redefinED roundup: vouchers in Wisconsin, charters in Washington, DOJ still on defensive & more

MondayRoundUp_redAlabama: State Democrats want to de-fund the new tax-credit scholarship program and use the money to fund the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (The Anniston Star). The new scholarship program provides a little bit of choice but it is limited by the scholarship cap of $3,500 per student (Troy Messenger).

Connecticut: Although this doesn’t measure the impact, new state data shows open enrollment students in Hartford outperform students who remain in city schools (The Courant).

Florida: Waste Management donates $4.5 million to StepUp For Students – the scholarship organization that runs Florida’s education scholarship tax-credit program – at a Marlins baseball game (PRWeb). Florida’s aging population means resources will flow into pensions and healthcare for retirees. That means education needs to be more effective in both cost and student achievement (The Edfly Blog).

Louisiana: The cost of busing students in New Orleans has doubled since 2004-05 as the average trip of 1.9 miles increased to 3.4 miles by 2012 thanks to school choice and open enrollment (The Lens). The Department of Education wants $378,000 back from a voucher school after it was discovered the school charged the state $6,300 per pupil but only $2,000 if the parent paid on their own (Times-Picayune).

Massachusetts: Mayoral candidates debate education at the local teacher union office and a few candidates are brave enough to show their support for charter schools and lifting the cap on charter schools (Boston Globe).

Michigan: Detroit public schools are stepping up their game to recruit and retain students in the midst of competition from charters and other public school districts (The Detroit News).

Minnesota: A high-poverty charter school in Minneapolis is beating the odds, improving student achievement and reducing the racial achievement gap (Star Tribune).

Missouri: Normandy School District must cut $15 million from its budget as students (and their funding) depart for other school districts under a state open enrollment plan for students in failing school districts (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Continue Reading →


Charter schools are not pushing out low-performing students

strictdiciplineEarlier this week, University of Illinois Professor Chris Lubienski penned a thoughtful piece on charter schools and social justice. His central concern was markets could undermine the social justice aims held by many charter school advocates. Rather than focusing on providing quality education, Lubienski asserts charter schools may be self-selecting the best students and, in particular, weeding out the most disadvantaged students.

While the concerns are valid, the evidence against charter schools is scant and anecdotal and does not allow anyone to draw broad conclusions.

For example, Lubienski cited a recent story from the New York Daily News that showed the Success Academy charter school network has higher suspension rates than surrounding district schools. The anecdote highlighted a special needs student who had difficulty reading and threw temper tantrums in school – which included physically attacking a teacher and throwing objects. Ultimately that family withdrew from the school – something they wouldn’t have been able to do in a traditional public school without a lawyer or school choice – because the mother was “tired of fighting” with school officials.

In another case, Success Academy admitted it didn’t have the means to comply with a special needs student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and recommended the student be transferred to a public school that specialized in special needs education. The parent ultimately decided to stay and push the school to follow the IEP.

Suspensions, counseling and repeated parent-teacher meetings would have to be the most passive aggressive means of getting rid of bad students and probably not all that effective. A more effective means might simply be to expel the students outright. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charter schools, texting, teacher pay & more

Charter schools: A 14-day count shows Broward County charter schools gained 4,300 students this year while district-run schools dropped by 2,500 students. Sun Sentinel. Manatee County’s Imagine School has a new leader focused on improvement. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Hillsborough County School District should continue to monitor charter schools for fees and other charges passed along to students. Tampa Bay Times.

florida-roundup-logoTexting & driving: Broward and Palm Beach county schools organize their distracted driving campaigns to coincide with a state law that bans texting while driving. Sun Sentinel.

Teacher pay: Nearly 13,000 Orange County public school teachers will have to keep waiting for their raises after the local teachers union rejects the district’s offer. Orlando Sentinel. The Seminole County school district proposes a $1,350 pay hike for all teachers, but the union wants raises that on average would come close to $2,800. Orlando Sentinel.

Success story: Middleton High School once was on academic life support following a string of six consecutive state-issued D grades. Now the school’s principal and two students are about to participate in a national conference focused on turning around failing schools. The Tampa Tribune.

Accountability: Orange County school leaders set a goal for the district to return to an A grade by 2014-15, get 80 percent of schools to a grade of B or higher, and get 65 percent of students performing proficiently in math, reading and writing. Orlando Sentinel. Polk County Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy unveils a metrics system for principals to reach academic goals. The Ledger.

Funding: Florida has the second-largest per pupil increase in education spending for the 2013-2014 budget year, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. StateImpact Florida.

Attendance zones: Despite repeated complaints from parents at Jamerson Elementary, it appears that the Pinellas County School Board doesn’t plan to budge on changing the school’s feeder pattern, says the Tampa Bay Times.

Common Core: State House Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach) on why she filed a bill to stop Florida from implementing the new standards: “It’s going to make us stop and take a look at what it is we’re really doing.” Florida Today. A Hernando County magnet school librarian offers Civics in Action, or CIA, a new focus to help prepare students and the school for Common Core. Tampa Bay Times.

Continue Reading →


Teacher ranks continue to grow in Florida charter schools

charter school teacher chart2

It’s no surprise, given rocketing growth in Florida charter school enrollment, that the number of charter school teachers is on the rise, too. But the trend lines are still worth an update.

Last year, the number of instructional personnel in Florida charter schools reached 11,446, according to the most recent data from the Florida Department of Education. That’s up 7 percent from fall 2011, when the number topped 10,000 for the first time. (The number of instructional personnel in all Florida public schools is up 2.2 percent.) Charter teachers now account for 5.9 percent of Florida’s entire teacher corps.

We’ll try to corral the 2013-14 numbers once they’re available in a month or so. In the meantime, check out this spreadsheet from DOE. It shows the number of charter school employees by category, and offers a district-by-district breakdown.


Florida schools roundup: 10-day count, cell towers, background checks & more

Board of Ed: Florida public school educators want more per-student funding and more money for technology, teacher training, dual enrollment courses and algebra camps for rising 9th graders, according to a preliminary budget request the State Board of Education is considering next week. Sun Sentinel.

florida-roundup-logoCommon Core: New K-12 education standards are reshaping classroom instruction to better reflect the realities of college and the workplace, the Broward County school district says. Sun Sentinel. House Speaker Will Weatherford says he supports high academic standards, but tells StateImpact Florida that critics raised some legitimate concerns about Common Core.

Tony Bennett: A guest post in Education Week  says the only people who believe the former Florida Education Commissioner was exonerated are those who agree with him.

Charter schools: Palm Beach County School Board members approve plans for a city-run K-5 charter schools that calls for 600 students and is set to open next year. The school will focus on raising reading levels among the city’s children. Sun Sentinel. Pinellas County school officials determine there was no evidence of “cherry picking” students at a newly opened charter school in St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay Times.

10-day count: Some Treasure Coast students may not be in the same classroom where they started the school year about three weeks ago and others could have a different teacher as districts analyze data from the enrollment counts taken after the first 10 days of school. TC Palm.

Continue Reading →


FDOE: Florida does good job reporting school spending data to the public

FDOE: Florida’s school district data reporting systems are highly regarded and are used as models for other states.

FDOE: Florida’s school district data reporting systems are highly regarded and are used as models for other states.

Editor’s note: On redefinED last week, Jason Bedrick at the Cato Institute offered suggestions to the Florida Department of Education on improving its financial transparency, including how to make fuller, more accurate per-pupil spending figures easily available to the public. The post drew the following response from the FDOE communications office.

The Florida Department  of Education staff is concerned  the Cato  Institute’s release on financial reporting failed to explore or consider important elements of the Florida financial reporting process. In the process of grading all states, researchers often use a one-size- fits-all research model that does not necessarily accommodate state variation in financial reporting. To validate initial findings, it is appropriate to share the findings with information sources before publication. Below is a summary of available Florida school district finance data.

Transparency Florida

Florida’s school district financial reporting systems for approximately 2.7 million students and over 321,000 full-time employees have long been considered among the best in the nation. With the enactment of the Transparency Florida Act established in Section 215.985, Florida Statutes, by the 2011 Florida Legislature, the FDOE has improved the availability of school district financial  data  for  taxpayers,  parents,  and  education advocates. Governmental  agencies, including the FDOE and school districts, provide current budget data and the most recent year’s revenue and expenditure information on their websites. Within the next year, school districts also will provide current-year expenditure information and vendor contract information on a regular basis.

Profiles of Florida School Districts

The Profiles of Florida School Districts – Financial Data is an annual publication that summarizes school district Annual Financial Report data that is available on the department’s webpage at The Annual Financial Report presents data at the district level detailing revenue by source and presenting expenditures by fund, function, and object. For ease of use, the FDOE condenses the data, in part, into the profiles publication, which is available at Continue Reading →


Charter schools: more diversity, more poverty, similar results

sassEvery year the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) releases its School and Staffing Survey, a treasure mine of interesting education tidbits for education data geeks.

According to the latest (collected from 14,000 schools during the 2011-12 school year), 64 percent of private school 12th graders will go on to a 4-year college or university but only 39.5 percent of traditional public school students and 37.2 percent of charter school students will do the same.

But don’t get too excited. Some caution is needed before making a conclusion about the impact of these schools because there are big differences regarding students and teachers at these schools. For example, private schools are much whiter and more affluent than public schools. That might explain some of the 25 percentage point advantage in college enrollment rates.

But if being whiter and more affluent helps private schools, it doesn’t seem to do much for traditional public schools when compared to charter schools. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Rick Scott, Tony Bennett, charter schools & more

Rick Scott: Florida’s governor is in the middle of a tug-of-war over education that could reshape the state’s schools while also turning upside down the 2016 presidential race. Associated Press.

florida-roundup-logoTony Bennett: Sunshine State News reports that it was Tony Bennett’s successor in Indiana, Glenda Ritz, formerly head of the teachers union in Washington Township schools, who turned over Bennett’s emails to the Associated Press.

Charter schools: Palm Beach County school district officials recommend the board approve a 90-day termination notice for two iGeneration Empowerment Academy schools after a last-minute location change and a host of fire code problems. Palm Beach Post. McKeel Academy schools in Polk County give up making their own meals in favor of a food service company’s healthy offerings. The Ledger. After two Fs, Imagine Middle School in Pinellas County asks the state for a waiver to stay open. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher raises: About 100 Orange County teachers frustrated by the slow pace of bargaining over raises crowd into a school board meeting to encourage board members to “fund what you value.” Orlando Sentinel.

9/11: Four Duval County high school seniors in a Junior ROTC class share memories of the terrorists attacks. Florida Times-Union.

Dropouts: The Orange County school district tries a new dropout prevention program that has officials knocking on parents’ doors and re-registers 224 students. Orlando Sentinel. The No. 1 reason students drop out of high school? Classes aren’t interesting. Orlando Sentinel.

Contamination: At least four Miami-Dade public schools will have soil samples tested for contamination from an old city incinerator. Miami Herald.

50th anniversary: Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, a private Catholic high school for girls in South Miami-Dade, opened 50 years ago in two rooms and today serves 824 students. Miami Herald.

Teachers: Many new teachers feel overwhelmed because they are often assigned to the most difficult schools. StateImpact Florida’s continuing series, Classroom Contemplations, looks at one teacher who left her school to work with death row inmates.

Bullying: A 12-year-old Lakeland girl is found dead in what her family is calling an apparent suicide after she endured more than a year of online bullying. The Ledger. A 13-year-old Polk County student starts a nonprofit organization in reaction to the bullying he endured because of his diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome, and garners national attention. The Ledger.

Budgets: The Polk County School Board approves a $758.3 million general fund budget focused on student achievement, struggling readers, Common Core curriculum standards, and low-performing schools. The Ledger. The Lee County School Board OKs a $1.3 billion budget for the 2013-14 school year. Fort Myers News-Press. The Pinellas County School Board unanimously approves a $1.3 billion budget for 2013-14 that includes pay raises for teachers and a smaller tax rate for property owners. Tampa Bay Times.

Cell towers: Collier County school board members hear from concerned citizens about a cell phone tower planned for a local elementary. Naples Daily News.

Technology: An Escambia County high school is the recipient of 40 new computers donated in honor of a pioneering principal. Pensacola News Journal. For the first time, Hillsborough County public school students can – with permission from their teachers – use personal devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops in the classroom. The Tampa Tribune.

Conduct: A Hillsborough County high school student faces a weapons charge after he shows a gun to a classmate. The Tampa Tribune.