redefinED roundup: de Blasio goes after charters, vouchers and racism in NC, virtual school debate in ME

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Alaska: A lack of capital funding impedes charter school growth in the state (Anchorage Daily News). Gov. Sean Parnell wants to allow charter schools to have access to district transportation funds (KTUU, Associated Press). School choice will benefit rural students (Juneau Empire).

Arizona: A former high school teacher says vouchers for private tuition are like privately run prison systems (Ahwataukee Foothills News).

California: A virtual school student wins a school video contest sponsored by the White House (The Cambrian).

D.C.: Rocketship charter schools expand to the city (Education Week).

Florida: House Speaker Will Weatherford releases a bill to expand the tax-credit scholarship program (The Ledger, News 13, Tampa Bay Times, Associated PressWEAR TV). School choice gets support from the Jewish community in south Florida (Jewish Journal). Private schools and parents may not want to take the FCAT (Orlando Sentinel). A lecturer at the University of Central Florida says private schools accepting tax credit scholarships should administer standardized tests to students (note: the law already requires tax credit scholarship students to take national norm-referenced standardized tests) (Orlando Sentinel). The Orlando Sentinel editorial board says private school scholarship students should take standardized tests (state law already requires tax-credit scholarship students to take norm-referenced standardized tests). So does the South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board. The Tampa Tribune supports the expansion. Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano says tax-credit scholarships have no accountability and reduce public school per-pupil spending. Charter Schools USA operates 34 schools in the state, but one “F” and one “D” rated school encouraged Orange and Seminole County school districts to repeatedly deny applications to expand (Orlando Sentinel). Broward County school superintendent Robert Runcie collaborates with charter schools (Education Week). Continue Reading →

Florida roundup: VAM, tax credit scholarships, charter schools & more

Tax credit scholarships. The Orlando Sentinel editorializes against the proposed expansion, largely using the editorial written by its sister paper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano calls it a continuation of the “systematic decimation of Florida public schools.” The Tampa Tribune gives it a thumbs up, writing: “Supporting school choice is a smart policy that by no means diminishes the Legislature’s responsibility to adequately fund public schools, which will remain the first choice of most families.” (Full disclosure: the program is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.)

florida-roundup-logoSchool choice. In an Associated Press rundown of Florida education legislation this year, the Florida PTA takes aim at bills to expand charter schools and tax credit scholarships, saying they amount to “chunks being broken away from our public school system.”

Charter schools. The Orange and Seminole school districts consider whether to continue to try and fight the opening of four proposed Charter Schools USA schools in their districts. Orlando Sentinel. Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie ushers in a “new era of collaboration and cooperation” with charter schools. Education Week.

Catholic schools. Several schools in the Diocese of Venice system are looking for new principals. Fort Myers News Press.

School grades. Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning pitches a more complicated system, not a simpler one. Gradebook.

School boards. Gov. Rick Scott fills a vacancy on the Broward board. Miami Herald. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Superintendents. Interim super Hershel Lyons throws his hat in to the ring for the Alachua opening. Gainesville Sun.

Legislature. The Sarasota Herald Tribune highlights the major ed issues for the session that starts Tuesday. In their roundups, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times erroneously report (as other outlets have in recent weeks) that lawmakers are for the first time proposing that tax credit scholarship students take standardized tests. (They’ve been required by law since 2006 to take state-approved standardized tests.) Continue Reading →

No boredom, no bullying, thanks to school choice scholarship

Gabriel Shimoni

Editor’s note: Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog, periodically profiles students who benefit from the Florida tax credit scholarship program it administers. Here is one of its recent profiles.

Kathryn Miller worried when her son Gabriel Shimoni started waking up sick to his stomach in the mornings and complaining he didn’t want to go to school.

She learned Gabriel’s boredom in his second-grade classroom stemmed from a lack of being challenged academically, and when Gabriel stopped focusing on his lessons, he disrupted the class with his chatter. Kathryn was called into the school for a parent-teacher conference a couple times over the year to discuss his behavior.

Kathryn’s concern grew when Gabriel told her that kids on the safety patrol made fun of him and threatened to beat him up.

Stress from the situation made him physically ill, she said.

As Gabriel approached third grade, his mother learned he was going to be enrolled in a combined second- and third-grade class which was comprised of eight third-graders and 12 second-graders. Kathryn was disappointed because she thought Gabriel should have been promoted to the combined third- and fourth-grade class. She was told this was because he had earned good grades in second grade and had shown he was capable of working alone, but budget cuts were also to blame, Kathryn said.

“If a student has earned merit or achieved recognition, then he would be rewarded for that by promotion into a higher-level grade with peers that can challenge him, not maintain him,” she said. “That is how it works in life in most other fields of interest whether sports, career or even college. You receive recognition, you gain merit, you advance.”

Kathryn, a divorced single mother of two who works as a librarian’s assistant in Ormond Beach, didn’t think private school would be an option for Gabriel.

“Being a single parent, it’s not always easy, and you’re always looking for the best you can give your children, and you don’t always have the resources,” Kathryn said.

Then she learned about the Step Up For Students school choice scholarship, and was relieved when she heard Gabriel had been awarded a scholarship during the same week that Gabriel was set to start third grade at his neighborhood school.

“This was like the skies opened up, and I was just being shown some favor in life,” Kathryn said. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Vouchers, Rick Scott, Teach for America & more

Tax credit scholarships. Expansion of the program (administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog) is one of 10 “issues to watch” during the upcoming legislative session. News Service of Florida. It’s also a potential land mine for Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign, the News Service writes. House Speaker Will Weatherford, a leading supporter of program expansion, tells the Tampa Bay Times editorial board it’s a way to help the poor. Gradebook. The Fayetteville Observer in N.C. editorializes that N.C. would be wise to follow Florida’s model.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools. Gov. Rick Scott or someone in his office suggested that MacDill Air Force Base go to Charter Schools USA, whose CEO Jon Hage is a Scott supporter, if it wanted a charter school. Tampa Bay Times. The Times editorializes that the state Board of Education should deny the proposed charter school’s appeal because “that would be best for military families, local control and the integrity of the charter school process.”

Florida Virtual School. Former Orange Superintendent Ron Blocker will be interim leader while the board searches for a replacement for Julie Young. School Zone.

Common Core. Opponents are hopeful now that there are bill in both the Senate and House to stop it. Gradebook. More from School Zone.

Regulatory accountability. A bill filed by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee (and head of the state superintendents association) seeks to ease the state into a new standards, testing and accountability system, including a three-year pause for school grades. The Buzz. More from The Florida Current, the Palm Beach Post and Extra Credit. A Senate Education Committee bill, meanwhile, would tweak school grades. Gradebook.

Teacher quality.Value-added scores for Florida teachers look “messy and absurd.” Hechinger Report. The Gates Foundation didn’t want them released. Answer Sheet. Continue Reading →

The myth of school vouchers & racism

BrownMany have tried to link vouchers and school choice to racism, but it can’t be done without a tortured reading of the law and civil rights history. So it was a surprise to see two civil rights attorneys at an elite American university doing exactly that last week. The attorneys, Elizabeth Haddix and Mark Dorosin of the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights, penned “The Ugly Truth About Vouchers,” where they argue vouchers are a tool of modern racism.

The authors begin linking school choice to racism by claiming private schools “are permitted to discriminate against students on the basis of race,” which is simply not true. Surely, they know better. As determined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Runyon v. McCrary (1976), no private school in the U.S. is permitted to discriminate based on race, color or national origin.

Next, Haddix and Doroson argue there are “historical links between racism and private schools” and, thus, the attempt to attach vouchers and school choice to the civil rights movement is “a twisted irony.”

Indeed, as they point out, many private schools across the nation grew in enrollment during the era of desegregation, as white students fled public schools that were enrolling black students. But to draw the link between racism and private schools is to miss the more important historical precursor: American public schools were themselves rooted in racism. African-Americans waited 235 years after the founding of the first public high school to get their first public high school. It would be another 84 years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board (1954) and nearly 20 more years before real integration efforts were made.

Don’t forget, public school districts and elected officials fought racial integration every step of the way. While it is true some parents jumped ship to private schools, some areas, such as Poquoson, Va., became their own independent districts, zoning African-Americans completely outside city boundaries. Other districts shut themselves down altogether to avoid integration. Furthermore, many urban areas faced “white flight” as white families segregated themselves into whiter public school enclaves. This segregation in public schools remains largely intact to this day. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: State tests, Common Core, teacher evals & more

State tests: The end of the much-maligned FCAT is no cause for celebration by critics, writes the Palm Beach Post. Sen. John Legg correctly recognizes there are too many standardized tests in Florida’s public schools, but his proposed solution of a test-free period around state-required tests is impractical, writes the Tampa Bay Times.

FL roundup logo snippedCommon Core: A state senator has submitted legislation to stop the Common Core State Standards from taking effect in Florida. The Buzz. The new state standards place more emphasis on cursive writing, but not everyone is on board as technology takes over the classroom. Fort Myers News-Press. Studies find textbooks are a poor match for Common Core standards. StateImpact Florida.

Teacher evals: The publication of teacher performance scores this week resonate in Leon County Schools, drawing criticism from school board members and fueling recruitment efforts by the local teachers union. Tallahassee Democrat.

Special needs: The state teachers union releases a video showing Polk County school administrators giving a standardized test to a blind child in a persistent vegetative state. Herald/Times.

State grades: The state Board of Education should listen to parents and educators who want to put the brakes on the grading plan, writes The Ledger.

Pay raises: Pasco County’s superintendent recommends new salary schedules for administrators and non-bargaining personnel that would increase their pay by 4 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively. Tampa Bay Times. The roughly 6,000 Palm Beach school district service employees like bus drivers, custodians and electricians will get a 4 percent raise under a new tentative labor agreement. Palm Beach Post.

School boards: Pinellas County School Board members vote unanimously to change the time allotted for public comments from the beginning of their meetings to the end, despite initial concerns the switch would discourage public participation. The Tampa Tribune. More from the Tampa Bay Times. The Palm Beach County school board hears some tough talk on a still-sparse budget for next school year. Palm Beach Post.

Continue Reading →

Anti-Common Core bill filed in FL Senate

Sen. Evers

Sen. Evers

From the News Service of Florida:

A Senate measure filed Wednesday mirrors an earlier House bill aimed at ending the state’s use of the Common Core education standards.

The Senate proposal (SB 1316), like its House companion (HB 25), would try to cripple the standards by requiring the State Board of Education to meet certain requirements before moving forward with the English and math benchmarks and would specifically bar the board from implementing common core in any other subject areas.

It’s unclear whether the bills, filed by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, and Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, will be heard. The State Board of Education voted earlier this month to amend the guidelines for what students are expected to learn in each grade, and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said they should now be referred to as the “Florida standards.”

While supported by the Obama Administration, the Common Core initiative started out as a project spearheaded by governors and school chiefs across the country. But it has prompted a backlash, largely among conservative activists who fear that it is a federal effort to seize control of education.

Proposed MacDill charter school loses first appeal

A charter school sought by MacDill Air Force Base in Florida has lost the first round of an appeals process.

The Florida Charter School Appeal Commission on Monday sided with the Hillsborough County School District, which had denied an application for the proposed school. The case will now go before the state Board of Education, which is scheduled to make the final decision March 18.

“As we’ve known from the very beginning of this journey, building a charter school on a military base is a very complex process and this phase is just one more step in that process,” said Colleen Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the applicant, Florida Charter Educational Foundation and its partner, Charter Schools USA.

“Although this advisory panel did not recommend overturning the district’s denial, the need for military families is well-documented and was reinforced again today,” Reynolds said in a prepared statement. “Ultimately, the State Board of Education will determine whether or not the denial should be overturned and we are committed to continue the fight for military families who want this educational option available on base for their children. We will not give up on doing what’s right for students.”

The foundation applied in August for a charter to build an 875-student K-8 school that would provide a middle school option for military families who live on and off the base. MacDill Charter Academy also would help ease crowding at the district-run elementary school at MacDill, proponents said.

The Hillsborough County School Board denied the application in December, following a recommendation from Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. Continue Reading →