Florida schools roundup: charter schools, virtual schools, ALEC & more

Charter schools. The updated CREDO study isn’t as flattering about charter school performance in Florida. Gradebook, SchoolZone, StateImpact Florida.

florida roundup logoVirtual schools. Pasco sets up a summer program for its e-school so students don’t take Florida Virtual School classes – and cost the district money in the process. Tampa Bay Times.

Private schools. The head of a high-end Tampa private school resigns after a rocky year. Tampa Bay Times.

Common Core. Could weed out some teachers. State Impact Florida. But will put teachers in the driver’s seat. Eduwonk. Some Florida teachers see a juggling act between the new standards and current curriculum. Tampa Tribune.

ALEC. Progress Florida says the state’s ed policy is run amok with ALEC. StateImpact Florida writes it up.

School grades. DOE appoints a task force to review grading policies before this year’s grades are released. Gradebook.

School spending. Seminole plans to move ahead with a property tax increase. Orlando Sentinel. Lake decides against changing school start times to make up for a projected $16.3 million deficit. Orlando Sentinel. Lee aims to save $1 million a year under new Superintendent Nancy Graham’s re-org. Fort Myers News Press, Naples Daily NewsThe Marion school board approves a staffing plan with 525 fewer positions. Ocala Star Banner.

School discipline. Black community leaders are concerned about high suspension rates for black students in Flagler. Daytona Beach News Journal.

Teacher merit pay. A judge denies FEA’s request to reconsider his decision to throw out a lawsuit challenging the state’s new merit pay law. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Teachers. Badass Teachers Association says payback is coming. Orlando Sentinel.


Growth stalls at Florida Virtual School

The muscular growth of Florida Virtual School, the nation’s largest provider of online classes, has suddenly become anemic. And the culprit seems to be legislative changes made this spring to the state’s funding formula for education.

flvsOver the last five years, the highly regarded FLVS has seen a 24 percent annual growth in the number of course requests approved by guidance counselors at the end of the school year, according to FLVS figures.

Last year, the number grew at a robust 34 percent, from 150,578 approvals to 201,066. Course approvals are still up this year, but by only 1 percent.

FLVS officials are predicting at least a $34 million hit because of the legislative change, which may have unintentionally pitted the provider against school districts still reeling from the Great Recession. But the bigger problem may be that thousands of students are not getting classes that work best for them.

Evidence continues to surface that districts are denying students access to FLVS courses and/or pushing them toward other providers. A published report suggested a similar effort was underway at a leading charter school network.

“Denied choice is not just about the dollars,’’ said FLVS spokeswoman Tania Clow. “Ultimately, the one who suffers is the student.’’

In response to the sagging numbers, FLVS has instituted a hiring freeze, except in critical areas. And Julie Young, Florida Virtual’s president and CEO, is set to meet with Education Commissioner Tony Bennett next week to talk about the fallout. Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Common Core, school grades, summer learning loss & more

Common Core. StateImpact FloridaDon’t let Common Core squeeze out science. StateImpact Florida: State Sen. John Legg says lawmakers still have a lot to do to get the state ready for Common Core.

Charter schools. New study from CREDO shows charter schools improving nationally, compared to traditional public schools, but with results varying widely from state to state. Coverage in the New York Times, Washington Post, Hechinger Report, Charters & Choice, Associated Press, Huffington Post.

florida roundup logoSchool grades. Gradebook: Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho calls on the state to change how it grades ESE centers.

Summer learning loss. Gradebook: High-poverty schools in Pinellas have the lowest turnout for a new district program to stem summer learning loss. Tampa Tribune: Overall turnout for the Pinellas program is less than expected, too. Tallahassee Democrat: Leon offers a summer course for students who failed the Algebra I end of course exam.

Educator conduct. South Florida Sun Sentinel: A teacher’s aide at a Palm Beach County charter school is accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old he met at church. Tampa Bay Times: A former Pinellas County elementary school is sentenced to two years in prison for possession of child pornography.

Teacher data. GradebookDOE offers help to teachers whose info may have been compromised.The Gainesville Sun writes up the data breach. So does the Pensacola News Journal.

STEM. Northwest Florida Daily News: Parents pack an Okaloosa County School Board meeting to show support for a STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medical) academy.


Time for a ‘Brown’ ruling on religious discrimination in education

Charles Glenn: it's time for a ruling on par with Brown v. Board of Education that ends legalized discrimination on the basis of religion.

Charles Glenn: it’s time for a ruling on par with Brown v. Board of Education to end legalized discrimination in education on the basis of religion.

New Hampshire joined other states in adopting a tuition tax credit program in 2012; now this has been partially blocked by a ruling that illustrates how urgently the United States needs a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court doing, for legalized discrimination on the basis of religion, what Brown v.  Board of Education did for legalized discrimination on the basis of race. In fact, the two institutional forms of bigotry – one adopted by Southern Democrats, the other by Northern Republicans – are intertwined historically.

The 2012 New Hampshire law allows businesses to claim credits against business taxes owed equal to 85 percent of amounts they donate to state-designated “scholarship organizations.” The organizations then award scholarships up to $2,500 to attend non-public schools or out-of-district public schools, or to defray costs of home schooling.

Opponents charge that this violates Article 83 of the state constitution, which stipulates “no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination.”

After a one-day hearing and more than six weeks of pondering, Judge John M. Lewis ruled June 17 that funds raised through tax credits were public funds (even though they had never been in government coffers), and could not be used for scholarships to religious schools. This left the door open for their use for scholarships for non-religious schools.

State Rep. Bill O’Brien, who had been House Speaker when the law was enacted, told the Manchester Union-Leader the ruling “does not address why it is permissible for the state to allow tax breaks for religious organizations through college scholarships, but it is not permissible when it’s a tax credit of this nature.”

According to the Union-Leader, “Charles Arlinghaus of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy said, ‘The final decision in this case was always going to come from the Supreme Court, which I’m sure will uphold the law. No education tax credit has ever been struck down by a Supreme Court in any state. This ruling is particularly odd. The entire program is fine unless a parent by their own choice chooses a religious school. By this logic a program is illegal if neutral and only legal if actively hostile to religion. That’s absurd and I trust the Supreme Court will find it so.’”

Whatever the results of the appeal, it is a timely reminder of the need for a decision at the highest level to undo the lingering effects of religious discrimination in the American legal system. Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: charter schools, dual enrollment, school spending & more

Charter schools. They’re becoming more involved in the political process, reports the Florida Times Union. The Bradenton Herald takes a look at the challenges ahead for Rowlett Elementary, the Bradenton magnet that’s becoming a charter school. So does the Sarasota Herald Tribune. (Sidebar on other charter school conversions here.) The fledgling Ben Gamla charterschool  in Pinellas closes because of a dispute with its national board, reports the Tampa Bay Times. The Lake Wales Charter School system has more than 400 students on a waiting list for its middle school, prompting debate how to expand, reports the Lakeland Ledger.

florida roundup logoDual enrollment. Districts are chafing at having to pick up the tab, reports the Tampa Bay Times. More from the Northwest Florida Daily News.

School choice. The lottery process will be a topic for discussion at a school choice summit in Palm Beach County. Extra Credit.

Common Core. Training helps teachers instill love of math, reports StateImpact Florida. It’s clear, concise and good for kids, says a teacher at a high-poverty school in this column by Karin Choweth at Ed Trust (H/T Tampa Bay Times).

Testing. The Happy Scientist raises questions about the science FCAT. Miami Herald.

Humanities. Don’t forget them amidst the growing emphasis on STEM. Tampa Bay Times.

School technology. Hillsborough teachers like BYOD. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: Charter schools in Arizona, tax credits in New Hampshire, parent trigger in Louisiana & more

Arizona: New statistics show the state has the second-highest percentage of students enrolled in charter schools in the nation (Today’s News Herald). Gov. Jan Brewer signs off on expansion of school voucher program, adding kindergartners and increasing funding for all students who qualify (Arizona Daily Star).

logoWashington, D.C.: New study shows district and charter schools suspended one out of 10 students in the 2011-12 school year (Washington Post). Mayor Vincent Gray talks about blurring the lines in school choice, suggesting elementary charter schools feed into traditional middle schools and vice versa, among other ideas (Washington Post).

Delaware: The state approves three new charter schools, including one that offers its students internships (The News  Journal).

Georgia: Atlanta public schools take fight against charter schools concerning unfunded pension liabilities to Georgia Supreme Court (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie’s administration puts another three charter schools on probation and issues warning to 11 others in a quest to raise standards (NJSpotlight). Some Camden district teachers want to open their own charter schools (Philadelphia Inquirer).

New Hampshire: A judge rules the new education tax credit law violates the state Constitution’s ban on sending public money to religious schools, but the program can continue to provide scholarships for secular schools and homeschooling (Concord Monitor).

Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal signs off on a parent trigger bill that allows parents to petition to shift control from some failing Recovery School District schools back to the local system (Times-Picayune). The state Board of Education approves a new course choice program that will allow public school students to take hard-to-get classes online (The Advocate).

Florida: The woman spearheading a charter conversion in Manatee County has ties to Fund Education Now, an organization that has opposed charter school expansion (Sunshine State News). Rowlett Magnett Elementary  will be the first public school to convert into a charter in the past five years (Sarasota Herald-Tribune).  A Marion County school board member suggests some cost-saving ideas to save teachers jobs, including shutting down or charging students for the IB program (Ocala Star Banner). Some private schools in Florida are signing up for Common Core training (redefinED). Pembroke Pines agrees not to privatize its charter school system, but teachers will have to take pay cuts (Sun-Sentinel). A tax credit scholarship helps single father send his son to private school (redefinED). Gateway Charter School in Fort Myers tells students to finish up Florida Virtual School online courses, or pay up (Associated Press). Continue Reading →


School “voucher” lifts father and son

Orlando and Gaby

Orlando and Gaby

Orlando Garcia never imagined he’d be a single father, and his friends didn’t think he could handle it.

When his buddies asked him how he could take care of his infant son when he couldn’t even take care of himself, Orlando would shrug it off and quickly answer that he didn’t have a choice.

“When he is sick, I will take him to the doctor,” he told them. “And when he needs medicine, I will go to the pharmacy. When he is wet, I will change his diaper.”

Despite his positive attitude when talking with his friends,Orlando still had some doubt about how he could raise young Gabriel “Gaby” alone — until he saw a man with four young children standing in front of him in line at the grocery store.

“Are you a single dad?” Orlando asked, holding his 1-year-old Gaby. ”Yes,” the man answered.

Orlando smiled, and that moment changed his outlook.

“He looked so happy, and I will never forget that. I remember it like it was yesterday,” Orlando said of his memorable conversation that was nearly 10 years ago.

It gave Orlando the confidence that he could be a good dad, even solo.

For personal reasons, it was best that Orlando and Gaby distance themselves from Gaby’s mother and Orlando became a single dad.

“It’s so sad because he wants that love that only a mother can give, that mother’s love,” Orlando said. “I try. I give him extra kisses. He’s 10 now, and I still treat him like a baby.”

As the years have passed, Orlando and Gaby have made a life that works for them, but when the father saw his son struggling in school and encountering bullies, he didn’t know which way to turn.

“He was doing kind of bad and didn’t want to go to school,” Orlando recalled.

He spoke of his concerns at his church and he was told about Florida College Academy, a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade private school in Temple Terrace, just outside of Tampa.

“I told them I couldn’t afford the $5,000 tuition. I could barely pay my bills,” said Orlando, a construction worker.

Then, he heard about and applied for the Step Up For Students school choice scholarship. Gaby started at the school in the second grade. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Common Core, superintendents, turnarounds & more

School grades. Low grades create more teacher turnover, a teacher columnist argues. StateImpact Florida.

florida roundup logoTurnaround schools. Pushback in Pasco yields some flexibility from the state. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter schools. The League of Women Voters ask questions in Polk. Lakeland Ledger.

Common Core. Administrators are training for Common Core too. StateImpact Florida.

GPAs. A proposed change in how they’re calculated in Pasco stirs debate. Tampa Bay Times.

Principals. St. Lucie will have 13 new ones in August. TCPalm.com.

Superintendents. Duval board members evaluate Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, reports the Florida Times Union. Alachua Superintendent Dan Boyd wins the Florida School Boards Association’s President’s Award, reports the Gainesville Sun. New Lee Superintendent Nancy Graham starts shaking up administrative staff, reports the Fort Myers News Press. More from the Naples Daily News.

School safety. A third custodian is considered a suspect in the shooting deaths of two custodians at a West Palm Beach high school. Palm Beach Post.

School spending. A Marion school board member suggests some controversial cost-savings ideas to save teacher jobs, including having staff clean their own schools and either shutting down or charging students to attend IB programs. Ocala Star Banner.

Reading. More than 100 residents turn out to kick off a reading mentoring program for kids in Fort Meade. Lakeland Ledger.