Florida schools roundup: Charters, virtual schools, grad rates & more

Charter schools: The Orange County school district ties for 10th nationally for “highest growth” in charter school enrollment the past two years. Orlando Sentinel.

florida-roundup-logoCareer academies: The Clearwater Aeronautical Space Academy will allow Pinellas high school students to earn 30 college credits from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and complete Private Pilot Ground School. The Tampa Tribune.

FLVS: Florida Virtual School offers students flexibility when they need it. Florida Watchdog.org.

Private schools: St. John’s Episcopal Day School in Tampa donates 3,200 pounds of food to a local shelter. The Tampa Tribune.

Standardized tests: Creating an environment where students are expected to stretch their performance is the best way to assure that our nation will not be at risk, writes Michael A. MacDowell for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Achievement gaps: Florida has strong gains among White students and even stronger gains among Black students, proving once again that the Florida reform cocktail is as a highly beneficial beverage, writes Matthew Ladner for EdFly.

Finances 101: A coalition of Florida lawmakers says money matters and schools need to do a better job teaching students about finances. The Florida Current. “The Money Course” will require a half-credit, full semester financial literacy course starting next fall. Sun Sentinel. More from the Tallahassee Democrat.

Grad rates: Broward County’s high school graduation rate dropped slightly in 2013, from 76.4 to 75.3. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach County’s overall graduation rate was 76.3 percent, compared to 77 percent the year before. Statewide, 75.6 percent of students graduated. Sun Sentinel. The slight drop in graduation rates for Palm Beach County is at least partly on the shoulders of the charter schools. Palm Beach Post. Polk graduated 69.4 percent of its seniors in school year 2012-13, a 2.6 percent increase over 2011-12′s rate. The Ledger. More from the Orlando Sentinel, Florida Today, Florida Times-Union, Tallahassee Democrat and the Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →


What’s your #schoolchoiceWISH?

2013WISHLISTFINALIn the spirit of the holidays, the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the redefinED blog are partnering on something a little bit different this year to raise awareness: A fun, one-day Twitter campaign.

We need you to help us. All you have to do is tweet.

Just think of one thing you wish would change to help the cause of vouchers, or charter schools, or parental empowerment, or anything else related to parental school choice. Then, on Wednesday, Dec. 18, tweet it out with #schoolchoiceWISH as a hash tag.

It can be personal. It can be political. But whatever it is, make it heartfelt.

If you’d like, attach a photo. We might even put it up on our facebook page.

We’ll be following everyone’s #schoolchoiceWISH tweets all day, and retweeting and replying. Please join us. Happy tweeting!

On a related note, we’ll soon be running a series of special guest blog posts on the wish list theme, too. More details soon.


Catholic schools: Don’t forget about us

If Florida’s Catholic schools and their 84,000 students were part of a public school district, they’d be the ninth largest in the state. They’d generate scores of news stories every year. Have powerful interests battling on their behalf. Win praise for saving taxpayer money. But like other private schools, they’re often out of sight, out of mind.

Sen. Altman: “If we’re going to meet the future needs of society, we have to have a viable private, parochial and faith-based education system” in addition to public schools,

Sen. Altman: “If we’re going to meet the future needs of society, we have to have a viable private, parochial and faith-based education system” in addition to public schools,

In Tallahassee Tuesday night, Florida’s Catholic school superintendents led a meet-and-greet with a handful of state lawmakers to send a polite but direct message: Don’t forget about us.

“The impact of Catholic education in our state can never be underestimated,” Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee told about 100 people gathered on the top floor of the Capitol.

Catholic schools have long enjoyed a reputation for serving low- and middle-income families and setting a high academic bar. For taxpayers, they offer financial benefits, too. Florida’s Catholic schools save the state at least $435 million every year, according to new calculations by the Florida Catholic Conference. That’s how much it would cost to educate Catholic school students in public schools, less the cost of publicly funded school choice programs.

Tuesday’s event, which included brief remarks by Gov. Rick Scott, was not a knock on public schools. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Career academies, charters, districts & more

Career academy: Some Pasco County high school students will learn to fly drones when their school launches an aviation career academy in conjunction with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The Tampa Tribune.

Charter schools: Pinellas County school board members approve the school district’s first virtual charter school. The Tampa Tribune. Hillsborough school officials vote down a charter school for MacDill Air Force Base. redefinED. More from The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. The Hillsborough County School Board made the correct decision in denying an application for a charter school at MacDill Air Force Base, writes the Tampa Bay Times. florida-roundup-logoAs the Miami-Dade School Board looks to improve its grip on charter schools, a new national report shows that Florida’s network of independent schools is expanding faster than anywhere else in the U.S. Miami Herald. Orange County school district ties for 10th nationally for “highest growth” in charter school enrollment the past two years. Orlando Sentinel. School board members receive a recommendation to deny approval of the South Lee County Florida High School for Accelerated Learning, but they vote to wait another month on a final ruling. Naples Daily News.

District schools: To help compete with a growing array of school options, Broward County plans its first online technical high school, three new preK-8 schools, and an overhaul of six failing elementary schools. Sun Sentinel. Four struggling Lee County schools get an extended school day starting in the new year. Fort Myers News-Press.

Honors classes: Starting next school year, incoming freshmen in Pinellas County high schools may find that honors classes carry less weight for their GPA than AP, IB and dual-enrollment classes. The Tampa Tribune.

Teacher evals: Calls to push back the deadlines are getting louder. Tallahassee Democrat.

Common Core: The Pasco County school district plans a series of 13 community meetings to educate parents about the Common Core State Standards. The Tampa Tribune. Continue Reading →


Gov. Rick Scott: Catholic schools are working

Gov. Scott chats with one of the attendees during the Catholic school event in the Capitol.

Gov. Scott chats with one of the attendees during the Catholic school event in the Capitol.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott praised the state’s Catholic schools Tuesday night, noting their recent enrollment gains and crediting them for providing high-quality academic and spiritual experiences.

“Both my daughters went to Catholic high school. They had a great experience,” Scott said. “And it was great because not only did they have a great education, but they were taught about Jesus Christ and about the importance of being saved.”

The governor’s brief remarks came during a meet-and-greet at the Capitol building in Tallahassee between the state’s seven Catholic school superintendents and a handful of lawmakers. About 100 people were in attendance.

Florida’s 235 Catholic schools enroll 85,000 students in PreK-12. After years of falling enrollment, they saw modest increases for the second year in a row this year, thanks in large part to growth in the state’s tax credit scholarship program. (The program is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-co-hosts this blog.)

“So Catholic schools are clearly working,” Scott said.

He listed a handful of schools by name, including Bishop Moore High School in Orlando and St. Peter Claver Elementary in Tampa. He also noted he has three grandsons now, and there’s a good Catholic school near his daughter’s home. “So, I’m trying to be persuasive,” he said. But “at 31, they don’t listen quite as much.”


FL charter schools continue to grow

charter school market shareFlorida parents continue to choose charter schools in growing numbers, according to a new national report and fresh state statistics.

Eleven Florida school districts now have 10 percent or more of their public school students enrolled in charter schools, shows the report released Tuesday by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. They are Lee (at 14 percent), Broward, Miami-Dade, Sarasota (all at 13 percent), Lake, Polk, Osceola (all at 12 percent), Bay, Indian River (both at 11 percent), and Leon and Manatee (both at 10 percent.)

Four Florida districts are also among the Top 10 nationwide in charter school enrollment growth: Duval, Hillsborough, Orange and Palm Beach.

Hillsborough is one of five districts in the Top 10 two years in a row. Its school board voted Tuesday to deny a proposed charter school aimed at serving military families at MacDill Air Force Base, home of U.S. Central Command.

The alliance report looks at growth in charter school market share nationwide. It’s based on 2012-13 data.

According to the latest FDOE stats, requested by redefinED last week, Florida now has 229,233 students in charter schools. That’s up 25,993 students, or 13 percent, from last year.

Long a leader in the charter school movement, Florida now has more K-12 students in charter schools than 11 states have K-12 public school students.


FL school board votes down MacDill AFB charter school proposal

A Florida school board has denied the application for a charter school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, even as board members said they support the military families it would serve.

Stacy White

Stacy White

“I would very much like to see MacDill have their charter school one day,” said Hillsborough County School Board member Stacy White, who was among the unanimous vote to reject the school.

“We are at odds about the governance,” added fellow board member Doretha Edgecomb. “But we are not at odds about doing our very best for our students and their families.”

District Superintendent MaryEllen Elia made the final recommendation to the board to deny the proposal, following staff concerns that the application didn’t explain clearly who was in charge of the school. She said she wanted to work with the base, the home of U.S. Central Command, and called for a task force to study concerns that prompted the push for a charter.

“The long-standing working relationship we’ve had with MacDill is important,” she said, noting the district already provides services to military families through an A-rated elementary school located on the base. “I think clearly we need to work to resolve these issues to move forward.”

Supporters of the charter school said they plan to meet and discuss the possibility of appealing to the state Board of Education. In Florida, school boards serve as authorizers of charter schools in their districts, but the law allows the Board of Education, which is appointed by the governor, to overturn denials.

“I think quite frankly that the superintendent has shown this has become a turf war,” said Ken Haiko, chairman of the Florida Charter Educational Foundation, a nonprofit volunteer board which applied for the charter. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charters, magnet schools, teacher evals & more

Charter schools: A proposed charter school for MacDill Air Force Base doesn’t get the superintendent’s approval, but the Hillsborough County School Board still could vote in favor of the project. redefinED. More from Tampa Bay Times and  The Tampa Tribune. Only about three months after opening its doors, west Boynton Beach charter school Franklin Academy is already on the hunt for a new principal. Palm Beach Post. The principal of Imagine Schools Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County returns to work after the State Attorney’s Office determines she will not  face charges for failure to report suspected child abuse. Bradenton Herald.


Magnet schools: Pinellas County’s superintendent proposes reopening two elementary schools, closed by the district just five years ago, as technology magnet schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher evals: Count me among those skeptical that nearly 60 percent of Brevard teachers are “highly effective,” writes Matt Reed for Florida Today. Scholar Diploma and teacher evaluations are two state programs joining a long list of empty initiatives that accomplish nothing other than some politically appealing headlines for policymakers — some of whom might not be in office when the impacts hit, says the Naples Daily News. No evaluation system is perfect, but neither is every teacher. The public shouldn’t stand for the kind of grade inflation for teachers that wouldn’t be tolerated for students, says The Gainesville Sun.

School safety: More security guards are not needed in the Hillsborough public schools and could contribute to discrimination against minority students, says the American Civil Liberties Union. Tampa Bay Times.

Common Core: While the transition will be challenging, never before have our standards contained the coherence, rigor and depth of understanding the CCSS brings to us, writes teacher Peggy Brookins for the Ocala Star-Banner.

College prep: Survey results from the PISA show most of the nearly 2,000 Florida teenagers who took the test are “satisfied” with their schooling and feel they’ll be prepared for college as long as they put forth the necessary effort. On the other hand, Sunshine State students are more likely to skip school than their U.S. and international peers and nearly 30 percent say school “does little to prepare me for adult life.” Miami Herald. Continue Reading →