Home school advocates and the fight for parental autonomy

A recent article published by ProPublica and Slate scrutinizes, among other things, the role of the Home School Legal Defense Association in pushing back against attempts to place new regulations on home education. Early on, the piece highlights one such battle where the association was successful, as it often is, at defeating such an attempt:

After the story of the emaciated boys appeared in national newspapers, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg was moved to introduce new legislation. “My question was, how does someone fall off the face of the earth so that no one knows they exist? I was told it was because he was homeschooled,” she said.

Her bill, introduced in 2004, would’ve required parents, for the first time, to notify the state that their children were being homeschooled, have them complete the same annual tests as public school students, and submit proof of annual medical tests.

Soon afterward, a small group of homeschooling parents began following Weinberg around the capitol. The barrage of phone calls from homeschooling advocates so jammed her office phone lines that staffers had to use their private cellphones to conduct business. “You would have thought I’d recommended the end of the world as we know it,” said Weinberg. “Our office was besieged.”

Florida has seen its own debates over home school regulations, often brought on similarly by well-intended efforts to protect children from abuse.

Home schooling rules came under scrutiny after the death of Nubia Barahona, whose parents pulled her from public school. The case was unspeakably horrific. But it came amid a major, systemic breakdown in the state’s child-protection system that began while the victims were still in school.

So did the case justify new scrutiny for home schooling, or new regulations? Or was that beside the point?

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Why colleges invest in dual enrollment

A feature by Miami’s NBC affiliate highlights the popularity of dual enrollment programs. The piece notes Florida International University has partnered with the Miami-Dade school district to offer more college-credit courses to its students.

One note at the end jumps out:

FIU said it’s worth the $17 million the university has invested in the program. Many of the students end up enrolling at FIU, and arrive on campus ready to hit the ground running.

Similar logic drives some of the state’s community colleges to offer dual enrollment courses to private-school students, free of charge. The hope is that by helping students take college courses for free, they can draw academically high-performing high schoolers to enroll at their institutions after they graduate. Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Testing, failure factories, Jeb Bush and more

florida-roundup-logoTesting. Florida’s testing system is deemed valid, but questions remain. Politico Florida. StateImpact. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Miami HeraldSun-Sentinel. Sentinel School Zone. Palm Beach Post. Fort Myers News-Press. Bradenton Herald. Naples Daily News. Lakeland Ledger. Ocala Star-Banner. Gainesville Sun. Tallahassee DemocratSunshine State News.

Failure factories. The Tampa Bay Times tells the story of dozens of students in resegregated schools.

Jeb Bush. The presidential candidate bashes teachers unions for opposing school choice policies in a Townhall column. The former Florida governor visits a South Florida school. WPLG. WTVJ. WSVN. WFOR.

Growth. Sarasota schools plan to present their growth plans. Sarastota Herald-Tribune.

Social media. Hillsborough sets a new social media policy for student-teacher interaction. Tampa Tribune.

Dual enrollment. Miami-Dade students flock to dual enrollment programs. WTVJ.

Facilities. The official in charge of a Broward school construction bond quits. Sun-Sentinel. An A/C failure leaves Merritt Island students uncomfortable. Florida Today. The Volusia school board looks for ways to finance a new school. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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Charter schools, facilities and fairness

The Orange County School Board wants to build a new school to relieve overcrowding, but it has to jump through local zoning hoops that don’t apply to charter schools in the same way.

The Orlando Sentinel breaks it down.

School leaders had strong neighborhood support for the relief school. But Orange County commissioners turned it down, relying partly on an ordinance drafted about 20 years ago requiring a middle-school campus to be at least 25 acres.

The district’s parcel, originally pegged as an elementary-school site, was a little more than 16 acres.

Despite an outcry from neighbors, neither proposed charter school is likely to face the same scrutiny from the county.

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Florida roundup: Charter schools, testing, Twitter and more

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools. A troubled Broward charter school closes a week into the school year. Sun-Sentinel. A Pasco charter school takes heat over a contract change. Gradebook. Orange County officials debate charter school zoning rules. Orlando Sentinel.

Testing. Educators await the results of state tests as a validity study is expected today. Tampa Tribune. The state Board of Education chair casts doubt on the idea of national tests. Orlando Sentinel School Zone.

Growth. Manatee schools expect to add 1,000 students, but not in the schools with the most available space. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Digital learning. A Catholic school switches to digital textbooks. Ocala Star-Banner.

Social media. Did the Palm Beach school district have a little too much fun in some tweets about potential school closures? Palm Beach Post.

Community schools. Brevard plans to create an elementary school with wraparound services. Florida Today.

Discipline. Escambia groups discuss the school-to-prison pipeline. Pensacola News-Journal.

Transportation. Palm Beach bus problems remain unresolved. Palm Beach Post. One route is changed after a lawsuit is threatened. Palm Beach Post. Manatee officials hope to see most transportation issues dealt with. Bradenton Herald. A bus incident leaves students with minor injuries. Leesburg Daily Commercial.

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The distorted history of Florida tax credit scholarships

In a new appellate brief asking the courts to throw out a 14-year-old scholarship serving 78,000 of the state’s most economically disadvantaged students, lawyers for Florida’s teachers union have doubled down on a conspiracy theory. These attempts to sow seeds of doubt about the political origins of the Tax Credit Scholarship strike the unusual combination of being both irrelevant and wrong.

The brief, filed 10 days ago in the First District Court of Appeal following a circuit judge’s decision in May to dismiss the case on standing, opens with a bold assertion: “The challenged program is the successor program to the Opportunity Scholarship Program previously invalidated by both this Court and the Florida Supreme Court.”

The claim is similar to those made publicly over the past year by Florida Education Association attorney Ron Meyer, and unfortunately has seeped its way into the broader media narrative around the program. Even in recent presidential campaign stories about former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education record, outlets from The 74 to the New York Post have reported versions of the claim as fact. The Post wrote, without attribution, that: “When a state court nixed the program in 2006, Bush created a new voucher system, funded by private businesses, that withstood a court challenge from teachers.” A column in the Florida Times-Union last week also chimed in: “It became a government program, diverting tax dollars in the form of ‘tax credits’ into a tuition-granting organization only after the voucher portion of Gov. Jeb Bush’s A+ program was stricken by the courts.” Continue Reading →


Florida looks to next round of digital learning policy upgrades

In recent years, Florida has upgraded its digital learning policies. Legislation passed in 2014 required districts to come up with digital classroom plans. The idea was that if they were going to get extra state funding to buy computers or boost their bandwidth, they would need to tie their spending to real changes in the classroom.

Now, some key lawmakers and officials say its’ time for the state’s digital learning policies to move into a new phase.

Sen. John Legg

Sen. John Legg

“It’s not money alone,” said state Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, who chairs the senate Education Committee. “We’re looking at how we integrate technology into the DNA of schools.”

Students arriving at elementary schools have lived their entire lives in a world where smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, and where computer science is a new form of literacy. That means teachers need to be trained differently, Legg said, and students need more access to courses in subjects like computer science.

John Padget, the vice chairman of the state Board of Education, sounded similar notes last week during the board’s meeting in Gainesville. He cited a recent Gallup poll, commissioned by Google, which found parents seem to value computer science more than their local schools.

Among the findings:

Two-thirds of parents think computer science should be required learning in schools. Parents in lower-income households are even more likely to have this view. Many students expect to learn computer science and to use it in their future career in some way.

Despite this high level of interest, many school and district administrators do not perceive a high level of demand for computer science education among students and parents in their communities. … Less than half of principals and superintendents surveyed say their school board thinks offering computer science education is important.

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Florida roundup: Magnet schools, school choice, TFA and more

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools. A Pasco magnet school principal tells students it’s OK to fail, as long as they learn from it. Tampa Bay Times. A Palm Beach magnet school celebrates its 25th anniversary. Sun-Sentinel.

Charter schools. A successful conversion charter elementary may grow into the middle grades. Bradenton Herald.

School choice. Tax credit scholarship recipient-turned-grad-student Denisha Merriweather writes in the Tampa Tribune that she’s living proof school choice can work. Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog and employs the author of this post, helps administer the program.

Failure factories. Pinellas schools officials are working to address problems in South St. Petersburg, and parental choice may be part of the answer, Superintendent Mike Grego writes in the Tampa Bay Times.

Weather. Hendry County closes schools Monday amid flooding concerns; other districts remain open. Fort Myers News-Press.

Testing. A testing validity study is expected this week, after a delay. Sentinel School Zone. GradebookOrlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab weighs in on lawmakers considering changes.

TFA. The organization’s new Orange County operation brings 18 recruits to schools. Orlando Sentinel.

Back to school. A school with lots of low-income students gets help with supplies. Bay News 9. A Methodist church extends a helping hand in Brevard. Florida Today.

STEM. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune profiles a teenage science whiz.

Safety. A Tallahassee high school student works to improve relations between students and police. Tallahassee Democrat. A woman under the influence tries to pick children up from school. WKMG.

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