Florida schools roundup: Charters, virtual school, Common Core & more

Charter schools: Three students from a Broward County graphic arts school take top place in a design competition. Sun Sentinel. A Polk County charter school for children with special needs gets a new leader. The Ledger.

florida-roundup-logoVirtual schools: Florida Virtual School now offers classes for adults in photography, social media and parenting skills. Bradenton Herald. 

School choice: Lee County district schools makes some changes to the student assignment lottery. Naples Daily News.

Awards: President Obama names a Brevard County elementary teacher as a recipient of the prestigious Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Florida Today.

Common Core: A primer on the education standards, which the state Board of Education addresses today, is offered by The Tampa Tribune. Manatee County teachers face the new standards. Bradenton Herald.

Book review: A Brevard County textbook committee tasked with reviewing a controversial world history textbook finds many concerns unfounded, but approves of a supplement created by district social studies teachers. Florida Today.

Bright futures: Proposed legislation would allow students to fulfill the required community service by volunteering on political campaigns. Naples Daily News.

MLK Day: The Gradebook asks if schools should hold class on the day the civil rights leader is honored, instead of giving students time off.


National School Choice Week chugs into 4th year with 5,500 events, train tour

In just four short years, National School Choice Week has mushroomed nationwide from 150 events in 2010 to 5,500 at last count this year, with much of the growth attributed to a positive message and a powerful way of delivering it.

national-school-choice-week-logo1“We don’t want to tell anyone that one choice is better than another one,’’ Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, told redefinED recently. Instead, “we’re celebrating effective education options for kids.’’

From traditional schools to magnet programs, charter and private schools, faith-based education, online learning and homeschooling – it’s all good as long as parents get to choose what’s best for their child, he said.

The 2014 celebration officially kicks off Jan. 26, but a 14-city train and motor coach tour begins in Newark on Jan. 22 and ends, 3,800 miles later, in San Francisco. The “whistle-stop’’ tour is modeled after historic tours in American history that brought attention to issues of national concern, such as women’s rights and civil rights.

It’s all part of a plan to “show America that there are so many choices out there,’’ said Campanella, who listed Florida, Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio among the states with good school choice track records. But, he added, “I think every state has room for growth.’’ Continue Reading →


What would Dr. King say about our schools now?

MLK school 4

What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say today about our schools? What approaches would he support to close achievement gaps? What would he think of school choice?

Over the past year, we asked a number of folks to weigh in on those questions. For a podcast last January, we asked the Rev. H.K. Matthews, a civil rights icon in west Florida who knew Dr. King. We asked others for a blog series that ran last August, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

As we celebrate MLK Day today, we thought it appropriate to highlight those posts. We know there are no easy answers, but we hope these voices contribute thoughtfully to the debate.

From H.K. Matthews: School choice: an extension of the civil rights movement

From Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina: Access denied, from lunch counters to zip codes

From John E. Coons, longtime school choice advocate: MLK and God’s schools

From Vernard T. Gant, director of urban school services with the Association of Christian Schools International: The unrealized dream of educational justice

From Peter H. Hanley, executive director, American Center for School Choice: Parental choice would honor The Dream


redefinED roundup: testing and school choice debate, vouchers proposed in TN, ESA’s proposed in OK & more

MondayRoundUp_redAlabama: The state releases the new list of “failing schools” where assigned students may seek transfers to other public or private schools (Education Week). The Birmingham Public School District seeks waivers from the state to allow some schools to operate more like charters (AL.com).

Alaska: Will 2014 be the year school choice reaches Alaska (Peninsula Clarion)?

Arizona: A school board member in Gilbert hopes to create a voucher program modeled after the one in Douglas Co., Colo. (AZ Central). A charter school organization plans 25 new schools for low-income areas in south and central Phoenix (New York Times, Center for Education Reform).

Arkansas: In response to a charter school controversy in Texas, the state education commissioner states that charter schools in the state must follow state science standards (Arkansas Times).

California: The state misses out on an opportunity for school choice (OC Register). Two leaders of a group resisting efforts to convert a public school into a charter school plead ‘not guilty’ to charges of vandalism (LA Times).

Connecticut: Parents attend a public school choice fair but some critics argue that school choice leads to more inequality for those left behind (The Connecticut Mirror).

D.C.: A judge rules that defendants, in a case involving a charter school run afoul of the D.C. Nonprofit Corporations Act, will not be dismissed (Washington Post).

Florida: Founders of an abruptly shuttered private school in Milwaukee turn up in Florida with a new private school (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). The Brookings Institution gave Polk County a “C” rank on school choice  (The Ledger). A public boarding school for underserved children school operated by the SEED Foundation plans to open this fall (redefinED). With a looming fiscal crisis ahead, Florida can’t ease up on education reform (redefinED). Lee County will allow free private tutoring to return to the district (News-Press).

Illinois: The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune says “it’s time for school choice.” Two charter schools with ties to Rahm Emmanuel are up for approval (Sun Times).

Iowa: A majority of residents favor school choice (Toledo News-Herald).

Indiana: A bill circulating in the state legislature would allow charter schools to cater to adult high school education (Indiana Business Journal). For some reason, vouchers for pre-k has not become a ‘controversial’ issue in the state (WLFI). The nationwide nonprofit Goodwill opens a charter school for dropouts (NPR). Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Desegregation, magnet schools, Common Core & more

Traditional schools: Broward County revamps several struggling schools and sees a boost in technology use and enrollment. Sun Sentinel. Duval’s superintendent tells residents that approval of a bond issue could result in students of the highest-poverty schools gaining wireless Internet and greater access to laptops and computers. Florida Times-Union. Five struggling schools in Pinellas County have made significant improvements during the year, the state Department of Education says, but they still aren’t up to par. The Tampa Tribune. florida roundup logoHillsborough’s schools security chief retires. The Tampa Tribune. Hernando County schools prioritize spending. Tampa Bay Times. Manatee County elementary students learn about energy conservation through a traveling theater program. Bradenton Herald.

Magnet schools: A Broward County middle school starts a pre-law program next school year that will offer a class to teach students how to argue. Sun Sentinel.

STEM: Students from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties compete in a Lego robotics contest. Palm Beach Post. 

Common Core: The Department of Education’s effort to rename the Common Core State Standards does little to end Florida’s education debate. Miami Herald. Teachers and principals adjust to the state’s continual educational changes. Tampa Bay Times. The proposal deserves a fair hearing next month, writes the Tampa Bay Times.

MLK Day: Meet the man who helped integrate Sarasota High School. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Desegregation occurred slowly in Sarasota County. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Blake High student prepares to recite “I Have a Dream” speech. The Tampa Tribune.

Smart Cities: Tom Vander Ark names Miami as one of the Smart Cities in his blog series that looks at what communities are doing right to improve education. Getting Smart.

Zero tolerance: New federal school-discipline guidelines for school districts released this month are desperately needed — and school districts must take the voluntary advice to heart, writes Darryl E. Owens for the Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: A Senator suspected of scandal and a perfidious principal’s punctuality

MrGibbonsReportCardArizona State Sen. Steven Yarbrough

Steven Yarbrough is a state senator in Arizona and founder and CEO of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, a tax-credit scholarship granting organization. Last week an investigative journalist at CBS 5 accused Yarbrough of profiting from a program he helped found. Two of the charges levied by the news organization turned out to be false. Sen. Yarbrough was elected to office four years after he founded the scholarship organization, and SB 1047, which Yarbrough did co-author, did not increase scholarship organization management fees as the investigator claimed.

Senator Yarbrough

However, Yarbrough does admit to earning money by renting real estate to his own scholarship organization and through a third-party data processing company he co-owns. This extra income is in addition to his $96,000-a-year salary from the scholarship organization. Yarbrough is up front with these expenditures, declaring them in both his 990 and in an email with the journalist. But being up front with such expenditures, sadly, isn’t enough.

While the Arizona Senate Ethics Committee has cleared Yarbrough of wrongdoing, school choice proponents must hold themselves to a higher standard. School choice is still in a tenuous position and critics will latch onto any fear (real or imagined) to prevent, or even eliminate, choice programs. Even the perception of someone making money from choice programs (even if they take a financial loss, or offer professional services cheaper than competitors) does harm to the movement.

Grade: Needs Improvement


Continue Reading →


Public boarding school with college-prep focus set to open in Florida

SEED-School_MiamiThe newest addition to Florida’s portfolio of learning options is part of a public boarding school network that 60 Minutes called “one of the most successful and innovative public schools in the country.”

The SEED Foundation school in Miami, set to open this fall, is modeled after the college-prep SEED schools in Washington D.C. and Baltimore. According to the foundation, 90 percent of its graduates have enrolled in college and 60 percent have graduated or soon will graduate from college.

“We offer the gift of time, education and support, 24 hours a day, five days a week,” Kara Locke, who will become head of school in Miami, said in a phone interview with redefinED.

Business consultants Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota established The SEED Foundation in 1997 after spotting an opportunity to provide better education options for at-risk students. “There’s boarding schools for rich kids; why aren’t there boarding schools for poor kids?” Vinnakota told 60 Minutes in 2010. “The intense academic environment, the 24-hour aspect and constant access to role models. Why wouldn’t all of those things be just as important for poor kids as it would be for rich kids?”

SEED schools emphasize traditional academics, college preparation, self-confidence, discipline, responsibility, athletics and performing arts. Along with a safe place to live, play and study, students receive three meals a day and the opportunity to develop relationships with strong mentors and role models.

Tuition is free. The school receives public support for operating costs but raises private funds to support capital and start-up costs. Students live in a dormitory during the week. “It is a home” and “a nurturing place,” said Locke, who served as principal of the SEED school in D.C. from 2007 to 2013 and lived in the school’s dormitories for the last five years.

Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Private schools, charters, Florida Virtual & more

Private schools: A Broward County private K-12 welcomes Animal Planet’s “Gator Boys” to help open the school’s $600,000 center that provides students with an outdoor classroom. Sun Sentinel.

florida roundup logoDistrict schools: A Brevard County elementary school wins a statewide contest for a video that promotes reading. Florida Today. Plans for a cell tower at a Naples elementary school campus are on hold. Naples Daily News. It’s the time of year when thousands of children and parents in Lee County make a decision on which school they want to attend. Fort Myers News-Press. An internal auditor reviews Pasco County schools and suggests looking more closely at the way money flows inside the campuses. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter schools: A new report looks at the lasting impacts charters have on students and whether the schools help determine paychecks later in life. The answer, in a word, is yes, writes Collin Hitt for Jay P. Greene’s blog.

Florida Virtual School: For the first time, FLVS offers an opportunity for online students outside of the state to earn their high school diploma through a virtual school. GettingSmart. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments April 28 in a dispute about whether Florida Virtual School can sue K12 Inc. for alleged trademark infringement. News Service of Florida.

Mental health:  Sandy Pines Residential Treatment Center in Palm Beach County opens with three dozen new beds to fill the growing need for more mental health care for children. Palm Beach Post.

School safety: The ACLU responds to Hillsborough County’s security proposal with a letter that contends the more guards you put in the schools, the more likely you are to criminalize behavior that could better be corrected without exposing the child to the criminal justice system. Tampa Bay Times.

Jeb Bush: The former Florida governor addresses ideas about immigration, education and the plight of youths in a speech at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Florida Times-Union. Continue Reading →