Florida schools roundup: early learning, online learning, STEM camps & more

Online learning. Broward College creates Broward College Online. South Florida Sun Sentinel. Flagler considers distributing thousands of laptops to high school students next year. Daytona Beach News Journal. Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, tells the News Service of Florida (subscription required) that it didn’t get traction on its top priority last spring but will continue to push for it: moving the state ”to a one-to-one student-to-technology-or-digital-device ratio by 2016.”

florida roundup logoDual enrollment. Add the Pensacola News Journal to the list of papers writing on the cost shift to districts for dual enrollment.

Teacher conduct. Parents file a second lawsuit against a Coconut Creek preschool after allegations that students were molested by a music teacher. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Teacher pay. The Collier County School Board will decide whether teachers get a raise in the wake of a special magistrate’s recommendation in favor of it. Naples Daily News.

Early learning. Ninety community leaders gather in Pensacola to stress its importance. Pensacola News Journal.

School discipline. Expulsions down a lot in Hillsborough. Tampa Bay Times.

STEM. Hundreds of students participate in STEM-focused summer camps organized by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Stetson University and Daytona State College. Daytona Beach News Journal.


Florida DOE: Don’t deter students from Florida Virtual School

After months of reports that some Florida public schools are limiting or denying students access to Florida Virtual School, the state’s chancellor of public schools is putting districts on notice.

Pam Stewart

Pam Stewart

“School districts may not limit student access to courses offered through the FLVS,” Pam Stewart wrote in a recent memo to superintendents. “Since the Florida Legislature passed legislation in 2013 that impacts the funding of school districts and FLVS will receive, it is important that you remember the statutory requirements.”

As redefinED has noted, the new funding formula has left fewer state dollars for both districts and Florida Virtual School and resulted in an unintended consequence: a dramatic drop in enrollment for Florida Virtual School, the nation’s largest provider of online classes. Some districts immediately started steering students away from Florida Virtual School, while at least a few charter schools told students they would have to pay for Florida Virtual School courses.

That’s not acceptable, Stewart wrote. The memo also said districts cannot require students to enroll in district courses in the same subjects as FLVS courses; restrict students to only FLVS courses for electives; or limit the number of FLVS courses students can take.

It’s not clear what the consequences will be if districts engage in such practices. State Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who led the charge for the funding change, did not respond to several requests for comment in recent weeks.


Florida roundup: charter schools, school grades, a Civil War general & more

Charter schools. Parents at the now-defunct Ben Gamla charter school tell Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego that they’re unhappy with its closing. Gradebook. Gainesville’s oldest charter school goes to a year-round schedule. Gainesville Sun. A new charter in Hillsborough will serve high school students with disabilities. Tampa Tribune.

florida roundup logoTax credit scholarships. SchoolZone writes up the state report that shows rapid growth in the tax credit scholarship program (which is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog).

Virtual schools. WGCU: ” ‘What the state has done is actually made a cut to education and disguised is as an operating protocol for virtual students.’ ”

Standards. In 2011, Florida’s proficiency bars in reading and math, relative to NAEP, don’t stand out as particularly high, according to a new analysis. Education Next.

Mentors. Can boost FCAT scores, and groups like 100 Black Men of Orlando are heeding the call. Onyx.

School spending. Once again, the Palm Beach County School District’s audit committee wants to know why so many schools have “money handling problems.” Palm Beach Post. A new Orange County principal was demoted from his former job in Palm Beach County because he used a school credit card for $6,400 in questionable charges, including a $200 dinner with his wife at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Orlando Sentinel. Flagler cuts its budget by another $1.1 million because “staff budgeted too high for this year.” Daytona Beach News Journal. Continue Reading →


School choice doesn’t carry R or D label

Rep. Coderre

Rep. Coderre

Anyone who denies the growing bipartisanship around all things school choice should pause to consider what happened in Rhode Island this year.

There, in one of the bluest of blue states, a member of the Democratic leadership team sponsored a statewide voucher bill, turning to the Friedman Foundation for help crafting the bill language. Rep. Elaine Coderre’s bill didn’t pass in the session that ended last week. But it’s expected to get serious consideration next year and Coderre is confident Democrats will be on board.

podcastED logo

“Absolutely believe it or I wouldn’t be doing it,” Coderre, the Speaker Temporare, told redefinED in the podcast attached below.

There is an accelerating pace to the embrace of school choice. Every year, more states adopt new programs, even more states consider them, and ever more Democrats are in the mix. In Louisiana last year, 19 Democrats voted in favor of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher program. In North Carolina this year, Democrats are co-sponsoring a voucher bill that appears headed for passage. And in New Jersey last week, Newark Mayor Cory Booker offered another unflinching defense of school choice despite being in the middle of a Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

Coderre, the longest-serving member of the Rhode Island House, represents the working-class city of Pawtucket. She is not a half-hearted Democrat. She voted for a bill that authorized same-sex marriage; sponsored legislation to put wheelchair accessible taxis on the road; said yes to upping the minimum wage. On the voucher bill, she said she didn’t see a partisan issue; she saw something that empowered parents and offered more opportunities for kids. “I didn’t think that had an R or a D label,” she said.

Coderre said supporting vouchers wasn’t much of a leap for other reasons. Rhode Island already has charter schools, and it has a modest tax credit scholarship program. Coderre backed both. In that context, vouchers are just another option.

Coderre also noted that she attended both public and private schools, as did her children. All parents have the right to determine what options will help their kids be successful, she said, and all of us benefit when that happens. When a Catholic parents group asked her to put vouchers on the agenda, Coderre said she jumped at the chance: “It wasn’t a hard sell, believe me.”


Florida roundup: charter schools, school spending, tax credit scholarships & more

Charter schools. In the face of low reading scores, the city of West Palm Beach takes steps to open its own charter school. South Florida Sun Sentinel. More from the Palm Beach Post. Is there room for charter schools in Jefferson County, one of Florida’s smallest (and most struggling) school districts? Tallahassee Democrat.

florida roundup logoTax credit scholarships. The program (administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog) served 51,075 students in 2012-13, up 10,827 or almost 27 percent from 2011-12, the latest annual state report on the program shows. News Service of Florida.

Private schools. A new day school for children with autism is opening in Bradenton. Bradenton Herald.

School grades. Superintendents are right to ask for a few breaks on school grades this year. Tampa Tribune.

Common Core. Using it to stem summer learning loss. StateImpact Florida.

Jeb Bush. Mike Thomas at the EdFly Blog explains why the Foundation for Florida’s Future puts out an annual report card for lawmakers.

School spending. Lake cuts back on busing and guidance counselors, among other changes, to fill a $16.3 million deficit. Orlando Sentinel. For the first time in years, Pinellas isn’t facing big cuts. Tampa Tribune.

Schools and religion. Orlando Sentinel: “Lawyers for Orange County Public Schools did not review the Bible before it was given out to high-school students but did review atheist materials before they were distributed, school officials said Monday.”


School choice restores parental responsibility

restoring the piecesThe American school system was, from its inception, a product of intolerance for human difference. Grounded in 19th Century religious and cultural prejudice, it was artfully designed to assure no government resource would end up supporting the teaching of religious or cultural notions that were uncongenial to the Protestant majority. Carefully limited by the constitutions of various states, the curriculum was centralized and sanitized in each of the 50 school systems to favor the beliefs and values of the dominant group. Further, students were confined to their own school districts – indeed to their own neighborhoods – assuring (at least in the cities) that children of different social classes and races would see little of each other within government schools.

One overall effect was and is a quasi-market for the affluent; well-to-do families choose admission to the government school of their preference. By contrast, for the ordinary family, government schools are a compulsory monopoly. There are, of course, private schools, and we know from survey research and direct experience that they are very attractive to the poor. Nevertheless, though most such schools are relatively inexpensive, they can scarcely compete with the “free” government alternative. It is, therefore, remarkable that the private sector is still able to attract nearly 10 percent of the total student population; equally impressive is the proportion of these students who come from poor families who make enormous sacrifice to pay tuition. I suppose Justice Sotomayor’s story suggests this reality.

The tragedy is 19th Century America, a new country exploding with creativity, decided to hobble the minds and souls of its children with a system of finance and assignment that for ordinary families was, and remains, oppressive. Americans spend $800 billion each year in state-owned schools; I suspect they constitute the largest socialist enterprise outside of China.

The effects of this government monopoly upon the ordinary family have been what one would predict: The family is put under the most destructive pressures. At age five the child is taken from the parent who has been both friend and advocate. The child now discovers the parent is impotent to intervene. The parent learns self-contempt and withdraws from responsibility.

Whatever one’s philosophical starting point, schools in the U.S. pose a moral issue of crisis proportions. Intellectual monopoly by The State is especially peculiar in a culture as diverse as ours. Where there is no consensus about values, it is on its face ludicrous for an ephemeral regime of bureaucrats to impose its own favorite curriculum upon everyone. The case against monopoly, however, need not rest upon pluralism. Monopoly control over value content is unjust and, in the end, will be destabilizing even in a society with a common culture. The idea of a social consensus itself rests upon an underlying conception of human freedom. That is, consensus is a clustering of beliefs that are voluntarily held. We value these ideas not simply for the numbers who profess them, but out of respect for the individual human persons who freely believe them. Consensus can, of course, be one among other principles of policy, but it is a very weak principle. A just government never opposes value diversity as such, but only those rare forms of diversity that threaten social order. To say diversity itself is socially destructive is merely to beg the question. It may be quite the opposite. That very issue seems to me at the heart of the problem.

In the end it boils down to this question: Whom do we trust to choose the ideas the child of the ordinary family will study – the family or the government? Society needs a theory of the best decider – the one who decides best for the good of individual children and for the common good. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: teacher evals, digital education, dual enrollment & more

Virtual schools. The Tampa Tribune writes up legislative changes to digital education.

florida roundup logoCharter schools. Several new charters in Jacksonville are moving into old buildings. Florida Times Union. Charter school enrollment in Pinellas is projected to climb 28 percent this fall. Tampa Bay Times (reprise of an earlier Gradebook blog post).

Magnet schools. Applications are still being taken for all of Hillsborough’s magnet programs except IB. Gradebook.

Career academies. Summer means internships for many of those enrolled in Brevard’s business academies. Florida Today.

Low-performing schools. Five of Pinellas’ toughest schools hope to begin getting traction this summer. Tampa Tribune. A former student at struggling Lacoochee Elementary in Pasco is now the principal. Tampa Bay Times.

Dual enrollment. Another story on the financial hit to districts from the Legislature’s decision to shift dual enrollment costs to them. TCPalm.com.

Teacher evaluations. Not a single teacher in the Palm Beach County School District is rated below effective. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Teachers. A band teacher’s departure from Lake County for a higher-paying gig at a charter in Connecticut is a sign teachers will “seek communities where teachers are respected and education is a priority, and that description doesn’t fit either Lake County or Florida.” Lauren Ritchie. Continue Reading →

redefinED roundup: charter schools in Washington, vouchers in Wisconsin, Uncommon Schools & more

National. Uncommon Schools wins the 2013 Broad Prize for outstanding charter school network (Education Week). U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan praises charter schools for recent improvements but criticizes some for excluding high rates of students through disciplinary actions (Education Week). Tax credit scholarship programs are boosting Jewish day schools and yeshivas nationwide (The Jewish Press).

MondayRoundUp_whiteWashington: A coalition led by the state teachers union files a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s new charter school law (Seattle Times). The state’s three biggest districts take different approaches to the new charter law, with Spokane most aggressively embracing it (Associated Press).

Virginia: The Norfolk school district considers converting a fifth of its schools into charters (Virginian-Pilot).

Louisiana: Only one of 117 private schools participating in the state’s school choice voucher program is found to be in violation of financial rules (New Orleans Times Picayune). The state’s fledgling “course choice” program continues to grow, with 1,500 students enrolled so far (New Orleans Times Picayune).

Mississippi: Charter school supporters consider the possibility of luring a high performing charter network like KIPP (Jackson Clarion Ledger). The process for starting a charter school in Mississippi is a grueling one (Jackson Clarion Ledger). One parent offers a testimonial about the power of the Nashville Prep charter school (Jackson Clarion Ledger).

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker says he’ll use test scores, graduation rates and other measures to determine the effectiveness of the newly expanded school choice voucher program (Green Bay Press Gazette). More from the Wisconsin State Journal. The statewide expansion involves a couple of twists on Walker’s part, including a veto of language that could have been used to circumvent the caps (Education Week). Private schools consider whether to participate (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Critics say private schools that accept vouchers are shortchanging students with disabilities (Wisconsin Watch). Continue Reading →