Florida schools roundup: School grades, charters, private schools & more

School grades: None of Broward County’s high schools received poor grades, and all but three received A’s or B’s. Sun Sentinel. Fewer Palm Beach County schools got A’s and B’s this year and more got D’s and F’s. Sun Sentinel. Miami-Dade schools received many A’s and no F’s. Miami Herald. For the first time since Florida started grading schools in 1999, no Polk high schools got a grade of D or F. The Ledger. florida-roundup-logoHigh schools across Central Florida and the rest of the state earned more A’s and B’s this year than ever before. Orlando Sentinel. Space Coast high schools earn A’s and B’s. Florida Today. Among the 44 high schools on the First Coast, 33 received an A or B. Florida Times-Union. More high schools than ever — 240, or 48 percent — earned A grades, while the number of F-graded schools rose from 3 to 8. Tampa Bay Times. All 16 Pinellas County public high schools got A’s or B’s. The Tampa Tribune. Fourteen of Hillsborough’s traditional high schools earned the top grade, nine received B’s and four received C’s. The Tampa Tribune.

Urban assessments: New testing data shows Hillsborough County schools beat the performance of other large urban school districts in math and reading. Miami-Dade fourth grade readers outscored other large urban districts, but were on par in eighth grade reading and fourth and eighth grade math. StateImpact Florida.

Charter schools: Supporters of a charter school for MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa plan to appeal the Hillsborough school board’s decision to deny the proposal. redefinED.

Private schools: A Palm Beach Christian high school faces closure if organizers can’t solve a financial dilemma. Palm Beach Post.

Magnet schools: JetBlue Foundation awards Polk schools, including the Central Aerospace Academy, with a $25,000 grant. The Ledger.

School spending: Lake County School Board members approve a plan to redirect $21 million of district cash over the next three years to help struggling students and improve teaching programs. Orlando Sentinel.

School safety: Hillsborough County School Board members approve having armed guards in elementary schools. Tampa Bay Times. More from The Tampa Tribune.


FL urban districts in top tier on NAEP

place ribbonsFlorida got mixed news from the latest results on the “nation’s report card,” which looked at student achievement in some of the nation’s biggest, urban school districts.

On the one hand: Flat scores.

On the other: Top-tier scores.

Released Wednesday, the 2013 math and reading scores on the closely watched National Assessment of  Educational Progress didn’t budge much for the two Florida school districts, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, that were among 21 that participated nationwide. The tests are given every other year to representative samples of fourth- and eighth-graders.

Six districts saw statistically significant increases in math scores in at least one grade level since 2011, the last time they took part. Five scored higher in at least one grade level in reading. Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, which includes the city of Tampa, were not among them. The Washington D.C. district was the only one with gains in both subjects and both grades.

On the upside, the Florida districts outpaced most of the others with results for black, Hispanic and low-income students and students with disabilities.

Hillsborough’s students with disabilities ranked No. 1 on all four tests. Their counterparts in Miami-Dade finished No. 2, No. 3, No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Those eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch in Hillsborough scored in the top four on all four tests, while those in Miami-Dade did so on three of four.

“With Hillsborough and Miami Dade students far outpacing other urban districts across the country, it’s clear that our teachers and schools are continuing to succeed,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a written statement. “This is just the latest in a number of national comparisons that demonstrate our teachers and schools are helping to make Florida the nation’s best place to pursue the American Dream.”

The percentage of poverty in the 21 districts varies considerably, with the number of students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch averaging 73 percent. In Miami-Dade, it’s 74 percent; in Hillsborough, it’s a second-best 58 percent.

Florida has been a national leader in NAEP gains for the past 15 years, an era marked by tough, top-down accountability measures like school grades and an explosion in school choice options. At the same time, its overall proficiency rates remain cause for concern.

The same goes for the districts. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charters, armed guards, class size & more

Charter schools: The Miami-Dade school district rejects a charter application for a public safety-themed high school. Miami Herald.

florida-roundup-logoSchool safety: Hillsborough County school leaders continue to debate having armed guards at schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher pay: Raising the starting salary for new teachers is one of the best ways to boost the public schools, says the Palm Beach Post. Orange County is the only large school district without a teacher-raise plan. Orlando Sentinel.
Name change: StateImpact Florida talks to two students whose Duval County high school is getting rid of its name because it honors a Confederate soldier and member of the Klu Klux Klan.
Class size: Duval County Superintendent Nikolai Vitti believes the school district will pay less than a million dollars this year for its oversized classrooms. Florida Times-Union. While many districts have seen a drop in their enrollment, St. Johns County continues to grow but stays within class size limits. Florida Times-Union.
Community service: Escambia County middle school students make quilts for homeless people. Pensacola News-Journal.
Cell towers: The Pasco school board approves a cell phone tower on the campus of a local elementary school, despite parents objections. Tampa Bay Times.
Conduct: A Lee County high school student is arrested on charges of kicking a 72-year-old man and slapping an 89-year-old man. Fort Myers News-Press.


Reform-minded Catholic schools push to close reading gaps

It’s the benchmark for long-term academic success – having every student reading at grade level or higher by the end of third grade. And it’s the lofty mission of a new reading program for Catholic school students developed by the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education Academies.

ACE Readers is an innovative program for Catholic elementary school children in Arizona and Florida.

ACE Readers is an innovative program for Catholic elementary school children in Arizona and Florida.

ACE Readers is working with five Catholic schools in Arizona and Florida to beef up reading programs by purchasing hundreds of books for classrooms, sponsoring summer camps and giving teachers learning strategies that help target instruction. There also is a learning specialist assigned to each region to assist teachers and principals with training, and with implementation of tests and lesson plans.

The undertaking is funded by the big-box chain Target and orchestrated by ACE, an outreach program that trains future Catholic school teachers and administrators to strengthen the schools and the communities they serve. ACE Readers is an extension of that effort, with an eye on eliminating the achievement gaps that plague at-risk students.

Christian Dallavis

Christian Dallavis

“Literacy skills and reading ability are at the core of what kids need to know to do well at school,’’ said Christian Dallavis, senior director of leadership programs at ACE. “Our focus is on reading because we believe that without it, students don’t have the tools they need to succeed in high school, college and beyond. We want them to learn to read so they can read to learn.’’

Accomplishing that feat also helps with other goals – reviving Catholic schools and giving parents more high-quality options, Dallavis said.

“Having strong fundamentals like reading, math and other instruction has driven our enrollment up and provided more revenue to restore P.E., music and art – classes that had to be cut when the budget was to the bone,’’ he said. “It’s allowed us to be able to offer students and parents more.’’ Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charters, magnet schools, FCAT & more

Charter schools: University Preparatory Academy in Pinellas County names a new principal, a public school transformation coach from North Carolina. Tampa Bay Times. The Lake Wales Charter Schools board of trustees approves a pay bump for more than 400 instructional and non-instructional personnel. The Ledger.

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools: Pinellas County School Board members explore reopening two shuttered schools, turning them into technology centers. The Tampa Tribune.

FCAT: Five standardized test makers formally apply to help create a replacement for the FCAT by 2015, and a sixth also wants to be considered for the job. Orlando Sentinel.

GED: StateImpact Florida looks at the growing alternatives to the GED.

Lobbyists: Contract extensions of two longtime lobbyists that the Palm Beach County School Board approved and then rescinded are back before the board. Palm Beach Post.

Outsourcing: The Broward County School Board will vote today on the first big piece of its construction outsourcing plan that already is generating controversy. Miami Herald.

Job switch: Hernando County’s superintendent moves her assistant superintendent to the district’s manager of warehouse and purchasing. Tampa Bay Times.

Wish lists: The Polk County School Board offers up its legislative priorities, with a “critical needs” tax at the top of the list. The Ledger. Continue Reading →


High school students try out MOOCs

As a rising high school sophomore in St. Petersburg, Fla., last summer, Curtis Brown III needed to brush up on the algebra he took more than a year earlier. But instead of hiring a tutor or reviewing textbooks, Curtis signed up for a MOOC – a massive, open, online course offered by a nearby community college.

Local high school students can sign up for a MOOC offered by St. Petersburg College.

Local high school students can sign up for a MOOC offered by St. Petersburg College.

And even though he only made it half-way through the free, self-paced course, it was more than enough, he said, to prepare him for more complicated math when the school year began. Now he’s ready to tackle pre-calculus.

“It did help,’’ said Curtis, who hopes to graduate high school with a diploma and an associate’s degree. “I used it as a refresher.”

MOOCs have been all the rage in higher education. And despite plenty of debate, they’re finding a place in K-12, too.

Supporters say much like colleges and universities, high schools can use MOOCs to more easily and cost-effectively supplement their curriculum. MOOCs offer classes with unlimited enrollment, potentially help students customize their learning and provide an opportunity to increase digital learning skills. They can also be another tool to help determine if high school students are ready for college-level courses and, if they’re not, to get them help before they spend time and money on remediation in college.

Dr. Jesse Coraggio

Dr. Jesse Coraggio

“The way we envision it, it’s in our best advantage to have these kinds of support tools,” said Jesse Coraggio, associate vice president of research and grants at St. Petersburg College, which is piloting a math MOOC for high school students and rolling out reading and writing MOOCs later in the school year.

Like other online platforms, such as Florida Virtual School, MOOCs allow students to work independently at their own pace. But while FLVS assigns teachers to students and offers live learning sessions, MOOCs typically feature recorded lectures and provide little or no interaction with instructors. Students usually don’t pay for a MOOC or receive credit for the course, though some colleges and universities are experimenting with the concept.

In Florida this year, lawmakers authorized MOOCs in high school subjects with end-of-course exams like Algebra I and Geometry. Providers must be approved by the state Department of Education and courses must be taught by Florida-certified teachers.

While those MOOCs are being developed, four Florida school districts, including Pinellas County, where St. Petersburg College is located, are testing MOOCs in other areas. Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: charters win in WA, voucher suit begins in NC, FL district denies military base charter & more

MondayRoundUp_redAlabama: Applications for the state’s new tax credit scholarship program are now open (Alabama Opportunity Scholarship FundWTVY)

Arizona: Three charter schools will be shut down for poor performance (Arizona Business Journal).

California: The L.A. metro area has the largest number of students attending charter schools in the nation (LA School Report). Charter school growth booms in L.A. and San Diego (San Diego Union Tribune).

Georgia: NPR asks “what is school choice?” (WABE). Hall County ranks No. 1 in the nation for charter school enrollment growth (Access North Georgia). Charter school enrollment grows in the state as more schools request permission to convert to charters (Atlanta Journal Constitution).

Florida: If Catholic schools were a district, they’d be the 9th largest in the state (redefinED). 80,000 students attend charter schools in Miami-Dade, making it the 6th largest (numerically) metro charter area in the nation (Miami Herald). A virtual charter school is approved to set up shop in Pinellas County (Tampa Bay Tribune). Across the bay in Hillsborough, a school board votes down a charter school request by MacDill Air Force Base (redefinED). The number of students using “opportunity scholarships” to leave poor-performing schools doubles in Duval County (Florida Times Union). Florida Virtual School offers students flexibility (Townhall.com).

Indiana: Gov. Mike Pence wants vouchers for pre-k students (Indianapolis StarGreenfield Reporter). Pence thinks charter school networks should be allowed to operate more like school districts (Courier-Journal). Public school districts will have to hold lotteries for public school choice if demand exceeds supply (Education Week). Gary ranks 5th in the nation for charter school enrollment (Post Tribune).

Louisiana: The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is the most influential organization on education reform, according to a Brookings Institute study (Times Picayune). New Orleans has the largest percentage of students attending charter schools of any city in the nation…for 8 years in a row (Times Picayune). Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Common Core, school safety, FEFP & more

Common Core: The quick rollout of the new education standards in South Florida has some educators worried that students still trying to learn English could be left behind. Sun Sentinel. Catholic schools are quietly embracing the Common Core. The Tampa Tribune.  Religious schools are mindful of the new standards but some are also proceeding with caution. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

florida-roundup-logoMore on PISA: The stagnant results from the PISA test ought to be a warning that we are not getting the job done. And our kids deserve better, writes the Palm Beach Post.

School safety: Across the country, parents and educators are saying or thinking the same thing: How do we make schools and children safer? Florida Times-Union.

Funding: Hernando County  board members breathe new life into an effort to increase funding and challenge parts of the state’s complex funding formula, the Florida Education Finance Program or FEFP. Tampa Bay Times.

Retention: The number of third-graders in Southwest Florida being held back a grade have decreased, yet, good cause exemptions are on the rise. Fort Myers News-Press.

Fine arts: Research shows the more arts courses Florida students enroll in, the more likely they are to take the SAT and score well on standardized tests. And conversely, students who appear to be struggling academically generally take fewer arts courses than their peers. StateImpact Florida.

AVID: The international program expects a lot from students, who take honors and Advanced Placement classes to prepare for college, a goal many of the students might not have considered otherwise. The Tampa Tribune.

Grad rates: While graduation rates at seven of the Treasure Coast’s 13 high schools worsened last year, the majority of schools have seen their rates rise since 2011. TC Palm. Continue Reading →