Florida schools roundup: Common Core, charter schools, school nurses & more

florida-roundup-logoCommon Core: On Hernando County School Board members’ discussion of the new standards: “If there was one bright spot in board members’ critique of Common Core it was that they accidentally made a beautiful argument in the standards’ favor,” writes columnist Dan DeWitt for the Tampa Bay Times. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education reaches out to the Pasco school district get the word out to parents about Common Core. Tampa Bay Times.

School nurses: School health clinics re-imagine the role of school nurses with more programs that could help students earn better grades. StateImpact Florida.

Conduct: A former Hillsborough County elementary school principal receives six consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty to two murders, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery. Tampa Bay Times.

Bus fees: Thousands of Lake County students who lost their bus service to school this year will soon be able to pay a fee to ride while others will get free rides if their walking route is considered dangerous by a new school board-created standard. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher pay: Manatee County school leaders and the local teachers union reach an agreement that will restore some of the salaries frozen or cut in past years. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 

Conversion charter: Manatee County School Board leaders approve the district’s first conversion charter school – Monroe Rowlett Academy of Arts and Communication, which will open next fall. Bradenton Herald.

Budgets: The Manatee County School Board postpones the final vote on the budget to give the public time to review it. Bradenton Herald.

9/11 tribute: Two Providence Community School students in Manatee County promote a 9/11 project to make sure their community and fellow students never lose awareness of the tragic day. Bradenton Herald.

Science fair: A Leon County middle school student has been named a finalist in the Broadcom MASTERS national science fair. Tallahassee Democrat.


Markets can undermine social justice aims of charter schools

Editor’s note: This guest post is by Chris Lubienski, professor of education policy at the University of Illinois, where he is director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education. He is at twitter.com/CLub_edu



Some social justice advocates are quite enthralled with the possibilities of school choice. While district and enrollment boundaries reflect segregated residential patterns in the U.S., choice allows families to select schools across these artificial barriers, eradicating an important institutional impediment to equity. Moreover, schools then must compete to attract students, just like businesses strive to attract customers.

Charter schools reflect these ideals. It’s worth remembering that some of the early adopters of this innovation were progressive educators frustrated by the disservice that district-run public schools were doing to marginalized children. Charter schools embody the advantages of choice: giving parents alternatives, creating competition with public school districts, and offering the possibility of more socially integrated education based on interest, not race or residence. Compared to, say, vouchers, charters are the choice policy most favored by liberals. (Of course, charters also are embraced by conservative market advocates.)

Since the charter movement began, there have been debates about whether charter schools represent privatization. The recent issue of the Oxford Review of Education, which focuses on privatization, education and social justice, considers such questions and the equity implications.

In the classic sense of the term, it’s difficult to argue that charter schools “privatize” public education. Unlike, say, the transfer of state-run industries to private owners in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, ownership of public schools is generally not being shifted to private hands. In fact, one could argue the opposite is happening, as some private schools have opted into the publicly funded system to become charter schools, and many families have left tuition-based private schools for “free” taxpayer-funded charter schools.

Yet it’s also difficult to ignore the large-scale shift in American educational governance. Within a few short years, large swaths of urban systems run by elected school boards have been transferred to private (for-profit and non-profit) management groups. In Los Angeles, 100,000 students are now in charter schools.  More than 1 in 3 public school students in Detroit, Kansas City and the District of Columbia now attend privately run charter schools. Policymakers are aggressively shutting down Chicago’s neighborhood public schools and inviting in private charter operators. Louisiana embraced charter schools as the primary reform model for re-making public education in post-Katrina New Orleans, where some 80 percent of students now attend charter schools. This is a remarkable record for a school model that didn’t exist 25 years ago.

So in this broader view, it would seem charters serve as a vehicle for moving governance of public education away from public control. Moreover, the charter movement is serving as the primary entry point for private investment seeking to reconfigure public education into a site for profit-making. Continue Reading →


Rick Hess on school choice, Common Core and for-profits in education



For those who dismiss the potential upside of for-profits in education, Rick Hess asks them to consider virtually every other aspect of their lives.

“Think about other big investments people make: their house, their car, their tablet or smartphone,” wrote Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, in a live chat on redefinED today. ”If you told folks that they could get a house or car made by a nonprofit, they wouldn’t think it was better – odds are, they’d look at you like you were nuts.”

“Fact is, in most of American life, something being a for-profit is generally regarded as a good thing – and government-provided services are frequently regarded as mediocre, or suspect. It’s not immediately clear to me that it ought to be expected to be different in education.”

We asked Hess to join us because he has co-edited a new book on for-profits in education, “Private Enterprise and Public Education.” But over the course of an hour, he weighed in on a wide range of topics. Among the highlights:

On Jeb Bush, his presidential ambitions and Common Core: “Jeb’s got a remarkable track record on education. But, especially in GOP primaries, his full-throated backing of Common Core could trump the rest.”

On President Obama and his administration’s lawsuit against vouchers in Louisiana: “It’s a good move if Obama is trying to score points with the teacher unions and traditional education establishment, or if he’s trying to extend the reach of the federal government in education. It’s a bad move for the affected kids in Louisiana or if he’s interested in trying to claim bipartisan support for his education agenda.”

On Florida, Common Core and PARCC: ”I think it’s likely Florida will drop PARCC. Will be interesting to see what follows. … This is the fascinating thing about the Common Core; for it to deliver on its promise, a ton of stuff has to go right. For it to not deliver, only a couple little things have to go south.”

On a criticism school choice supporters should take to heart: Don’t dismiss suburban parents who don’t want their schools to invite in low-performing students through choice plans. “Choice advocates have denounced such parents and communities, and even implied they’re racist. It might be useful to recognize that they’ve worked hard, played by the rules, and sought to provide their kids a good education … Empathetic reform would start by taking these issues seriously, and asking how to frame a win-win agenda.”

You can replay the chat here:


Florida schools roundup: Tony Bennett, charter schools, teacher raises & more

Tony Bennett: A new report finds the school grading formula changes that former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett made in Indiana in 2012 were “plausible” and “consistently applied” to all schools. StateImpact Florida. More from Tampa Bay Times. More from the Associated Press. The report showcases the problems with implementing a radically new school-rating system. Education Week. “We finally have a resolution,” writes Rick Hess for Education Week. “The headline: Bennett exonerated.” What if Tony Bennett was right and the Associated Press got it wrong? writes a guest columnist for Journal & Courier.

florida-roundup-logoSchool discipline: A Broward County student’s expulsion for bringing a taser to school to stay safe sparks discussion about the district’s discipline policy. Sun Sentinel.

Charter schools: Proponents of the nontraditional public schools in Palm Beach County say their growth may be easing crowding in district-run schools. Palm Beach Post. The Palm Beach County School Board votes this week on a charter school application from the City of West Palm Beach. Palm Beach Post. Central Florida school boards will consider nearly three dozen charter school applications in the coming weeks. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher raises: St. Lucie and Martin county school teachers may see less of a pay raise than expected.  TC Palm. Brevard Public Schools and its teachers union will go before a special magistrate later this month to decide teacher salaries. Florida Today.

Tutoring: Changes at the state level have given the Lee County school district and others across Florida more control over tutoring services, also known as supplemental education services or SES. Fort Myers News-Press.

Superintendents: Hillsborough County Superintendent MaryEllen Elia receives high praise and highly critical marks in her annual eval. Tampa Bay Times.

Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: DOJ on the defensive, vouchers in Indiana, charter schools in California & more

MondayRoundUp_whiteAlabama: 719 students transfer schools under the new school choice law, with 52 attending private schools (AL.com, Dothan Eagle).

California: AB 917 will make it even harder to convert a public school to a charter school. Currently the law requires half of all teachers to approve the conversion but the new bill would require half of all employees – regardless of whether they teach students – to approve the conversion (Fox and Hound Daily). California charter schools are turning to grants to stay afloat and afford capital expenses (Fresno Bee).

Indiana: The state attorney general issues an opinion which states special education voucher students attending private schools can continue to receive special needs services from local public schools (Courier Journal). A new report ranks Indiana No. 1 for education reform (Eagle Country Online). A faith-based alternative private school has been approved to accept voucher students, but only one student will apply for a voucher since the state already paid for the education of the other students (Chronicle-Tribune).

Louisiana: Some school choice students face an hour-long bus ride to school, but their parents say it’s well worth it (The Advocate). The state files to delay the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the fledgling voucher program (The Advocate, Times-Picayune).

Massachusetts: More than 40,000 students are on wait-lists for charter schools and the Boston Herald editorial staff weighs in, blaming  the size of the wait-list on Democrats who caved to pressure from charter school opponents and created artificial barriers to enrollment and growth (Boston Herald). Continue Reading →


I’m conservative, I’m for school choice and I back Common Core

Wendy Howard: Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Wendy Howard: Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Editor’s note: Wendy Howard is executive director of Florida Alliance for Choices in Education, a group that includes a wide range of school choice organizations, including Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog. A shorter version of this post ran this week as a letter to the editor in the Tampa Bay Times. Given Wendy’s conservative political bent, her staunch support for school choice and the concerns about Common Core, we thought it worthwhile to share a fuller version.

With attacks on the Common Core State Standards for education coming from both sides of the aisle, what are parents to think?

I’ve heard Common Core is Obama’s agenda to indoctrinate our children. I’ve heard it’s an unconstitutional federal takeover. I’ve even heard it’s a scheme to perform experiments nationwide on our next generation. After doing some research, I learned none of those concerns hold water. The bickering continues, however, while our children suffer the consequences.

The fact is, our kids need higher standards for education. Let’s look at a couple of disconcerting facts from the perspective of a parent with two children attending a public charter school.

Forty percent of Florida’s class of 2013 who took the ACT college entrance exam were graded “not college ready” in any subject, which is higher than the national average of 31 percent. As a parent, this has huge financial implications. If my children are part of these statistics, I will have to pay for remedial classes in college, something I simply cannot afford. As a taxpayer, I expect my child’s diploma to mean she actually succeeded in high school and can move right into college courses. As a nation, millions of kids and their parents are impacted each year when that turns out not to be the case.

Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Here’s another troubling statistic: Thirty percent of high school graduates can’t pass the U.S. military entrance exam, which is only focused on basic reading and math skills. At what point does the lack of high standards become a national security issue? If the learning gap between the U.S. and other countries continues to rise, which country becomes the next super power? What does our country look like in 20, 40, 60 years? I guess that depends on whether we look at the achievement gap between the U.S. and other countries as a crisis – or another issue we kick down the road. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: State grades, Common Core, mentors & more

Grade appeal: Two West Palm Beach County schools are among 12 in the state appealing their overall grades to the Florida Department of Education. Sun Sentinel.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools: Pinellas County’s newest charter school, University Preparatory Academy, draws complaints concerning students with behavioral problems. Tampa Bay Times.

Common Core: Will new Common Core standards mean less teaching to the test? StateImpact Florida.

Special needs: A Palm Beach high school culinary club partners with Autism Speaks to develop a cooking program that helps kids with autism make friends. Sun Sentinel.

Enrollment: Palm Beach County schools lose more than 1,000 students in official district count while charter school enrollment booms. Palm Beach Post.

Drop in: Orange County educators will visit former students who have dropped out of school to persuade them to return. Orlando Sentinel.

Mentors: What the Polk County School District needs now is more mentors, says the district’s Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy. The Ledger.

The arts: “Orange County has reached a milestone,” writes columnist Scott Maxwell. “We have at least one art or music teacher in every school. That is both impressive … and sad.” Orlando Sentinel.

Name change: A social media campaign gains steam toward changing the name of a Jacksonville high school named after the first grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan. Florida Times-Union.

Continue Reading →


Plenty of upside for AP push

Between 2003 and 2012, the number of low-income graduating seniors passing at least one AP exam climbed from 32,523 to 120,254. That’s an increase of 270 percent. That’s amazing.

Between 2003 and 2012, the number of low-income graduating seniors passing at least one AP exam climbed from 32,523 to 120,254. That’s an increase of 270 percent. That’s amazing.

Every few months, a major media outlet writes an expose about Advanced Placement classes. The stories (like this one and this one and this one) question the success of large-scale campaigns to expose minority and low-income students to the rigors of AP, using a jumble of numbers to make their case. Unfortunately, they’re often unfairly selective and tend to ignore an undeniably inspiring trend: More poor students are taking and passing AP courses than ever before.

I covered the AP push as a reporter in Florida. There’s plenty that merits scrutiny. I don’t think AP is the end-all, be-all. But on balance, the evidence suggests it has been a good thing – and the kind of good thing public school champions should be the first to highlight.

In the Florida case, public schools showed they can be responsive to low-income kids. For decades, and for no good reason, low-income kids were denied access to college-caliber AP classes, the nearly exclusive domain of white kids in the ‘burbs. So better late than never, schools in the Sunshine State opened the doors, raised expectations and gave students and teachers extra support.

I don’t know off-hand what the AP numbers are like from state to state; I don’t doubt some states have done a better job than others. But the national numbers, like the ones I got to know pretty well in Florida, suggest a lot of positive.

So I’m stumped as to why many stories are so negative – and why they leave out key numbers. The recent Politico story noted that between 2002 and 2012, the pass rate on AP tests fell from 61 percent to 57 percent. That’s true. But the story minimized the fact that because of vastly higher participation rates – and the success of so many of those new participants – hundreds of thousands of additional students are not just taking the tests every year, but passing them.

Forgive me while I highlight my own jumble of numbers: In 2002, 305,098 graduating seniors in the U.S. had passed at least one AP exam. By 2012, the number was 573,472. That’s an 88 percent increase. That’s excellent.

The numbers for low-income students are even more impressive. Between 2003 and 2012 (2002 figures were not available from the College Board), the number of low-income graduating seniors passing at least one exam climbed from 32,523 to 120,254. That’s an increase of 270 percent. That’s amazing.

Passing an AP test is a pretty good indicator those kids are college ready. More important, it shows they belonged in those classes all along. Continue Reading →