reservation, past cattle fields and citrus groves, and it doesn’t take long to understand the priorities of this Florida Seminole Indian Tribe.

There’s a casino, but there’s also a new elder affairs building and a star-shaped veterans center ringed with giant bronze statues. And there’s a charter school that’s become the community’s heartbeat.

Inside Pemayetv Emahakv, which means “Our Way,’’ students in kindergarten through eighth grade straddle two worlds – one rooted in their rich, proud heritage; the other in the wider space where they must compete and succeed like their counterparts across the planet.

So they study Creek, the tribe’s native tongue, along with the state’s new science standards. They string Indian beads into necklaces and read books on Kindles. They cook fry bread in chickees and take standardized tests in state-of-the art classrooms.

Students, most of whom are from the Seminole Indian Tribe, learn to string beads into jewelry the same way their ancestors did.

Students, most of whom are from the Seminole Indian Tribe, learn to string beads into jewelry the same way their ancestors did.

“We wanted a native curriculum,’’ said Michele Thomas, a parent and administrative assistant at the school and a Florida Seminole Indian. “That was the sole purpose. This school was built to save our language.’’

It’s no accident the school is a charter. That’s what gave it the flexibility to offer deep immersion in Seminole culture. It’s no surprise, either, that it’s part of a growing trend of charter schools opening on American Indian reservations across the country.

There are now 31 of them, according to a recent report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Twelve opened on Bureau of Indian Affairs lands between 2005 and 2010.

Some of the increase is due to a decades-old Congressional moratorium on new schools operated by the federal Bureau of Indian Education, which oversees public schools on American Indian reservations. That meant tribes couldn’t expand existing ones, either.

Charters offered an option.

But much of the growth can be attributed to a desire by American Indians to preserve their fading culture.

Students line up to ride the bus to the reservation's swimming pool.

Students line up to ride the bus to the reservation’s swimming pool.

“When we were growing up, our grandmas were around,’’ said Cecelia Thomas, a Seminole tribal member and bookkeeper at the school where two of her children attended. “Our uncles were around. Our mom and dad were around. We all lived on the same street or in the same little house. We just seemed to be a tighter-knit family.’’

Customs and language were passed down, from generation to generation. But even Thomas, 45, has lost some of those connections. Like a lot of parents her age on the reservation, she can’t speak her native tongue fluently so she can’t teach it to her children.

Before the charter school, she said, “our language was dying.”

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Florida schools roundup: Common Core, PARCC, achievement gap & more

Common Core: “I completely agree with former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and bipartisan leaders across the country that the Common Core standards are simply better than what we have been relying on… ” writes Charlie Crist for the Tampa Bay Times. florida-roundup-logoA Florida Insider Poll on the fate of Common Core finds 70 percent predict the new measures will stand, and 30 percent predict Florida will pull out three years after its implementation. The Buzz. The Polk County school district has been using Common Core State Standards in their lessons as well as the current Sunshine State Standards. The Ledger. And so has Sarasota County schools, says Superintendent Lori White. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. ”They’ve been called everything from leftist indoctrination to another tool meant to debase teachers and public education,” writes the Fort Myers News-Press, which takes a look at the new standards in Lee County.

PARCC: Education Week looks at who has the authority to withdraw from the testing consortium tied with Common Core State Standards, saying Gov. Scott can’t do it alone.

Accountability: Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano writes “The people who scream loudest about accountability in schools need to cool their jets for the next couple of years.”

Guns in schools: The Miami Herald spends three months investigating how much of a threat guns really pose to South Florida schools.

Achievement gap: Pinellas County schools Superintendent  Mike Grego gives more details on a new plan to boost academic performance for black students. Tampa Bay Times.

Sick day: More than 300 Manatee County students from an elementary school came down with stomach-flu-like symptoms, prompting the district sanitize the school and to warn parents to keep sick kids home. Sun Sentinel.

School boards: Board members across the state will receive a more than 3 percent raise this year. That means pay for each board member in Broward and Palm Beach counties will increase to $42,455. Sun Sentinel. Hillsborough County School Board members April Griffin and Susan Valdes use Superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s review to whine, posture and settle old scores, writes the Tampa Bay Times.

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redefinED roundup: charter school growth in N.C., legal battle in Alabama, Condoleezza Rice & more

MondayRoundUpAlabama: The state files documents to dismiss the Southern Poverty Law Center’s suit against the new school choice program (Al.com).

Florida: A new private school specializing in special needs education will open in Sarasota, with the state’s McKay scholarship program funding the $11,000 to $17,000 a year tuition (Bradenton Herald). After five years of declining enrollment, Catholic schools in Palm Beach County are seeing a rebound in student enrollment (Sun-Sentinel).

Indiana: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks at a church in Indianapolis and calls for more options for students (Indianapolis Star).

Kentucky: With nearly 10,000 students, the Catholic Diocese of Covington would be the third largest school district in northern Kentucky.  The diocese would like to see a tax-credit scholarship program for low-income students (Cincinnati.com).

Louisiana: The Department of Justice’s lawsuit to block the voucher program is based on the enrollment of 570 of the 8,000 voucher students located in 22 districts under federal desegregation orders (Education Week, Washington Times, The Advocate). Gov. Bobby Jindal aired television ads slamming the anti-voucher lawsuit (Associated Press).

Maine: Three charter schools in the state claim success with their special needs student population (MPBN).

Mississippi: The state’s new charter school board will operate on 3 percent of the revenue collected from authorized charters but the board has no charter schools yet and the state didn’t appropriate a starting budget (Clarion Ledger, Fordham Institute).

North Carolina: The Charlotte area sees strong growth in charter school enrollment and has piqued the interest of more charter school operators (Charlotte Observer). Minority Democrats in the state legislature took a bold step supporting school choice, says Robert Danos, a former spokesman for the 11th District GOP (Blue Ridge Now). Continue Reading →

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Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Loch Ness monster, DOJ spreadsheets & more

We’re trying something new today: an occasional report card that offers a quick analysis of education reform news from around the country. Who gets a satisfactory? Who’s in need of improvement? Read on.

MrGibbonsReportCard

Joy Resmovits, ed writer at Huffington Post

The Huffington Post is a fair news outlet when it comes to offering a broad range of view on education reform. But sometimes it voluntarily repeats the same bizarre or weak criticisms of school choice. Joy Resmovits’ most recent article on the DOJ suit against Louisiana vouchers gives added weight to bizarre, one-off criticisms while not giving enough weight to the evidence supporting vouchers.

Joy reports the “evidence on the value of vouchers is limited.” I’m not sure how she means to use the word “limited.” Results are “limited” in the sense that vouchers themselves are generally only available to a small group of highly disadvantaged students who then receive a relatively small scholarship to attend private schools. The value is usually around half the amount spent on a district public school. Even then, 11 of the 12 of the random assignment studies on the value of vouchers shows positive results for students using them.

gopplotIn another instance,  Joy references a private school which teaches that the Loch Ness monster is evidence in favor of the Young Earth Creationist theory. It’s a point of criticism Joy has raised in at least three  other  articles on vouchers, but it really doesn’t deserve the weight and attention she gives it. The use of the Loch Ness monster is so weird even other creationists make fun of it.

Using a rare and off-the-wall case in a private school to criticize an entire voucher system would be like me criticizing public education because a single district banned a lesbian girl from wearing a tuxedo for her senior portrait, or because a district has a high school named after one of the Ku Klux Klan founders, or because a district banned a book from the library - or any number of other examples of bad and/or discriminatory behavior in our nation’s schools.

Grade: In Need of Improvement

 

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Florida schools roundup: PARCC, Pam Stewart, teacher raises & more

School counselors: Palm Beach County elementary school counselors learn a new curriculum aimed at fourth- and fifth-graders called “Breaking The Silence: Teaching the Next Generation About Mental Illness.” Sun Sentinel.

florida-roundup-logoTeacher raises: The Orange County school district and its teachers union haven’t reached an agreement on pay increases, so the district has declared an impasse that ends months of negotiations. Orlando Sentinel.

Common Core: Gov. Rick Scott is concerned about the costs of measuring the new standards with PARCC, but most analyses shows the assessment costs about the same or less than what the state currently spends on FCAT. StateImpact Florida.

Pam Stewart: “Stewart does not inherit an easy job, but the broad support she has won early on offers reason to be optimistic about the future of education in Florida,” writes the Tallahassee Democrat.

Space project: Hillsborough County students are competing to see who gets to send their science project to the International Space Station, where it will be conducted by astronauts. Tampa Bay Times.

Summer reading: About half of Pinellas elementary school students improve their reading skills after attending a first-time summer program for struggling learners, while 47 percent stay at level or lose ground. Tampa Bay Times.

Bullying: Duval County Public Schools re-launches its anonymous tip hotline with a new feature to help encourage reporting of incidents: texting. Florida Times-Union. A Dallas-based motivational speaker tells Sarasota County high school students about being the target of bullies. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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A closer look at cherry pickin’ – and who’s doing it

no_cherry_pickingCharter schools are often accused of cherry picking students by expelling the lowest performers – a misleading claim I wrote about last week. But another recent example, this time in our backyard, offers a prompt to underscore another point: public school districts either transfer or assign troubled, low-performing, and special needs students out of district schools, and into specialty schools, all the time.

In this latest case, the Pinellas County School District began fielding complaints just a few weeks into the school year that a new charter school was kicking out kids with behavioral issues. As it turned out, the district was unable to find evidence this was happening. But what’s still noteworthy is how often districts take similar actions

Last year, the Pinellas district placed 1.2 percent of its low-performing and chronically disruptive students in special schools. When including schools for “exceptional students” (which includes special needs as well as mentally disturbed students) the enrollment is 2 percent of the district’s entire student population. The vast majority of these kids are nonwhite and low-income, as this chart shows:

charterperspective

For many possible reasons, traditional schools were not a good fit for these students, so the district either assigned them to another school in the beginning or transferred them later. Of course, no one is criticizing school districts for moving these students. And I don’t think they should.

In fact, we should celebrate the fact that districts are using specialty schools to meet the unique needs of these disadvantaged and troubled students.

We should remember this before jumping to conclusions about charter schools too. Charters don’t have a network of specialty schools to fall back on like public schools. So when a student is chronically disruptive or violent, or when the school simply doesn’t have the means to serve that student’s needs, it may not have any other choice but to expel the student or recommend a transfer.

Barring a much more detailed analysis, using transfer, suspension and expulsion rates to criticize charter schools simply isn’t fair. That’s especially true if you jump to conclusions and assume charter operators have the worst motivations.

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