Florida roundup: Common Core, charter schools, ed commissioner & more

florida-roundup-logoEducation commissioner. The Florida Board of Education appears poised to hire interim commissioner Pam Stewart to permanently replace Tony Bennett instead of launching the third search in two years. Associated Press. Common Core, school grades and new tests aren’t on the agenda. Miami Herald.

Common Core. Lawmakers face growing resistance as they return to Tallahassee next week for the first round of committee hearings in advance of the 2014 session. StateImpact Florida. Common Core will be the bedrock Florida needs for a world-class education, writes former Florida Board of Education member Roberto Martinez in the Miami Herald. The Naples Daily News writes up state Rep. Debbie Mayfield’s bill to halt Common Core.

Charter schools. Lawmakers should drop the model charter school contract and give districts more say over charter applications. Orlando Sentinel. The Palm Beach County school district moves to immediately shutter a troubled charter where a student allegedly went missing for a few hours. Palm Beach Post. The Sarasota Military Academy charter school offers a firearm safety course. Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Private schools. A new private school for students with disabilities opens in Sarasota, with student funding coming from McKay vouchers. Bradenton Herald.

Education spending. The Florida Board of Education’s proposed budget calls for $15.1 billion in spending next year, $65.3 million less than the current spending plan. StateImpact Florida. The Pasco school board will consider a budget that is $1.079 billion, up 5.11 percent from last year. Gradebook. In Lake, impact fees aren’t keeping up with growth. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher pay. Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego touts $32 million worth of teacher pay raises this year in a new video. Gradebook. Hillsborough teachers and support staff could get 4 percent raises under a tentative deal with the district. Tampa Tribune. Leon teachers ratify a new contract that includes a $2,182 across-the-board pay raise. Tallahassee Democrat. Continue Reading →


Desperate parents see hope in new Florida charter school

University Preparatory Academy leader Cheri Shannon talks to a parent during a recent school release in St. Petersburg, Fla. For many families, the school offers them hope that their child can get a good education.

University Preparatory Academy leader Cheri Shannon talks to a parent after school recently in St. Petersburg, Fla. For many families, the school offers them hope that their child can get a good education.

It took only one meeting to convince Zanquesha Morgan to enroll her two boys into University Preparatory Academy, a new K-8 charter school in south St. Petersburg, Fla. It didn’t matter that she had never heard of the school, or its founder, or its approach to academics.

Like a lot of parents in this hardscrabble community along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, Morgan was desperate. Four district schools in the predominantly black area earned F grades this year. Three more would have had it not been for a last-minute rule change by the state.

“I just knew I wanted another option,” Morgan said. “I came to the orientation and I was like, ‘Finally, someone has answered our prayers.’ ’’

What’s happening in this city of 280,000 on the west coast of Florida, better known for its sunshine, retirees and the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, echoes what’s happening across the nation. Charter schools continue to grow enrollment by leaps and bounds because parents are lining up in droves, sometimes literally. In the case of University Prep, more than 800 applied, but because of capacity, only 530 got in.

According to a recent estimate from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 520,000 individual students were on charter school waiting lists last year – on top of the 2.3 million enrolled. As the situation in Florida shows, many parents are willing to roll the dice on an untested charter school because they’re so frustrated with existing options.

“I figured it’s got to be better than the public school,” said Timothy Gill, who brought his son and daughter to UPA after years at a nearby, F-rated district school. “Here, there’s less bullying and more education.”

Parent Timothy Gill enrolled his daughter and son in University Prep Academy because he liked the curriculum, and because he wanted them to feel safe.

Parent Timothy Gill enrolled his daughter and son in University Prep Academy because he liked the curriculum, and because he wanted them to feel safe.

The school’s founder and principal is Cheri Shannon, the former president and chief executive officer of the Florida Charter School Alliance. She modeled University Prep after a charter she headed in Kansas City, Mo., that aimed to prepare low-income minority students for college.

“It’s something that’s never been here before,’’ said Enoris Sly, a city worker who moved his 7-year-old daughter, Anoriay, from a private Christian school to UPA.

He came for the promise of rigorous curriculum, highly-skilled teachers and all the extras – Spanish, music, art, P.E. And because he could get all of that for free. Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from districts.

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Florida schools roundup: Dual enrollment, single gender, FLVS & more

School grades: It’s time to debunk the myth that Utah’s school grading system is similar to the one adopted by Florida, writes The Salt Lake Tribune.

florida-roundup-logoBOE meets: The state Board of Education meets Tuesday to discuss plans to turn around troubled schools, approve next year’s legislative budget request and find Florida’s next education commissioner. Palm Beach Post.

Dream Act: The Miami Herald follows up on the path of an undocumented teen whose dream was derailed by immigration red tape.

Single-gendered: A Hernando County pilot program that separated girls and boys in one elementary school seems to have lost its cache. Tampa Bay Times. Flagler County students who spent last school year in all-boys or all-girls classes outperform their peers in mixed-gender classes on standardized tests. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Dual enrollment: A Polk County high school partners with the private faith-based Southeastern University to provide college-credit courses. The Ledger. Treasure Coast school districts grapple with the financial impact of a new state law that requires districts to pay the tuition of dual-enrollment courses for the first time. TC Palm.

STEM: Polk County looks at exposing more girls to science, technology, engineering and math to introduce them to careers in those fields. The Ledger.

Common Core: Naples Daily News looks at a proposal from state Rep. Debbie Mayfield to stop the state from implementing the new education standards.

Virtual ed: Hillsborough County used to encourage students taking courses above and beyond their school day to go to Florida Virtual School because FLVS could earn more funding for them then the district could, but now the push is to keep the kids in the district. The Tampa Tribune. Online education will be one of the great learning tools of the 21st century, writes the Daytona Beach News-Journal. The state must be ahead of the curve in using technology to improve education.

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redefinED roundup: vouchers in Wisconsin, charters in Washington, DOJ still on defensive & more

MondayRoundUp_redAlabama: State Democrats want to de-fund the new tax-credit scholarship program and use the money to fund the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (The Anniston Star). The new scholarship program provides a little bit of choice but it is limited by the scholarship cap of $3,500 per student (Troy Messenger).

Connecticut: Although this doesn’t measure the impact, new state data shows open enrollment students in Hartford outperform students who remain in city schools (The Courant).

Florida: Waste Management donates $4.5 million to StepUp For Students – the scholarship organization that runs Florida’s education scholarship tax-credit program – at a Marlins baseball game (PRWeb). Florida’s aging population means resources will flow into pensions and healthcare for retirees. That means education needs to be more effective in both cost and student achievement (The Edfly Blog).

Louisiana: The cost of busing students in New Orleans has doubled since 2004-05 as the average trip of 1.9 miles increased to 3.4 miles by 2012 thanks to school choice and open enrollment (The Lens). The Department of Education wants $378,000 back from a voucher school after it was discovered the school charged the state $6,300 per pupil but only $2,000 if the parent paid on their own (Times-Picayune).

Massachusetts: Mayoral candidates debate education at the local teacher union office and a few candidates are brave enough to show their support for charter schools and lifting the cap on charter schools (Boston Globe).

Michigan: Detroit public schools are stepping up their game to recruit and retain students in the midst of competition from charters and other public school districts (The Detroit News).

Minnesota: A high-poverty charter school in Minneapolis is beating the odds, improving student achievement and reducing the racial achievement gap (Star Tribune).

Missouri: Normandy School District must cut $15 million from its budget as students (and their funding) depart for other school districts under a state open enrollment plan for students in failing school districts (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Continue Reading →


Charter schools are not pushing out low-performing students

strictdiciplineEarlier this week, University of Illinois Professor Chris Lubienski penned a thoughtful piece on charter schools and social justice. His central concern was markets could undermine the social justice aims held by many charter school advocates. Rather than focusing on providing quality education, Lubienski asserts charter schools may be self-selecting the best students and, in particular, weeding out the most disadvantaged students.

While the concerns are valid, the evidence against charter schools is scant and anecdotal and does not allow anyone to draw broad conclusions.

For example, Lubienski cited a recent story from the New York Daily News that showed the Success Academy charter school network has higher suspension rates than surrounding district schools. The anecdote highlighted a special needs student who had difficulty reading and threw temper tantrums in school – which included physically attacking a teacher and throwing objects. Ultimately that family withdrew from the school – something they wouldn’t have been able to do in a traditional public school without a lawyer or school choice – because the mother was “tired of fighting” with school officials.

In another case, Success Academy admitted it didn’t have the means to comply with a special needs student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and recommended the student be transferred to a public school that specialized in special needs education. The parent ultimately decided to stay and push the school to follow the IEP.

Suspensions, counseling and repeated parent-teacher meetings would have to be the most passive aggressive means of getting rid of bad students and probably not all that effective. A more effective means might simply be to expel the students outright. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charter schools, texting, teacher pay & more

Charter schools: A 14-day count shows Broward County charter schools gained 4,300 students this year while district-run schools dropped by 2,500 students. Sun Sentinel. Manatee County’s Imagine School has a new leader focused on improvement. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Hillsborough County School District should continue to monitor charter schools for fees and other charges passed along to students. Tampa Bay Times.

florida-roundup-logoTexting & driving: Broward and Palm Beach county schools organize their distracted driving campaigns to coincide with a state law that bans texting while driving. Sun Sentinel.

Teacher pay: Nearly 13,000 Orange County public school teachers will have to keep waiting for their raises after the local teachers union rejects the district’s offer. Orlando Sentinel. The Seminole County school district proposes a $1,350 pay hike for all teachers, but the union wants raises that on average would come close to $2,800. Orlando Sentinel.

Success story: Middleton High School once was on academic life support following a string of six consecutive state-issued D grades. Now the school’s principal and two students are about to participate in a national conference focused on turning around failing schools. The Tampa Tribune.

Accountability: Orange County school leaders set a goal for the district to return to an A grade by 2014-15, get 80 percent of schools to a grade of B or higher, and get 65 percent of students performing proficiently in math, reading and writing. Orlando Sentinel. Polk County Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy unveils a metrics system for principals to reach academic goals. The Ledger.

Funding: Florida has the second-largest per pupil increase in education spending for the 2013-2014 budget year, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. StateImpact Florida.

Attendance zones: Despite repeated complaints from parents at Jamerson Elementary, it appears that the Pinellas County School Board doesn’t plan to budge on changing the school’s feeder pattern, says the Tampa Bay Times.

Common Core: State House Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach) on why she filed a bill to stop Florida from implementing the new standards: “It’s going to make us stop and take a look at what it is we’re really doing.” Florida Today. A Hernando County magnet school librarian offers Civics in Action, or CIA, a new focus to help prepare students and the school for Common Core. Tampa Bay Times.

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Teacher ranks continue to grow in Florida charter schools

charter school teacher chart2

It’s no surprise, given rocketing growth in Florida charter school enrollment, that the number of charter school teachers is on the rise, too. But the trend lines are still worth an update.

Last year, the number of instructional personnel in Florida charter schools reached 11,446, according to the most recent data from the Florida Department of Education. That’s up 7 percent from fall 2011, when the number topped 10,000 for the first time. (The number of instructional personnel in all Florida public schools is up 2.2 percent.) Charter teachers now account for 5.9 percent of Florida’s entire teacher corps.

We’ll try to corral the 2013-14 numbers once they’re available in a month or so. In the meantime, check out this spreadsheet from DOE. It shows the number of charter school employees by category, and offers a district-by-district breakdown.


Florida schools roundup: 10-day count, cell towers, background checks & more

Board of Ed: Florida public school educators want more per-student funding and more money for technology, teacher training, dual enrollment courses and algebra camps for rising 9th graders, according to a preliminary budget request the State Board of Education is considering next week. Sun Sentinel.

florida-roundup-logoCommon Core: New K-12 education standards are reshaping classroom instruction to better reflect the realities of college and the workplace, the Broward County school district says. Sun Sentinel. House Speaker Will Weatherford says he supports high academic standards, but tells StateImpact Florida that critics raised some legitimate concerns about Common Core.

Tony Bennett: A guest post in Education Week  says the only people who believe the former Florida Education Commissioner was exonerated are those who agree with him.

Charter schools: Palm Beach County School Board members approve plans for a city-run K-5 charter schools that calls for 600 students and is set to open next year. The school will focus on raising reading levels among the city’s children. Sun Sentinel. Pinellas County school officials determine there was no evidence of “cherry picking” students at a newly opened charter school in St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay Times.

10-day count: Some Treasure Coast students may not be in the same classroom where they started the school year about three weeks ago and others could have a different teacher as districts analyze data from the enrollment counts taken after the first 10 days of school. TC Palm.

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