Florida schools roundup: Home-schooling, desegregation and more

Desegregation order: Indian River County School Board members renew their discussion about getting free from a court desegregation order, which it has been under since 1967. Board members feel the district has made progress toward fulfilling the court’s requirement of “having racially balanced schools taught by diverse staffs to establish an equitable education system for minority students.” The local NAACP chapter disagrees, saying the district still doesn’t have enough minority teachers or a success plan for minority students. TCPalm.

Home education: The number of Florida students being home-schooled increased by more than 4,000 from 2016 to 2017, according to the state Department of Education’s annual report. Since 2008, the number has increased by more than 30,000. redefinED.

Raising the bar: Florida and other states must continuously raise the standards for academic achievement, argues the CEO of the Foundation for Florida’s Future and the Foundation for Excellence in Education. “It is inevitable that when rigor is increased, student test scores and school summative grades initially will decline,” writes Patricia Levesque. “But once teachers and students adapt to the higher expectations, the scores will begin trending back up. This is how we drive better learning gains — through a continuous but realistic raising of the academic bar.” Politico Florida.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Indian River County School Board members meet about joining a lawsuit against the newly signed state education bill, H.B. 7069, but make no decision. Several districts are committed to suing the state over the bill, which requires districts to share tax money with charter schools. TCPalm. Bay County School Board members will vote Tuesday on whether to join the lawsuit against the education bill. Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members have complained about the bill and the secret manner in which it was put together. Ginger Littleton, board chair, calls the bill “slimy, underhanded, treacherous and very expensive for taxpayers.” Panama City News Herald. Continue Reading →

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Home education once again on the rise in Florida

The number of home education students in Florida keeps rising. It reached 87,462 during the 2017-16 school year, according to fresh state data.

The Florida Department of Education releases a report on homeschooling each summer.

In 2015, the number of children taught at home saw some of its largest growth ever. Last year, it declined.

But the state’s largest school district, Miami-Dade County, accounted for that decrease single-handedly.

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Florida schools roundup: Help for failing schools, H.B. 7069 challenge and more

Help for failing schools: Ninety-three failing Florida schools can apply to the state for up to $2,000 more per student to fund such services as after-school programs and community partnerships, the Department of Education announces. The schools are eligible through the “schools of hope” provision of H.B. 7069 because they have received grades below a C from the state for the past two years. They have less than a month to apply, and only 25 will get the money because of a cap limiting payouts to $58 million of the $140 million set aside by the law. The rest will go to charter schools that set up within 5 miles of the failing schools. Miami Herald.

H.B. 7069 suit: The Palm Beach County School Board votes unanimously to support a proposal to sue the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. Board attorneys were directed to research the best way to challenge the law, which increases money for charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools and limits local districts’ authority over charters. Board members say they may not join a proposed lawsuit by Broward and St. Lucie counties. Board member Frank Barbieri says separate suits could make a defense harder for the state. “If we are going to sue, which we certainly should, we should make it as difficult and painful for the state Legislature as they have made it for us to operate this school district, the highest performing large urban school district in Florida,” he said. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. The Florida Charter School Alliance says Palm Beach County Superintendent Robert Avossa signaled an intention to “wage war” on charter schools when he urged the school board to join the lawsuit. Lynn Norman-Teck, executive director of the alliance, says the board should remember that charter schools and their students are in the public school system. Palm Beach Post.

Duval may join suit: Duval County School Board members ask Jacksonville’s city attorney to investigate how much it would cost to sue the state over H.B. 7069 or join the current movement toward a suit by Broward and St. Lucie counties, the likelihood of success, and whether the city would join the board in the suit. At least six Duval schools are in danger of being closed or turned over to charter companies under the new law. Other districts that have discussed joining the suit are Pinellas, Palm Beach, Sarasota, Manatee and Alachua. Florida Times-UnionWJCTWJXT.
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‘You are trying to meet kids where they are’ – Michael DeArmond on personalized learning

Michael DeArmond

The rollout of personalized learning is taking the education field by storm.

Experts are still ironing out many aspects of the concept, which tailors instruction to students individual needs and interests.

Is the new learning method sustainable? Can there be a universal definition and program for personalized learning?

Michael DeArmond, a senior research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, who with his colleagues Betheny Gross and Robin Lake, visited schools across the country implementing personalized learning, shared his insights on the topic.

Q: Can a universal model of personalized learning work? Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Indoor recess, turnarounds, court challenge and more

Indoor recess: When Florida elementary schools reopen next month, they’ll be required to offer students at least 20 minutes of recess a day. But Florida Department of Education officials say recess could be held in classrooms, since there is no requirement that the time for free play be outdoors. Districts are required to report their compliance with the law by Sept. 1. Charter schools are exempt. Associated Press. Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay says giving 20 minutes of school a day for recess leaves the district with 340 minutes a day of instructional time. The state requires at least 300 minutes. Each of the county’s 32 public elementary schools will arrange its own schedule. Daily Commercial.

Turnaround schools: The Florida Board of Education has ordered three school districts to revise turnaround plans for troubled schools. These are the first to fall under the new education law, which gives districts less time to turn around schools and offers three options if they don’t: close the schools, turn them into charters or bring in an outside “partner” to help run the schools. Gadsden County will bring in help for the coming school year, then search for a charter school company to take over Gadsden High in the 2018-2019 school year. Alachua County’s plan to turn around Hawthorne Middle/High School was rejected, and district officials will have to prepare a plan using one of the three options. Hamilton County will have to choose a charter company to take over Hamilton High before next spring. redefinED.

Education challenge: How do you measure if the state has a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools,” as required by the state constitution? That’s what First District Court of Appeal judges seemed to be wondering during a hearing Tuesday in the case challenging Florida’s education policies. A group known as Citizens for Strong Schools brought the suit, arguing troubling racial achievement gaps show the unconstitutionality of the system. The state argues that funding levels are sufficient, that Florida students’ achievements have improved significantly in the past 20 years, and that the constitutional language was political and not a literal standard that judges can interpret. The state won the first round in state court in May 2016. Miami Herald. News Service of FloridaWFSU. Associated Press. Sunshine State NewsPolitico Florida.

District spending: The Duval County School Board is asking district officials for details on how they spent $21 million more than they were budgeted to in the last fiscal year. Some of the causes are known: $3.4 million related to employees taking early retirement, $4.8 million in unbudgeted transportation costs, $1.4 million less from the state for per-student funding and $3.3 million for capital costs. Board members say they want to avoid repeating any mistakes the district may have made. Florida Times-Union. The Polk County School District is still waiting for numbers from the Florida Department of Education in order to present a proposed budget to the school board. District Chief Financial Officer Mike Perrone called the situation “unique,” with the districts typically getting the numbers by the second week in July. Lakeland Ledger. Continue Reading →

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Quality of schools confronts Fla. appeals court

By Brandon Larrabee

News Service of Florida

A Tallahassee-based appeals court wrestled Tuesday with what standard should be applied to Florida’s education system, with judges sounding skeptical that courts were even a proper place to hear the issue.

At least two members of a three-judge panel from the 1st District Court of Appeal directed sharp questions at Jodi Siegel, an attorney for a coalition of advocates and parents who sued the state eight years ago for allegedly failing to provide a quality education system.

While the judges questioned both sides, even Siegel conceded afterward that they seemed skeptical about courts’ ability to referee the fight.

“They did, and we hope we made our argument,” she said.

The central issue in the appeal is whether courts can evaluate the state’s obligation under a 1998 constitutional amendment that declares it is a “paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

The amendment fleshed that out, in part, by saying adequate provision will be made for a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system” of public schools.

But Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds ruled last year that the judiciary should be hesitant to wade too deeply into the issue and give deference to the Legislature under the separation of powers. The judges at Tuesday’s hearing seemed more likely than not to agree. Continue Reading →

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A new direction for Florida school turnarounds

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart addresses the Florida Board of Education during a turnaround discussion Monday.

This spring, Florida’s smallest school district launched an unprecedented turnaround effort led by a charter school organization.

But Jefferson County schools may not be alone for long.

On Monday the Florida Board of Education asked three North Florida school districts to revise plans to turn around long-struggling schools. It was the first batch of turnaround efforts the board reviewed under a sweeping new law.

The revised plans could soon bring charter school operators to other high-poverty rural communities.

Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 7069 last month. It overhauls the turnaround options available to schools that earn F’s or multiple D’s under the state’s grading system. Districts now have less time to turn those schools around themselves. If they fall short, they have three options:

  • Convert the schools to charters.
  • Close the schools.
  • Bring in other external operators to run the schools. This could include a district-run charter school overseen by an independent board.

Most public schools avoided the new law’s consequences. Stewart noted repeatedly that, of 42 schools that presented turnaround plans last year, 71 percent improved to C’s or higher.

Monday’s state board meeting offered a glimpse of what could be in store for the remaining 29 percent of persistently low-performing schools if they don’t improve, quickly.

Charter could be coming to Gadsden Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Charters, turnaround schools, teachers and more

Charter funding: Superintendents from around the state tell members of the Florida Board of Education that the new education bill provision requiring districts to share capital funding with charter schools could result in traditional public schools crumbling. “You really could see the potential unraveling of long-term maintenance and construction for public school systems across the state,” says Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “It is not a good indicator when one of the two largest credit rating agencies declares a negative condition for school systems on the basis of a policy statement out of Tallahassee.” WTVY. News 13.

Appeal denied: The Florida Board of Education declines an appeal by a Clay County charter school to remain open after the school received F grades from the state the past two years. The board cited data showing that students from Orange Park Performing Arts Academy performed “significantly lower” than similar schools, and also pointed out that no other public school in Clay County received a grade below C. redefinED.

Turnaround plans: The Florida Board of Education approves a turnaround plan for the new Gadsden High School, but with conditions: The district must hire a charter company to operate the school by the 2018-2019 school year, fire teachers with unsatisfactory ratings, and provide monthly progress reports to the board. WTXLTallahassee Democrat.

School may close: The Palm Beach County School Board is expected to vote Wednesday to close the half-empty Odyssey Middle School. If it does, the closing would be the first of a traditional public school in the county in more than 25 years. The school opened in 2001 in Boynton Beach at a cost of $21 million. In the past 13 years, enrollment has gone from 1,360 to 730. Palm Beach Post. Continue Reading →

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