Florida schools roundup: Computer coding, questionable loans and more

florida-roundup-logoCoding as a language: For the third straight year, a bill has been introduced in the Legislature that would allow computer coding to fulfill two credits of foreign language requirements in high schools. The bill, filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would not require high schools to offer computer coding classes, but would require universities to accept coding credits in lieu of foreign languages. It also allows Florida Virtual School to offer the coding courses. Gradebook. Florida Politics.

Charters’ loans questioned: The Florida Department of Education says two Miami-Dade charter schools illegally loaned $912,094 in taxpayer funds to sister schools outside the county. Keys Gate Charter School in Homestead and BridgePrep Academy in Miami should be asked by the school board to repay the money, recommends a district auditor. A spokesman for Keys Gate disputes the loans were illegal. Florida Bulldog. Miami Herald.

Superintendent search: The Lake County School Board will interview seven candidates to replace retiring Superintendent Susan Moxley on Dec. 13, then make a decision Dec. 14. The finalists are: Bob Anderson, deputy superintendent at Fulton County Schools in Atlanta; Quintin Shepherd, superintendent of the Linn-Mar Community School District in Marion, Iowa; Jerry Wilson, superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools in Berlin, Md.; Mark Mullin, deputy superintendent at the Brevard County School District; Diane Kornegay, deputy superintendent at the Clay County School District; Brennan Asplen, deputy superintendent for the St. Johns County School District; and Verna Ruffin, superintendent for Jackson-Madison County Schools in Jackson, Tenn. Moxley retires in July. Daily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


A new approach to collective bargaining?

The labor movement is trying to come to grips with the results of the 2016 elections, and this has led some of its leaders to interesting conclusions that could have implications for education.

One such reflection comes from David Rolf, a local Service Employees International Union leader from Seattle (hat tip: Mike Antonucci).

He argues a coming wave of Republican-backed anti-labor policies and appointments is likely to further weaken unions’ clout. The best way to respond may be to reinvent themselves, and find new ways to build collective power. Continue Reading →


The week in school choice: Bridging divides

The debate swirling around president-elect Donald Trump’s potential education agenda highlights a potential rift between charter school backers skeptical of vouchers and the rest of the school choice movement.

Last week, at the annual conference of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Harvard University Prof. Martin West noted a real concern: Politics is inherently tribal. People might decide to oppose something based on the people they see lining up in favor. A tribal backlash seems to be among the main fears of school choice advocates. One way to reduce that risk? Limit the federal government’s role in dictating choice-friendly policies to states.

Jeb Bush described a plan that might bridge this divide, giving states more flexibility to promote school choice as they see fit — whether by steering more money to charter schools that serve low-income students or allowing them to put extra money into “lifelong education savings accounts,” as he proposed on the campaign trail.


This quote, dug up by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, suggests Trump’s likely Education Secretary pick believes in an ecumenical, all-of-the-above approach to educational options:

We think of the educational choice movement as involving many parts: vouchers and tax credits, certainly, but also virtual schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, and charter schools.

Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Tuition fight, better grades, charter boost and more

florida-roundup-logoIn-state tuition fight: State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is unhappy that newly elected Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has introduced a bill that would prohibit undocumented immigrant students from receiving in-state tuition for college. Latvala, who is the House appropriations chairman, was one of the backers of that measure. “The final chapter hasn’t been played on that,” Latvala vows. Gradebook.

Grade improvements: Only 51 of the 3,333 Florida schools improved their grades from an F to a C or better last year, according to the state Department of Education. Six of those were in Duval County. Officials there credit new principals and teachers, and a focus on the needs of individual students through small-group instruction. Florida Times-Union.

Boost for charters: The wave of school choice election winners should be a boost to the charter school industry, say political analysts. They think Florida lawmakers are likely to reduce school boards’ control over approval of charter schools, give struggling neighborhoods the freedom to form “educational success zones” and bring in for-profit charter companies, and give more tax money for construction to charter schools. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher shortages: Mid-year resignations have left schools in Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie counties with more teaching vacancies now than when school started. Those districts still have 52 teaching openings, up from 39 in August. TCPalm. More than half of the 200-plus classroom vacancies in Hillsborough County have been filled by redeploying subject coaches, resource teachers and some assistant principals. Only about 80 jobs have yet to be filled. Gradebook.

Appointed superintendent: A drive begins to turn the Leon County school superintendent’s job into an appointed one. Organizers hope to get the initiative on the ballot in 2018. If it passes, the school board would start hiring the superintendent in 2020. Tallahassee Democrat. Continue Reading →


Parents, school choice and economics 101

There’s a strain of thought in the school choice movement that market forces alone won’t be enough to improve public education.

Harvard University economist Joshua Goodman recently explained how he came to this view.

Competition improves supermarkets, restaurants — why shouldn’t this model apply to schools? It seemed to me that anyone who denied this idea didn’t understand basic economics.

But the more I read, the more I realized that the empirical evidence for choice and market forces improving educational outcomes is thin at best. I found that disappointing and also puzzling, and I have spent some time thinking about why that theory doesn’t match current reality.

Here’s what I think the biggest problem in thinking of schools as a classical market. Econ 101 models assume consumers observe product quality. But schools are complicated goods, and quality, particularly a school’s long-run quality, is hard to judge for many parents. It takes a lot of time to figure out whether this school and these teachers are serving my child well. Unlike restaurants or supermarkets, where quality can be judged at the moment of the purchase, school quality reveals itself later.

In other words, sometimes, parents don’t know best, at least when it comes to judging school quality.

This week, at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual gathering in Washington, Checker Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute argued this point from experience.

“I’ve seen way too many charter schools full of kids, with happy parents, in which the student achievement results are in the tank,” he said. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Federal inquiries, funding, report cards and more

florida-roundup-logoFederal inquiries: The federal government is launching yet another investigation into the way black students are treated by the Pinellas County School District. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will look into a complaint filed by the Southern Law Poverty Center that contends the district disproportionately disciplines black and disabled students. In April, the Office for Civil Rights began an investigation of the district’s assignment of students by race into gifted programs, and whether black students were given equal access to district resources. Tampa Bay Times. The Office for Civil Rights has also opened an investigation into a claim that the Bay County School District failed to evaluate several students’ eligibility for special education services, The inquiry will be added to an existing one filed in 2012 that accuses the district of disproportionately disciplining minority students. Panama City News Herald.

Funding squeeze: Key state senators say they remain committed to public education, but funding will be tight as resources are stretched. They told the Florida School Boards Association on Thursday that their priorities for this legislative session are higher teacher pay, less testing and added accountability measures for choice programs. Tampa Bay Times. The Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition issues a 10-point legislative agenda. The coalition, which includes school officials from 13 central Florida districts, is asking for more local authority over funding from the state, and to restore state funding to 2007 levels. Bradenton Herald.

Report card fail: Florida grades poorly on how it provides online data to parents, according to the Data Quality Campaign’s Show Me the Data study of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Florida makes its information available in English only, requires parents to make three or more clicks on district websites to view report cards, and doesn’t include all the information required by the federal government. Florida did have the most up-to-date data online. Gradebook.

Bush on reform: At the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual conference, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush calls for massive changes in federal education funding and policy. He urged cutting federal requirements on state and local education decisions and allowing increased school choice. redefinEDThe 74Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Jeb Bush: Time to shake up education policy



The incoming Donald Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have a “real opportunity to bring wholesale disruption in education in America,” Jeb Bush told a gathering of education reformers in Washington. And, he said, he hopes they seize it.

Speaking at the start of the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual conference, the former Florida governor said the 2016 elections, in which he came up short in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, reflected a loss of faith in core American institutions, which need to be dramatically reinvented.

When it comes to education, he said, Congress and the new presidential administration should tap into that hunger for change.

“I hope there’s an earthquake as it relates to education funding and education policy,” he said. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Top superintendent, school choice and more

florida-roundup-logoTop superintendent: The Orange County School District’s Barbara Jenkins is named the state’s superintendent of the year at the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and Florida School Board Association conference. Jenkins became superintendent of the Orange school district in 2012. The district won the 2014 Broad Prize for Urban Education and the Governor’s Sterling Award in 2014 and 2015 for performance and efficiency. Orlando Sentinel.

School choice tool: A new state website is now available that allows parents to compare schools to find the best matches for their children. Floridastudentsachieve.org is a project from the Department of Education to make performance data about schools easily available online. The launch comes as districts are preparing to deal with a new state law that allows students to enroll in any school with a space for them. redefinED. Orlando SentinelWFSU. WTXL.

School recess bill: The chairman of the House education committee says he is open to considering a bill that would require daily recess in elementary schools, even though he opposed a similar bill last year. Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, did not like a provision in last year’s bill that said recess could not be withheld for punitive reasons. The new bill filed by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, does not include that requirement. Miami Herald.

Immigrants and tuition: State Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, files a bill that would cut off in-state college tuition rates for undocumented students. The measure giving in-state resident rates to those students who attended a Florida high school for at least three years before graduating passed the Legislature in 2014. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay TimesPolitico Florida. Continue Reading →