Florida schools roundup: Common Core, media specialists, enrollment & more

Common Core: The Florida Department of Education is tweeting a Standard of the Day to help the public understand the new Common Core State Standards. The Buzz. More from StateImpact Florida.

florida-roundup-logoMRSA rumor: An Orange County principal quells rumors of a MRSA outbreak at Boone High School when eight football players are sent to doctors because of skin infections. One student is diagnosed with a Staph infection. Orlando Sentinel.

Media specialists: Many Duval County high schools drop the media specialists while many elementary schools opt to have one part-time or full-time. Florida Times-Union.

Enrollment: Fewer students than anticipated are enrolled in Lee County schools. Fort Myers News-Press. The Hernando County School District has implemented a temporary hiring freeze after initial enrollment numbers fell below staff projections. Tampa Bay Times. Enrollment in Pinellas County Schools is down slightly again this year. Tampa Bay Times. Pasco County’s student population is definitely on the rise. Just not as fast as district officials originally thought. Tampa Bay Times.

Eligibility: Hillsborough County School Board Chairwoman April Griffin writes a letter to the Florida High School Athletics Association to reconsider a ruling that a student was ineligible to play sports at Plant High, despite her own district’s similar ruling. The Tampa Tribune. More from the Tampa Bay Times.

An “A” school: Pinellas County’s Lakewood High has never been rated an A before by the state – until now. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher pay: Pinellas County schools and the local teachers union tentatively agree to provide employees in that bargaining unit with 5 percent across-the-board raises. Tampa Bay Times.

Disaster plans: Florida is among states that lack disaster plans to protect children in school. Associated Press.

Ben Gamla: Ben Gamla Charter School parents are upset after comments by a civic activist renew the debate over whether or not the Broward County public school teaches religion. Sun Sentinel.


Florida schools roundup: Holocaust studies, Ben Carson, teacher pay & more

Charter schools: Miami-Dade County school officials sign off on a $4.3 billion budget that for the first time includes $300 million for charter schools. Miami Herald. 

florida-roundup-logoHolocaust studies: For Broward and Palm Beach county students who face bullying, peer pressure and prejudice in school, learning about the Holocaust is becoming increasingly relevant. Sun Sentinel.

Ben Carson: The nationally renowned doctor turned public speaker shares his story of resilience and success with students of all ages at Lake Wales High School. The Ledger.

Tax credit scholarships: About half of the students in Flagler County’s private schools use Florida tax-credit scholarships to pay tuition; so do a quarter of the students in Volusia County’s private schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teacher pay: Pinellas County schools and the local teachers union tentatively agree to a 5.6 percent average raise for teachers and a bump in starting teacher salaries. Tampa Bay Times. Salary negotiations hit a snag as officials look at tutoring vs. teaching. Tampa Bay Times.

Report cards: Palm Beach County second-graders will get new report cards without the traditional A through F grades. Sun Sentinel.

Common Core: Hernando County School Board members share concerns about the new standards, including the fear of losing local control, financial constraints and the possibility of excessive testing. Tampa Bay Times.

City post: Annmarie Kent-Willette, who teaches communications at Jacksonville University, is Jacksonville’s new education commissioner. Florida Times-Union. 

Continue Reading →


The Sunshine State’s school spending data could use more sunshine

school spendingFlorida earns high marks for its innovative education reforms and strong academic performance, but its level of financial transparency leaves much to be desired. In a new report from the Cato Institute on financial transparency, the Florida Department of Education earned a D for the data published on its website.

The report, “Cracking the Books: How Well Do State Education Departments Report Public School Spending?”, examines the spending data that all 50 state education departments make available to the public on their websites. The report reveals that very few state education departments provide complete and timely financial data that is understandable to the general public.

As in school, these grades are intended to be informative, not punitive. Since Florida has a record of striving to improve, here are a few ways the FLDOE could be more transparent with its data:

1) Report total per pupil expenditures, not just operating. Half of all state education departments publish total per pupil expenditure (PPE) figures but Florida does not. At present, the FLDOE’s “Financial Profiles of Florida Districts” only includes “current expenditures per UFTE (unweighted full-time equivalent),” which excludes expenditures for capital projects and debt service. While these expenditures are reported separately, citizens looking for the total cost per pupil would have to break out a calculator.

The differences between total and operating PPE can be quite significant. According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (2009-10), Florida’s total PPE was $10,283 on average that year while Florida’s Financial Profiles reported that operating PPE was only $8,578.

Moreover, citizens looking for the change in PPE over time would have to gather the data from multiple reports since the FLDOE does not provide a single chart or table displaying that data. By contrast, the FLDOE does provide a table showing the change in average employee salaries over time.

2) Break down total salary data and publish average employee benefits. Continue Reading →


Next week: A live chat with Rick Hess



Nothing gets critics of school choice and education reform more riled up than the specter of privatization. The response from Rick Hess: It’s complicated. For-profits in education can bring problems, he says. But they can also be a big help.

Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, is co-editor (along with Michael B. Horn of the Christensen Institute) of a new book on the subject, “Private Enterprise and Public Education.” He’ll be our guest next week, in a live chat, to talk about it.

“Of course, the record of private ventures in education, as in other sectors, is mixed. It’s no wiser to romanticize for-profit providers than to demonize them,” says the book’s introduction. But, it continues, “For-profit enterprises have brought innovative power to an array of sectors. Given sensible policies and quality-control mechanisms, the particular strengths of for-profits can make them an invaluable part of the education tapestry.”

The chat isn’t limited to the book. Among many other hats, Hess is executive editor of EducationNext and author of the “Straight Up” blog at Education Week. He frequently weighs in on a wide range of ed topics, and doesn’t fit neatly into anybody’s ed reform box. So, ask away.

It’ll help to send some questions in advance. You can post them here, or on the redefinED facebook page, or tweet them to us @redefinedonline.

To participate in the chat, just come back to the blog on Monday, Sept. 9 at 1:30 p.m. You’ll have a full hour to ask away.


Florida KIPP still looking for traction

One of the most celebrated charter school outfits in the country has yet to hit its stride in Florida. The KIPP Impact Middle School in Jacksonville saw its school grade fall from a B to a C this year, and it was spared from sliding further by a state “safety net.”

Tom Majdanics

Tom Majdanics

Still, organizers are optimistic that great things are still to come.

“There is a sort of tortoise and hare component to this work,’’ said KIPP Jacksonville Executive Director Tom Majdanics. “We realize we certainly have a lot more work to do, but we’re still in the early innings.’’

KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools are nationally renowned for focusing on high-poverty students and setting the bar high for academic success. When the Jacksonville KIPP opened in 2010 to 80 fifth-graders – a model favored by KIPP – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cut the ribbon.

“I want every child in the country to have these kinds of opportunities, where there are such high expectations, where there’s a college going culture from day one,’’ he said at the time.

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cut the grand-opening ribbon at KIPP Impact Middle School.

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cut the grand-opening ribbon at KIPP Impact Middle School in Jacksonville, Fla.

Despite the high hopes, the school ended its first year with an F. The next year, it rebounded to a B, with progress fueled in large part by big learning gains for sixth-graders in reading and math. But even with those sixth-graders moving on to seventh-grade last year, KIPP fell to a C.

The school would have earned a D without a provision the state Board of Education passed in July to keep schools from falling more than one letter grade. Gary Chartrand, BOE chairman, is a member of the KIPP Impact board of director and helped bring the school to Florida.

The cushion affected hundreds of schools, with district schools benefitting at a higher rate than charters.

“We still made gains, but not as eye-popping as the year before,’’ said Majdanics, who noted a few factors that influenced the grade.

Because KIPP Impact didn’t have eighth-graders last year, school grading rules required it be given the average writing score for the school district it’s located in – and Majdanics suggested KIPP would have scored higher. The school also didn’t have the opportunity to earn extra points, like other middle schools did, by enrolling eighth-graders in Algebra I.

“That would have been a healthy boost to our grade’’ and landed the school a solid C without the safety net, Majdanics said.

Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Gov. Scott, virtual ed, teacher raises & more

Gov. Scott: The Florida governor isn’t the education cheerleader he portrays himself to be, editorializes the Tampa Bay Times.

florida-roundup-logoVirtual ed: Online schools and programs brace for a major enrollment boom now that the state wants every high schooler to take an online class to graduate. Sun Sentinel.

Common Core: This is supposed to be the final year of FCATs, but now Florida’s public schools are in limbo. TC Palm. Florida reacts to mounting opposition. The Tampa Tribune. Foundation For Excellence In Education’s Patricia Levesque explains why we can’t transform American public education with silver-bullet thinking. Dropout Nation. “The standards, fewer in number, exchange quantity for quality, which means I’ll have more time to delve into each standard with my students,” writes Polk County elementary literacy teacher Beth Smith for The Ledger.

Teacher raises: Educators have long since abandoned the simple notion of an across-the-board $2,500 pay bump Scott once promoted in news conferences across the state. Tampa Bay Times. Pinellas County could raise teachers’ starting salaries to $40,000. Tampa Bay Times.

Grad rates: PolitiFact Florida takes aim at interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart’s boasts about the state’s graduation improvements. Tampa Bay Times.

Parent tack: The Hillsborough County school district hosts a Saturday workshop for parents to learn more about the school system. Tampa Bay Times. Duval County schools introduces Parent Academy to get mom and dad more involved. Florida Times-Union. “We need parents to trust teachers and believe we’re playing on the same team to enhance student behavior and improve achievement,” writes Terri Friedlander for Florida Today.

Enrollment: Manatee County public schools have 1,000 more students than expected. Bradenton Herald.

Charter schools: Hernando County’s two new charter schools gear up for their first school year. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough County school officials eye charter schools and their system of fees and donations. Tampa Bay Times. The Manatee County School Board prepares to vote on three charter school applications. Bradenton Herald.

Private schools: Sarasota County sees the opening of a new high school for students with disabilities. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

More choice: Pinellas County’s East Lake High offers students new academic programs in cyber security, accounting, biomedicine and performing arts. Tampa Bay Times.

Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: Louisiana vouchers under fire, charter school performance in Tennessee, Florida Virtual cuts & more

MondayRoundUp_goldAlabama: The Rev. H.K. Matthews, a civil rights icon now living in Alabama, says school choice is an extension of the civil rights movement (AI.com).

Colorado: The Douglas County School District offers private school vouchers for students but some residents, policymakers and journalists can’t see anything but conspiracy theories (Our Lone Tree News). Fifteen new charter schools open statewide for the 2013-14 school year (The Gazette).

Connecticut: State Superintendent of Schools William McKersie wants public school choice and more digital learning for students (Greenwich Post).

Florida: Education leaders urge the governor to overhaul the school grading system again (which also applies to charter schools) (Tampa Bay Times). Florida Virtual School is facing hard times as program revenue drops 20 percent (Education Week). Charter schools are under scrutiny from the Department of Education after a ban on charging additional fees and requiring volunteer hours from parents (Tampa Bay Times).

Louisiana: The U.S. Department of Justice files suit to block the state’s new school choice program, arguing it violates court ordered desegregation (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Advocate). The Black Alliance for Educational Options and Gov. Bobby Jindal both say the scholarship program provides a vehicle for low-income students to escape failing schools and that the Justice Department should drop the lawsuit (Education Week, Huffington Post, Weekly Standard). The Washington Post editorial board calls the DOJ lawsuit “appalling” (Washington Post). “Course choice” is underway in Louisiana (Education Week).

Continue Reading →


Happy Labor Day!

laborday5Like most of you, we are out enjoying the holiday! Don’t labor too hard this Labor Day and stay safe! See you back here tomorrow.