Florida schools roundup: school choice, school rankings, school spending & more

School choice. Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning says the district’s record in providing more school choice has been “abysmal.” Gradebook.

Charter schools. The principal of a YMCA charter in Venice is put on leave for undisclosed reasons. Sarasota Herald Tribune.

florida roundup logoSchool turnarounds. Seven teachers who applied to keep their jobs at struggling Lacoochee Elementary in Pasco are not selected. Tampa Bay Times.

School rankings. Newsweek says 115 of the nation’s 2,000 best high schools, including five of the Top 20, are in Florida. StateImpact Florida. Nine Volusia schools make the list, reports the Daytona Beach News Journal.

School spending. Miami Herald: “On Wednesday, the Miami-Dade School Board voted to explore the establishment of a trademark and licensing program that would create official district merchandise and at the same time outlaw pirate products.” The Lake County School Board looks at a slew of cuts to close a $16 million budget deficit, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The Marion school board rejects pay raises for teachers and paraprofessionals through the end of this year, reports the Ocala Star Banner.

Legislative wrap-up. Parent trigger aside, Patricia Levesque sees a lot of positive changes. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


How about a crusade for teacher equity?

crusadeI’m kind of glad the ruckus over the parent trigger is over for now. I continue to believe that despite how mercurial it was, there are far more issues that can unite parents, the press and policymakers, if only we can wall off the static and talk.

Perhaps this is one: I think most of us can agree that poor and minority students are getting shortchanged when it comes to getting the best teachers in traditional public schools. I think most of us can agree this is fundamentally unfair to students and teachers alike.

No matter how you define teacher quality – and let’s leave teacher evaluations out of this for now because, sheesh, that is a mess – poor and minority students get less of what is ideal and more of what isn’t. There are far more rookie teachers in high poverty schools, far more teachers who needed multiple attempts to pass certification exams, far fewer board certified. In many urban districts, the teacher transfer pipeline is one-way from inner city to leafy burbs. Given what we know about great teachers – that they are the biggest in-school variable in student achievement, that they can and do change lives – this is unconscionable.

The latest evidence is from a Stanford University study published last month. It’s based on data from the Miami-Dade School District. And it finds that even within schools, lower-performing students are more likely to be taught by the less-than-ideal teachers.

I wish issues like this got more media attention, especially in Florida. As far as I can tell, the only major news outlets that wrote about the Stanford study were Education Week and BET. I know reporters are under more stress than ever, and the timing – near the end of the Florida legislative session – couldn’t have been worse. But this isn’t a fleeting issue. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: conversion charter, Common Core, Tony Bennett & more

Charter schools. An arts magnet in Manatee considers converting to a charter school because of the district’s ongoing financial woes. Bradenton Herald.

florida roundup logoCommon Core. Hillsborough school board members voice all kinds of concerns about Common Core. Tampa Bay Times.

Tony Bennett. StateImpact Florida gives ink to anonymous, garden variety critics.

Teacher pay. Rick Scott’s teacher pay raise tour continues, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Volusia teachers will probably get less than the $2,500 Scott pitched, reports the Daytona Beach News Journal.

Teacher Appreciation Week. South Florida Sun Sentinel takes note.

School spending. Budget cuts in Pasco look bigger than anticipated, reports Gradebook. The school board responds by cutting all literacy coaches and media specialists, reports the Tampa Bay Times. The Flagler school board debates potential  cuts, reports the Daytona Beach News Journal. Continue Reading →


Florida to take closer look at course choice funding, access, accountability

Sen. Brandes

Sen. Brandes

Florida is moving ahead with plans to bring school choice to the class level, but will study the issue before taking a deep dive.

The heart of a “course choice” proposal by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, (SB 904) was rolled into a digital learning bill (HB 7029) and passed by the House on the final day of session last week. It’s expected to be signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill directs the Florida Department of Education to hire a contractor to review the state’s approach to online learning and make recommendations on funding, access and accountability. It also says the new course choice program will be up and running in 2015-16.

“We’re taking a measured approach to implementation,” Brandes said. “We want to implement based on data, based on science and research. We’re really going to allow the data to drive how we go into this.”

The DOE must hire a contractor by Aug. 30. The contractor’s report is due to Gov. Scott and legislative leaders next February.

In the meantime, Brandes said, the bill authorizes the state to go ahead and begin authorizing “massive open online courses” (better known as MOOCs) in four subject areas that require end-of-course exams: Algebra I, biology, geometry and civics. The state Board of Education must come up with rules detailing how potential providers would apply and be approved. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: teacher pay, charter schools, school spending & more

Teacher pay. Gov. Rick Scott embarks on his Teacher Pay Raise Pep Rally Tour. Coverage from the South Florida Sun SentinelPalm Beach PostFlorida Times UnionAssociated PressStateImpact Florida. Teachers are “fed up with being used as political pawns,” says Pinellas teachers union president Kim Black in this Steve Bousquet piece.

florida roundup logoCharter schools. Gradebook pulls up some stats before today’s discussion about charter schools at the Pasco County School Board. An amendment to the charter school bill makes it easier for charter schools to fire teachers, Gradebook also reports.

School security. The elementary school principals in Hillsborough who have armed guards in their schools like them. Tampa Bay Times.

School discipline. Hillsborough needs to follow up on conversations to address high suspension rates for black males. Tampa Bay Times.

School spending. Freeze in financially troubled Manatee. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →


Florida private schools on verge of getting safety alerts like public schools

Florida private schools will get safety alerts just like their public school counterparts, under a bill passed by the Legislature last week and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, the bill requires police departments and other emergency response agencies to notify private schools about major incidents like bomb threats and SWAT team raids, as long as the schools opt into a notification program. The Florida Catholic Conference led the charge for the legislation, which, though non-controversial, had fallen short of passage in recent years.

“The bill’s passage was a banner day for us,” James Herzog, the conference’s associate director for education, wrote in an email. “We had advocated for it during the past three sessions and even made it our spotlight education bill during the past two ‘Catholic Days at the Capitol.’ It was an example of how even a good and simple idea requires careful advocacy and perseverance by supporters to make it to the ‘finish line’ … ”

This year’s bill was buoyed by a focus on school safety in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn.  It was sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, and Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud.

There are more than 2,000 private schools in Florida, with total enrollment last year of 316,745. More background on the bill here.


Democrats should be leading charge for school choice

Rep. Morgan

Rep. Morgan

Say school choice and some Democrats say profits, privatization, Republican plot.

Democrat Alisha Thomas Morgan says equal opportunity.

“We’ve got to put policies in place to ensure that how much my parents make or the neighborhood I live in does not determine the quality of education,” Morgan, a state representative in Georgia, says in the redefinED podcast attached below. “And so I think in terms of leveling the playing field, in terms of equal access, in terms of equality. To me, these are very much Democratic values and why I support school choice.”podcastED logo

Morgan is among a new breed of Democrats, many of them younger, many of them minority, who are embracing school choice despite the strains it can put on their relationships with fellow Dems and longtime allies. First elected in 2002 – at the age of 23 – Morgan, a Miami native, said she underwent her own evolution on school choice in part because conversations with parents led her to recognize “a lot of my opposition was really political.”

Now she’s a rising national star in school choice and ed reform circles, a Democrat who hasn’t been afraid to step out front on charter schools and tax credit scholarships in her home state and politely encourage other Democrats to live up to their core principles. “Education is not a Democrat or Republican issue; it’s a kids’ issue,” she said. “But I do think that Democrats should provide leadership here, and not be sort of dragged along as these reforms happen across the country.”

That’s not to say Morgan doesn’t empathize. It can be lonely as a pro-school-choice Democrat, she said. And it can be tough convincing other Democrats when their positions are at odds with Republicans on so many other issues. “What I’ve learned to do is to separate that we agree on this set of issues and these things we can work together; the other things, I’m going to fight you, just like the other Democrats do,” she said. “But I don’t think some of my friends on the Democratic side have been able to make that separation.”

In the interview, Morgan also said:

The privatization argument doesn’t make a lot of sense. Continue Reading →