New report sheds light on challenges of implementing personalized learning

A new study has found personalized learning is strongly supported by teachers, but often lacks an innovative environment to succeed.

For two years, Betheny Gross and Michael DeArmond at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) studied schools, districts and external organizations that received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to implement personalized learning in their classrooms.

Two of those districts — Lake and Pinellas Counties — are in Florida.

CRPE researchers surveyed 4,508 teachers, observed classrooms in 39 schools and conducted more than 450 interviews with superintendents, principals, teachers and office staff. Continue Reading →


Tuthill: Ownership leads to outcomes in public education

Doug Tuthill is president of Step Up For Students, which helps administer the nation’s largest private school choice program (and co-hosts this blog).

(Below is an edited version of a talk Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill gave to the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Prosperity Summit on May 3, 2018, in Orlando, Florida. The words have been modified slightly for length, clarity and focus. Step Up For Students also publishes redefinED.)

Let’s start with the good news. Public education in Florida has never been better. The most recent results from the Nation’s Report Card showed Florida students leading the country in Reading and Math gains.

Now the bad news. While Florida’s low-income students lead the nation in reading, only 25% are proficient. We look good because the rest of the country looks so bad.

We all understand the power of ownership. No one washes a rental car before returning it. Unfortunately, public education today turns too many adults and children into renters. We need to move from a system that disempowers and alienates too many adults and children, to one that empowers and engages them.

The Florida tax credit scholarship program our nonprofit helps run illustrates the importance of empowering families, students, and educators. We give scholarships to Florida’s lowest-income, lowest-performing children to attend a private school or a public school in another district. The scholarships are worth about 60 percent of what we spend to educate children in district schools, and yet we’re seeing good results.

Once on scholarship, these low-income students keep up with all students nationally on standardized test growth, and, if they are on scholarship for four or more years, they are 40 percent more likely to attend college. Choice leads to ownership and ownership produces better results. And in the case of our scholarship, better results for much less money.

There are several reasons why our public education system is so poorly designed, but two key historical reasons stand out. First is the hostility Protestants felt toward Catholics in the early days of the Republic. Second is the batch production revolution in manufacturing that occur in the late 1800s. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Immigrants and GED review, security and more

Immigrants and GED: The Miami-Dade County School Board has ordered a review of the way the district educates immigrant students. The review was approved about a month after newspaper reports detailed how arriving teens with limited English skills were often pushed into adult education programs, where they then prepared to get a high school diploma through the GED program. Critics of that process say those students are steered away from regular high schools because school officials think they’ll have a negative impact on graduation rates. More than 1,000 of the 5,000 immigrant teens who arrived this year ended up in Spanish-language GED programs. Board members gave administrators until September to conduct the review and report back. Miami Herald. About 200 immigrant youths under the age of 19 who tried to enroll in Collier County schools were turned away and pushed toward a GED degree, online programs and workforce training sessions, according to a lawsuit filed on their behalf by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Here’s the story of one, 17-year-old Nehemy Antoine, a Haitian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen. Teacher Project, Naples Daily News.

School security: A Palm Beach grand jury’s suggestion that the school district dip into its reserves to pay for school resource officers is dismissed by school officials as a simplistic and unrealistic solution to a complicated problem. They say the reserve fund as a percentage of the annual budget is already lower than that of most Florida districts, and that reserves should not be used for everyday expenses like new employees and higher salaries. Palm Beach Post. While Sanibel, Fort Myers or Cape Coral city officials have agreed to contribute financially to place resource officers in schools in their cities, officials in Estero and Bonita Springs are still questioning whether it’s their responsibility. They think school protection ought to fall under what they already pay the county for the sheriff to police their cities. Naples Daily News. Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods drops the cost to supply resource officers for schools, and if the city of Ocala can’t do the same the school board is likely to contract with the sheriff. The board meets Monday to finalize its decision. Ocala Star-Banner. Officials from the St. Johns County School District and sheriff’s office talk about how the county will comply with the state’s school security mandate. St. Augustine Record. Continue Reading →


Collaboration between traditional public and charter schools is critical

Several superintendents from different parts of the country told an audience at the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools conference that it is critical charter schools and traditional public schools work together to meet the needs of all students.

Pedro Martinez, superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District, said it is important leaders do not get bogged down in philosophical debates.

“Let’s focus on what matters,” Martinez said. “How do we create options that are inclusive?”

The superintendents were speaking on a panel about how they have been able to overcome obstacles and work together with charters.  The discussion centered around three principles key to advancing choice: equitable access; transparent indicators of quality and equitable funding. But the superintendents acknowledged in working together, there were challenges that may impede that progress. Continue Reading →


Charter school couldn’t change Zoe’s past, but it changed her future

Zoe Jenkins relaxes with Lady, her beloved Great Pyrenees. A recent graduate of Dayspring Academy in New Port Richey, she will attend Florida State University.

Zoe Jenkins hasn’t seen her mother or father in person in years. But a few months ago, she saw her father on TV.

On a crime show.

The 18-year-old was watching “Live PD,” a popular A&E program that follows police officers from around the country, often during nighttime patrols. This episode was being shot in Moon Lake, a blighted, crime-ridden community in Pasco County, Florida.

The camera zoomed in on a man being questioned by officers. It was her dad, about to do meth in a car, with her brother in the passenger seat.

“I had to do a double take,” Zoe said. “It was just crazy.”

Zoe’s life has been filled with shockers. Her mom struggles with alcohol. Her 16-year-old brother, the one in the car with Dad, is missing. Her childhood was marked with so much chaos and violence she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: District force ripped, security, tax measures and more

District’s force blasted: A Palm Beach County grand jury looking into school security issues a report blasting the school district’s police department, calling it “understaffed, underfunded and underpaid” and saying it is misleading the public about how well it’s protecting schools. “If the Palm Beach County School Board and the [school district] do not want to adequately fund, hire, pay and equip the [school district police], they are in effect wasting our taxpayer money and could be putting our children’s lives in danger,” the grand jury concluded. If the district isn’t willing to spend the money necessary, the grand jury said, it should turn over the job to the sheriff’s office. School officials call the grand jury’s suggestion to fix the problems by using financial reserves or cutting other school programs “irresponsible.” Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

School security: South Florida schools districts are scrambling to hire police officers to comply with the state mandate of having an armed officer in all schools when they reopen this fall. Sun-Sentinel. Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight and county commissioners criticize School Superintendent Todd Bowden for his handling of negotiations for school resource officers and for the district’s decision to create its own police force. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFLA. WTSP. About 180 people have applied to become armed guardians for the Volusia County School District. Sheriff’s officials say about 130 met the minimum requirements and will be interviewed. As many as 52 could be hired to guard elementary and charter schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Orlando Sentinel. Estero city officials say protecting schools should be the responsibility of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, not the city. WFTX. The St. Johns County School District and county agree to a deal to have the sheriff hire 16 youth resource deputies to help guard schools. The district will contribute $1.4 million and the county $1 million. St. Augustine Record. Continue Reading →


Top teacher: Education can be a tool for social justice

Sydney Chaffee, 2017 National Teacher of the Year, spoke about the importance of empowering students to become active and engaged citizens.

AUSTIN, Tex. – Sydney Chaffee has taught her students about apartheid in South Africa.

But students simply do not take notes and answer questions.

They probe deep questions about morality and justice.

“My students draw comparisons between South African kids’ activities and their own power and promise as young people,” said Chaffee, the 2017 National Teacher of the Year. “They debate whether they would be willing to risk their lives to ensure future generations can live in a more just world.”

Chaffee, a humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Boston, was one of the main speakers at the closing session of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools Wednesday. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Tax hikes, textbooks, charter schools and more

School tax hikes: Palm Beach County school leaders are considering giving charter schools a portion of the $150 million a year that would be generated if voters approve a property tax hike in November. Language that specifically excluded charter schools has been removed from the proposal, which the school board will consider today. The decision to cut charters in was made after legal action was threatened if they were excluded. Palm Beach Post. The Hillsborough County School Board agrees to ask voters to increase the sales tax to raise money for capital expenses. The request now goes to the state, which has to perform a financial audit. Superintendent Jeff Eakins also said he was looking into asking voters for a property tax hike, which could be used for teacher salaries and programs. Tampa Bay Times. Lake County commissioners approve a special school safety tax, which will be on the Aug. 28 ballot. Money generated would help pay for resource officers in all schools. Orlando Sentinel.

Science textbooks approved: The Collier County School Board approves the use of new science textbooks that were challenged by evolution and climate change skeptics. The vote was 3-2, with Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter voting against using the recommended textbooks. Four people had lodged complaints against 220 items in 18 textbooks, alleging that they treat evolution and climate change as fact rather than theory. The new books will cost the district $1.7 million and will be handed out to students in August. Naples Daily News. Continue Reading →