Florida Virtual School to add career education courses

Florida Virtual School has announced plans to offer more courses that lead to industry certifications.

Between now and the start of 2015, the virtual school says it will roll out about 20 new courses that allow students to receive various technology-related industry certificates, which for the past two years have been priorities in the state Legislature.

One of this year’s major school choice bills, SB 850, includes provisions aimed at expanding career education in public schools. Among other things, it would lift the caps on bonuses for schools where students earn industry certifications. Virtual schools do not receive those bonuses based on the way their funding is calculated, but lawmakers gave them a slight funding boost intended to reflect the money they would have received from the bonuses.

Star Kraschinsky, FLVS’ external affairs director, said plans had been in the works to expand career education offerings since the first two industry-certification courses were announced earlier this year.

Going into this year’s legislative session, key lawmakers said they wanted Florida Virtual School to enroll more students in more rigorous courses – especially classes that lead to college credit or industry certifications. That has been one of the online school’s goals since its founding, with backers driven in part by a desire to make advanced courses more available to students in rural areas.

In a statement announcing the new courses, state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said they would allow students to pick up new technology credentials outside of the normal school day.

“Preparing for these certifications through Florida Virtual School makes it easier for students who may already have busy schedules with school, work or extracurricular activities,” he said. ” They can do it on their own time.”

Florida roundup: At-risk students, private schools, charter schools & more

At-risk students. The Pinellas school system plans to take over a charter school aimed at struggling students. Tampa Bay Times. A child who missed his first several years of school finishes the fifth grade. Tampa Bay Times. A Hillsborough student overcomes homelessness. Tampa Bay Times.

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Charter schools. The Miami-Dade County Commission approves what could become Florida’s largest charter school. Miami Herald.

Legislature. The Foundation for Florida’s Future grades lawmakers on education reform.

Tax credit scholarships. The Florida PTA calls for a veto of legislation that would expand eligibility for the program. Gradebook. Orlando Sentinel readers weigh in.

Reading instruction. More schools could soon add an extra hour for reading. Pensacola News-Journal. High school students struggle with FCAT Reading retakes. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Private schools. P.E. includes skateboarding at Calvary Christian Academy. Sun-Sentinel.

Magnet schools. Brevard elementary schools put on a museum night. Sun-Sentinel.

Continue Reading →

Coming next week: Course choice chat

Brickman

Brickman

Things are changing so fast with parental choice, charter schools and vouchers are starting to look old school. Before you know it, a lot more parents won’t just be choosing schools for their children, they’ll be choosing individual courses.

It’s called course choice. And to help us all get a better handle on it, we’re having a live chat next week with Michael Brickman, national policy director for the Fordham Institute. Brickman authored an excellent primer on course choice that Fordham released last week.

The chat is open to anyone with a fair question. It’s in writing, so we’ll type in questions, you’ll type in questions and our guest will type in answers as fast as his fingers can fly.

To participate, just come back to the blog on Wednesday, May  28. We’ll start promptly at 11 a.m. Just click in to the live chat program, which you’ll find here on the blog.

In the meantime, if you have questions that you’d like to send in advance, you can leave them here in the comments section, email them to rmatus@sufs.org, tweet them to @redefinEDonline and/or post them on our facebook page. See you then!

Campbell Brown: It’s amazing school choice is somehow controversial

Editor’s note: Former CNN host turned ed reform advocate Campbell Brown gave a speech Tuesday night at the American Federation for Children summit in Florida. Here are her remarks as delivered:

Campbell Brown

Campbell Brown

I’m so grateful to be part of this conversation as we talk about some of the challenges that lie ahead, and how we keep trying to move the ball forward. I get asked a lot about how I got involved in this, in education, and advocating for school choice. And the answer for me is pretty much the same as Lisa (Leslie, the former WNBA star who spoke earlier) and Faith (Manuel, the mother of a tax credit scholarship student, who also spoke earlier): I became a mother. …

And that’s probably the same answer a lot of other people in this room would have. Like every mother, like every other parent, I remember holding my son Eli in my arms for the very first time and looking at him and realizing that the life I knew was over. (laughter) And going forward, my life would be dedicated to caring for this child, and protecting this child, and trying to ensure that he had every opportunity possible to be all that he could be. And No. 1 on my list, in thinking about this, and thinking about both my kids now, I have two boys, is and was their education.

And I was thinking how fortunate I had been in my life. I had this career in television. And I lived in New York City. And my kids were going to have so many options available to them. I had so many choices and they would throughout their lives have so many opportunities because of this. And I think with that comes the recognition that that’s not the case for most people. And those choices and those options are not available to mothers who care about their kids just as much as I do, and have the same hopes and dreams for their children that I have for mine. And who want their child to have every opportunity in life just like I did. If we believe that education is a fundamental right, then everyone should have that choice.

It never ceases to amaze me that this very simple idea, that a parent who wants to try to find a school, a better school to try to give their child a better life, should have that choice. The idea that this is somehow controversial is amazing to me.

I spent most of my professional life in television journalism. I was at NBC News for 11 years. … I mostly covered politics. I had a show on CNN for almost three years after that. My first boss in TV was Tim Russert, the late host of Meet the Press, who was a wonderful man and a great friend and mentor to me. And he taught me, when I was young and pretty clueless, the ways of the old school journalism. This was before MSNBC and before FOX. And so back then, I remember going to work every day, as Tim had taught us, believing basically when you were covering a story, both sides had some merit. And both sides deserved a fair hearing. And your job as a reporter was essentially to referee the match. But, as I think a lot of you know, sometimes you look at a problem, you evaluate a problem, and it’s very clear that both sides do not have merit. And referee is not a role you can play when the lives of children are hanging in the balance. (applause) Continue Reading →

Florida roundup: Magnet schools, charter schools, superintendents & more

Magnet schools. Hernando students bid farewell to visitors from China. Tampa Bay Times.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools. Manatee County charter schools reach an agreement with the school district on transportation costs. Bradenton Herald. Breakdown here.

Montessori Schools. Bradenton students head to Switzerland for a model UN competition. Bradenton Herald.

Superintendents. The Hernando superintendent’s evaluation becomes contentious. Tampa Bay Times.

Attendance. Pinellas schools look for ways to get kids to come to class. Tampa Tribune.

Kindergarten. Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab reflects on her daughter’s first year of school.

Entrepreneurship. Duval students plan a food truck specializing in healthy burritos. Florida Times-Union. Collier students pitch competing business proposals. Naples Daily News.

Contracts. The Hillsborough school district has a $1.5 million relationship with the state fair. Tampa Bay Times.

Employment. Pasco schools expect job vacancies. Gradebook.

Employee conduct. A Marion schools employee is accused of pawning district property. Ocala Star-Banner.

Digital learning, iTunes & customization in education

Those days are pretty much over.

Those days are pretty much over.

To understand the changes that will be brought on by digital learning, think about what’s happened in the music industry.

People used to buy all of their music at record stores. Their choices were confined to what the store had in stock. They had to buy entire albums, even if they only wanted one song.

Then came Napster, which allowed people to tailor their music libraries to their individual tastes. It was later replaced by iTunes, which improved the quality of music downloads and developed a business model that was more acceptable to the industry’s establishment.

The result was a “vastly more customized and individualized experience,” said Derrell Bradford, executive director of the New York Campaign for Achievement Now. He used the analogy Tuesday to introduce a discussion at the American Federation for Children’s annual conference about the ways technology can allow students to tailor their education to better fit their needs.

“You have a transformative idea or policy that’s introduced into the space and it changes everything forever,” he said.

Julia Freeland, a research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute, said the goal is to allow students to learn on their own terms, at their own “pace, path, time and place.” For that reason, she said, much of the  work on digital learning is being done at traditional public schools, which enroll the vast majority of students.

“What we’re seeing with the growth of online learning is not full-time virtual schools. It’s not kids sitting at home in homeschool environments. It’s instead technology being integrated into the classroom,” she said. Continue Reading →

Florida roundup: Charter schools, tax credit scholarships, Pre-K and more

Charter schools. The City of North Miami faces another setback in its bid to open a charter school. Miami Herald. A charter school funding study is disputed. StateImpact.

Pre-K. Pasco schools consider expanding their early learning offerings. Tampa Bay Times.

florida-roundup-logoTax credit scholarships. Orlando Sentinel Columnist Scott Maxwell cribs a zombie metaphor to rail against the program.

Testing. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart PolitiFact and a Palm Beach Post column smack down a lawmaker’s recent statement about the state’s new standardized tests promoting homosexuality.

Merit pay. The Alachua County school board grapples with ways to implement a new pay system in the coming school year. Gainesville Sun.

Facilities. Hernando County officials pitch a one-cent sales tax that would help pay for school construction. Tampa Bay Times. Students at one Hernando elementary school will get to stay in their buildings as the school gets renovated, the Times reports.

Superintendents. A contract extension for Lee’s superintendent is pushed back amid talk of a pay hike. Fort Myers News-Press. The St. Lucie superintendent apologizes to parents for other employees’ misconduct. St. Lucie News Tribune.

Politics. An outspoken Orange County School Board member announces plans to run for a State Senate seat that will be vacated by Sen. Andy Gardiner.  Sentinel School Zone.

Discipline. Pinellas plans changes to its code of conduct. Tampa Tribune.

Summer school. Pasco schools may expand their summer school programs. Tampa Bay Times.

Julie Young: Virtual education on verge of ‘ubiquitous’

Julie Young

Julie Young

Julie Young announced earlier this year that she would be stepping down as the head of Florida Virtual School, after more than 30 years in public education. Her announcement reverberated in education circles around the country, where she was recognized as a pioneer in her field and the “godmother of digital learning.”

I sat down to talk with her about the early days of virtual education, the lessons she learned while it grew, and what the future might hold both for digital learning as a whole and for the institution she led for 17 years. The interview formed the basis of my profile of Young, which was published on redefinED Monday.

So the first thing I’m wondering is, why now?

I started thinking about it about a year and half ago. I started hinting to the team about a year and a half ago … I just had something inside of me going, ‘Ok, we’ve done this. It’s in a really good place, and together this team has had the opportunity to have a huge impact on the field of education, and really the world of learning, and now what?’ I was asking myself the same questions and just feeling like there was something I wanted to do, and didn’t know what it was.

I’m really the type of person that when I’m in the middle of something, I’m all in. And so even thinking about it, for me, felt like blasphemy. I didn’t feel like I could explore other opportunities. I didn’t feel like it was the right thing to be thinking that while I was still totally engaged as CEO.

Looking out across the education landscape in Florida, there’s a lot of things that were maybe tried out 15 or 20 years ago that are now reaching maturity. What do you see in the virtual realm that are these signs of maturity – where FLVS can kind of grow on its own?

When we started, virtual education was this thing over here that was, I think, in many respects, to be feared by many. Intriguing to the business community, very intriguing to parents, but feared by the education community. When I look at it now, and I think about where we are, and I see that the school districts have their franchises and they’ve embraced virtual learning for their students – whether they’re using us to provide that or whether they’re using their own programs – to me really indicates that very soon, it’s going to be ubiquitous. Very soon, we’re not going to be asking kids, ‘Are you taking a course online?’ It’s just going to be, ‘I’m taking English,’ and people aren’t going to be paying attention to whether it’s English online or English in the classroom. And we’re there at the post-secondary level.

In addition, I think that the onset and the acceptance of the full-time virtual programs and the proliferation of those have really given students and families that additional opportunity, beyond Florida Virtual School, or within Florida Virtual School, to get a diploma.

I think you reach a point where there’s no turning back, and I think that we’re there. I think it’s going to look different every year. … Our student base – the students we serve – (is) potentially shrinking, and the district’s service (is) potentially growing, which really indicates that it’s permeating the status quo, so that we don’t have to do it all by ourselves. But we should look for the total population of virtual education in the state of Florida to be growing. And I think what Florida Virtual School’s value and niche going forward is and should continue to be is that we will continue to look for new ways to deliver virtual education, where we can work with students to determine, what’s the next thing? What’s the next learning opportunity that we haven’t thought of yet? We’ll be able to then move those ideas out into the masses as well. Continue Reading →