Florida schools roundup: Private schools, charters, digital learning & more

Private schools: Dana Sostchin, a first-grade teacher who has taught for more than 20 years at Yeshiva Elementary School in Miami Beach, receives a Governor’s Shine Award from Gov. Rick Scott. Jewish Journal.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools: A new Brevard County K-5 charter school focuses on the classics,  with literature and Latin lessons. Florida Today. The governing board of University Preparatory Academy, Pinellas’s newest charter school, meets today. Tampa Bay Times.

Dual enrollment: Polk County high school students taking part in a dual enrollment program with Southeastern University get to tour the campus. The Ledger.

Digital learning: Two Pinellas County high schools get to expand their digital technology programs thanks to a $14,500 grant. The Tampa Tribune.

Common Core: Department of Education officials have received nearly 13,000 public comments on Common Core State Standards. Tallahassee Democrat.

Afterschool: Pinellas County schools make a final push to enroll students in the district’s new afterschool tutoring program, Promise Time. The Tampa Tribune.

Teacher pay: Miami-Dade teachers will vote on a $70 million deal that will provide raises of at least $1,100 to 21,000 instructors. Miami Herald. Lee County teachers approve a $1,700 raise for effective and highly effective teachers. Fort Myers News-Press. Continue Reading →


Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Lawsuit in CA, a TFA critic, vouchers in CO and more


Ted Olson:

Ted Olson recently attended the Excellence in Education conference to speak about Vergara v. California, a lawsuit to ensure low-income students gain more equitable access to high quality teachers.

The reality is, low-income students are statistically more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers. Some of those teachers simply lack experience and others are truly ineffective no matter their experience level. (See these studies from the Center for American Progress and the Urban Institute and National Bureau of Economic Research for a few examples. Other researchers, like Eric Hanushek at Stanford University, suggest this can be inferred by other research on teacher quality in relation to experience and certifications).

The lawsuit argues that the student’s due process is being violated by a host of education policies including tenure and seniority privileges. These protections make it a) hard to fire bad teachers and b) more likely that it’s young teachers – who are more likely to be teaching low-income students – who are terminated. The lawsuit argues, correctly, that these rules disproportionately impact low-income students.

Olson is himself a pretty interesting character. He’s Republican lawyer who helped lead a lawsuit challenging Proposition 8, which banned same sex-marriage in California. At the conference he relayed his experience in this case and argued to the audience that winning education reform battles – like reforming teacher employment practices – requires winning over American public opinion just as was done with the gay rights movement in California.

Grade: Satisfactory


Catherine Michna – Tulane University

Catherine Michna is a postdoctoral fellow at Tulane University and a former Teach For America (TFA) teacher. She’s also a TFA critic. She refuses to write letters of recommendations for her students applying to TFA unless they are education majors.

Catherine really believes TFA is doing damage to students in urban public schools, and she cites four studies on her blog to prove it. But she leaves out several studies that show TFA corps members are no worse than and sometimes better than their traditional teacher peers – including the most recent research by Harvard and Mathematica Policy Research.

Michna is also concerned about TFA’s impact on teachers, arguing TFA “deprofessionalizes teaching.” She worries TFA corps members are more concerned about padding resumes rather than seeing teaching as a long-term career. Indeed, few TFA corps members remain in the teaching profession after four years.

But TFA works in low-income areas with a chronic shortage of teachers. These are school districts where turnover is already high and where students are more likely to be exposed to ineffective teachers. Taking away TFA would likely leave these students worse off.

Opposing TFA because it “deprofessionalizes teaching” would be like opposing Habitat For Humanity because it deprofessionalizes carpenters.

Grade: In Need of Improvement Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: New charters, Common Core, social media & more

Charter schools: Central Florida will see 14 new charter schools next year focusing on a range of themes from Montessori to military to science and technology. Orlando Sentinel. Ben Gamla Charter Schools take in more than $10 million in public funding. Miami Herald. A Lakeland charter school hosts free workshops to help teachers learn best practices for the classroom. The Ledger.

florida-roundup-logoSocial learning: Broward school district teachers and employees can use district computers to log onto previously blocked sites, like Facebook and YouTube. Sun Sentinel.

Common Core: Common Core State Standards could soon have an effect on report cards. As course work gets harder, students’ grades could take a hit. Tampa Bay Times.

District policies: Duval County’s superintendent wants to change a hiring policy that would allow applicants with a felony that happened more than 10 years ago to be eligible for a district job. Florida Times-Union. Manatee County parents want the district’s concussion policy updated. Bradenton Herald.

School budgets: The Manatee County School District has a $3.9 million budget shortfall. Bradenton Herald.

School security: Hillsborough school officials continue to debate the merit of added security officers at schools. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →


Florida is not ready for the future

piggyThe United States faces a staggering demographic challenge over the next two decades. Every state in the union faces this problem, and some have it harder than others. Florida faces one of the larger challenges in that the population of both young and old will be vastly increasing at the same time. This challenge will require fundamental rethinking of the social welfare state, including but not limited to K-12, higher education, pensions and health care.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects a substantial increase in the school-aged population in Florida (see Figure 1).


Of course, not all children under age 18 will be attending school in 2030 – most notably the children born in 2027 to 2030. So for a more precise measure of the school-aged population likely to be attending public school in 2030, we can consult a different set of Census estimates. This alternate data provides estimates on the population of 5- to 17-year-olds (see Figure 2). This substantially understates the likely size of Florida’s 2030 K-12 population, as it does not include 18-year-olds. The reader should also note the fact that 4-year-olds are eligible to receive public assistance for Voluntary Pre-K. Nevertheless, the same overall trend reveals itself: the Florida public school population is set to expand substantially.


Florida, in short, will need to find a way to educate far more than one million additional students each year by 2030. Note that Florida’s charter school law passed in 1996. The time between 1996 and now is the same at the amount of time between now and 2030. Charter schools educated 203,000 students in 2012-13.

The Step Up for Students and McKay programs educate another 86,000. It will take a very substantial improvement in Florida choice programs simply to get them to absorb a substantial minority of the increase in student population on the way. Otherwise, Florida districts will either find themselves overwhelmed with expensive construction projects, or can start using their facilities in early and late shifts, or both.

A giant new investment in school facilities will prove incredibly difficult because of the other meta-trend in Florida’s demographics: aging. The expansion of Florida’s youth population, while substantial, pales in comparison to that of the elderly population. Florida’s population aged 65 and older projects to more than double between 2010 and 2030, from approximately 3.4 million to almost 7.8 million (see Figure 3). Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: course choice in Louisiana, charter school performance in Boston, and more

MondayRoundUp_redAlabama: The state court will allow three parents to defend the new school choice program against a lawsuit from the Alabama Education Association that seeks to overturn it (Tuscaloosa News).

Arizona: GEICO donates $8 million to the state’s corporate tuition tax credit scholarship program (Arizona Daily Star).

Colorado: Education reformers in Douglas County are facing re-election again union backed candidates who want to roll back school choice (Denver Post)

D.C.: Academy of Hope starts a charter school to prepare adults for the workforce (Elevation).

Florida: A high-profile St. Petersburg charter school is facing growing pains while it looks for a new principal and plans to open another campus across the bay in Tampa (Tampa Bay Times).

Indiana:  A Columbus area charter school is short $250,000 after an unsuccessful capital campaign, a state funding cut and enrollment drop, and the school may be forced to close (Associated Press). Kevin Chavous, chairman of Democrats for Education Reform, says school choice needs bipartisan support (Indianapolis Star).

Iowa: Joy Pullmann, editor of School Choice News, says Iowa students would benefit from vouchers or expanded tax-credit scholarships (Des Moines Register).

Louisiana: WNBA basketball star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie is a school choice advocate (The Advocate). The state superintendent of public instruction gets a tour of the new Course Choice virtual school program (The Times-Picayune). Enrollment in the voucher program is up 38 percent despite the U.S. Department of Justice’s misguided (and incorrect) lawsuit (The Times-Picayune, Associated Press). The DOJ is trying to prevent parents from defending the school voucher legislation in court (Education Week, National Review). Republican senators question the DOJ lawsuit (The Times-Picayune). A new documentary, “Rebirth” examines the post-Katrina New Orleans school system (Education Week). School performance is up and the number of low performing schools is down in New Orleans (The Times-Picayune, The Advocate). Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: District vs. charter schools, learning options & more

District vs. charter: District schools try new marketing tactics to compete with charter schools, which continue to grow. Palm Beach Post.

florida-roundup-logoLearning options: The U.S. education revolution could find its way to Latin America, with outdated and poorly performing schools that would greatly benefit from a dose of “flipped classrooms” and personalized learning, writes Andres Oppenheimer for the Miami Herald. Florida high school students have three different tracks that will lead to diplomas. Fort Myers News-Press.

Career ed: A Sarasota County high school program trains students for future hospitality careers. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Pam Stewart: Advice for Florida’s Education Commissioner: Keep it simple. Keep the focus on the students and their futures, writes The Ledger.

STEM: An Escambia elementary school receives a $5,000 STEM grant to beef up student offerings. Pensacola News-Journal.

Common Core: For Exxon Mobil, a new set of academic standards spreading across schools in Florida and nationwide offers the chance for U.S. students to compete more effectively. The Tampa Tribune. PolitiFact takes a look at Education Commissioner Pam Stewart’s claim that there isn’t any additional cost with implementing Common Core, and finds it Half True. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →


Charter school proposed for FL Air Force base

Charter schools have a reputation for being a growing presence in urban education, but one proposed for Florida stands out for a more novel locale: a military base.

charter schools usa logoCharter Schools USA, with 58 schools in seven states, has applied to open a charter school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. If approved, it would be the second charter school on a Florida military base and the ninth one nationally.

MacDill, headquarters to U.S. Central Command, has an A-rated elementary school. It’s operated by the local school district and has served the base for 50 years. But with about 500 students, it’s at 93 percent capacity. And in a recent interview with a local newspaper, the district superintendent said it’s possible the school could expand, but she didn’t say how or when.

That’s a concern for a base that serves 13,000 families and expects another 600 to move into new housing within the next year, said local attorney Stephen Mitchell, a member of the MacDill Advisory Education Council, which includes representatives from the community and base.

Another big worry, he said, is that military families, who want their children to remain on base, don’t have a middle school option.

The current school, Tinker Elementary, “is a valuable asset and we don’t anticipate to detract from it,” Mitchell said. “This is about quality of life for military families. Housing and education – we have to take care of that.’’

Richard Page

Richard Page

Plans call for MacDill Charter Academy to accommodate 875 students with a unique design: grades 6, 7 and 8 will have double the seats (about 150) of the K-5 classes. That quickly addresses the greater need for a middle school, said Richard Page, vice president of development for Charter Schools USA.

The academy, like Tinker, will be open to the public, but MacDill families get first priority.  Parents and relatives will have to undergo advanced security screenings to enter the base.

The school will focus on creating programs that meet the needs of military families, many of whom are reassigned to different bases every two years. It will make it easier for parents to get transcripts and enroll their children, and to transition into a new community. There also will be special counselors for children whose moms and dads might be deployed overseas. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Virtual ed, Rick Scott, accountability & more

Virtual Ed: District online classes grow in Volusia and Flagler counties, helping schools become more user-friendly for students. Daytona Beach News-Journal. New Pasco County schools’ online program is the brainchild of two teachers, and builds upon current virtual offerings. Tampa Bay Times. 

FL roundup logo snippedRick Scott: During an online live chat with the education blog redefinED, outgoing state Board of Education member Kathleen Shanahan says Scott needs to express full-throated support for Common Core. Tallahassee Democrat. 

Common Core: The future of Common Core to improve academic achievement is largely being undermined by — and there is no gentle way to put this — very shrill, stupid people, writes Dan Ruth for the Tampa Bay Times. In our mobile society, why wouldn’t we want our children to be assured of being taught the same high-level, college- and career-ready standards in the same grade level across the country? writes high school reading and English teacher Mella Baxter for the Orlando Sentinel. ExxonMobil comes out in support of the Common Core. Sunshine State News.

Accountability: A new study finds Florida’s eighth-graders hold their own on international math and science tests, but fall short of marks posted by top-performing nations and U.S. states. Sun-Sentinel. More from StateImpact Florida.

Teacher pay: Palm Beach County school officials offer most local teachers another $76 on top of the $2,000 raises previously offered, but teachers still are seeing red. Palm Beach Post. Hernando teachers and district officials continue to hash out agreement for raises. Tampa Bay Times.

Racial gap: Pinellas County administrators look to students for help in overcoming the district’s racial divide. The Tampa Tribune. Pinellas County’s superintendent says the district will be aggressive as it tackles the achievement gap between black students and their peers. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →