Florida schools roundup: Most schools reopen, testing delay, ESSA and more

Back in session: Most Florida public school districts reopened Monday or are expected to today or tomorrow, according to the Florida Department of Education. School districts are also making decisions on how they’ll make up the time missed for Hurricane Irma. Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-SentinelGradebook. Florida Times-UnionBradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WSVN. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. Students in 48 Florida counties affected by the hurricane will get free meals at school through Oct. 20. News Service of FloridaAssociated PressMiami Herald. Tampa Bay TimesPalm Beach Post. Florida Today. WINK. Daily Commercial. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. In Collier and Lee counties, several child-care centers say they will take in students until schools reopen next Monday. Naples Daily News. Many school signs in south Florida are missing or broken, and officials are urging drivers to slow down and be cautious through school zones. Sun-Sentinel. Florida Virtual School will provide remote access to all students displaced by the hurricane. Governor’s office.

Testing schedule: The Florida Department of Education adjusts its end-of-course exam retakes in biology, civics, U.S. history, algebra I and geometry due to Hurricane Irma. The assessments can begin Sept. 18, but has left the final date open for now. It did the same for the retake of the 10th grade language arts exam. “We will offer as much flexibility as needed,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a memo to superintendents. Gradebook.

ESSA extension: The U.S. Department of Education has granted Florida an extension to file its plan on how it will comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act. The deadline had been Monday, but it’s now Oct. 13. Education officials cited the devastation of Hurricane Irma in extending the deadline. Politico Florida.

Continue Reading →


Seminole County continues push with competency-based learning

PSI High

At PSI High, Seminole County Public Schools imagine students will leave conventional classrooms behind, spending more time in conference rooms and small groups. Screenshot from school concept video produced by the school district.

Descriptions make a new elective offered in one Central Florida district sound distinctly different from a typical classroom.

Students work in an environment that resembles a high-tech office. Instead of sitting in rows of desks in front of the teacher and taking tests, they solve real problems in the community.

Seminole County Public Schools call the new class PSI High. Pronounced Sci-Hi, the acronym stands for Problem Solving Incubator. Students apply their skills to make change in the real world.

The elective is part of the school district’s push to help students learn at their own pace. Seminole is one of three districts in Florida that are preparing to test-drive the concept of competency-based learning. School officials want students to advance to higher levels of learning based on their mastery of the topic — rather than the amount of time they spend in class.

Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: More schools reopening, questioning VAM and more

Back to school: Most of Florida’s 67 school districts have reopened or are expected to today, tomorrow or Wednesday, according to the Florida Department of Education. A handful of schools will start later, and Hardee County schools remain closed until further notice. School districts are also starting to consider how they’ll make up the days missed. Florida Department of Education. Miami HeraldSun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Naples Daily News. Associated Press. Daily Commercial. Keynoter. Charlotte Sun. WFLA. WTSP. WFTVGradebook. More reports on damages to schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Lakeland Ledger. Free school meals will be provided in all Florida counties affected by Hurricane Irma. Brevard Times. Experts say teachers should address Irma with students as classes resume, and give them a chance to discuss their experiences. Tampa Bay Times. About 8.5 million U.S. students lost classroom time due to Irma. USA Today. School officials pay tribute to school employees who worked at hurricane shelters. Ocala Star-Banner. Miami Herald. Will Irma be the impetus to require charter schools to be built to serve as hurricane shelters? WLRN. redefinED.

VAM questioned: Some education experts are questioning the effectiveness of the state’s value-added model (VAM) for rating teachers. They say it’s easier for a teacher to earn a high VAM score if she or he works at a school with few poor students. State education officials disagree, saying their research shows no bias against high-poverty schools in VAM data. The state has spent about $4 million of federal money to develop VAM, and pays $509,000 a year for analysis and reporting, says Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Audrey Walden. Florida Times-Union.

Child Baker Acts up: The number of children who are involuntarily committed for psychological evaluation is up significantly in Florida and Bay County. Across the state in the fiscal year 2015-2016, the number of children committed under the state’s Baker Act was up about 34 percent over 2010-2011. In Bay County, the increase is 109 percent since 2011. The Baker Act is invoked most often when schoolchildren threaten suicide. Panama City News Herald.

Continue Reading →


Schools, hurricane shelters and the new definition of public education

There’s been a lot of chatter about the role of charter and traditional public schools sheltering students from hurricanes. In general, that task falls to district schools. The Gradebook recently explained why.

A few charter schools, including Lakeland’s McKeel Academy, are available as hurricane shelters. But most of them weren’t built with that task in mind. And until this year, the state gave them a fraction of the funding district schools received for facilities. That changed under a new state law. Now, charter schools and district schools will receive closer to equal funding per student for building needs.

If charter schools get close to equal funding, perhaps the state should state requiring newly constructed charters to meet shelter requirements. The Gradebook floats that idea. Districts suggested another option to the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. Perhaps the state should consider funding shelters and schools separately. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Resuming classes, lawsuit over bonuses and more

Recovering from Irma: Most school districts around the state reopen Monday but several others open even later and two, Monroe and Hardee, remain closed until further notice. Florida Department of Education. Orlando SentinelMiami Herald. Florida Times-UnionFlorida Today. Fort Myers News-PressLakeland Ledger. Gainesville SunOcala Star-Banner. St. Augustine RecordWall Street JournalWPEC. WBBH. WQAM. Schools in many districts around the state are providing meals and air-conditioning to families. WKMG. WLRN. WSVN. The question of why charter schools weren’t used as shelters during Hurricane Irma is making the social media rounds. The answer is simple: Charter schools are not required to meet the construction guidelines for hurricane protection. Traditional public schools are. Gradebook. Seminole County announces its storm makeup days. Orlando Sentinel.

Lawsuit over bonuses: The state’s largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, is suing the state over the Best & Brightest scholarship program for educators, alleging it discriminates against older and minority teachers. To be eligible for the bonuses, teachers must be rated “highly effective” and have scored in the top 20 percent on the ACT or SAT test. “In some cases, (the teachers) took (the test) so long ago the testing agencies did not even have the scores archived,” says FEA attorney John Davis. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida. Sun-Sentinel. GradebookWRAL. WFSU.

Continue Reading →


Union challenges ‘Best and Brightest’ teacher bonuses

By Jim Saunders

News Service of Florida

The Florida Education Association teachers union has filed a potential class-action lawsuit alleging that the state’s controversial “Best and Brightest” bonus program discriminates against older teachers and minorities.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Tallahassee, names as defendants the Florida Department of Education and school boards throughout the state.

Lawmakers approved the Best and Brightest program in 2015 to provide bonuses to teachers. But the program has been controversial, in part, because it uses teacher performances on SAT and ACT college-entrance exams — in some cases, exams that teachers took decades ago — to help determine eligibility for the bonuses.

The lawsuit, which also includes seven individual teachers as plaintiffs, alleges that the Best and Brightest program violates state and federal civil-rights laws because of the use of the SAT and ACT scores. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Storm recovery, funding, a new home and more

Storm recovery: Lack of power is the primary problem for Florida schools trying to reopen their doors. Fifty-five of the state’s 67 public districts were still closed Wednesday. Education Week. WKMG. School districts around the state announce plans to resume classes, with many reassessing on a daily basis. Florida Department of EducationFlorida Times-UnionOrlando Sentinel. Florida Today. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WFLA. Some Orlando community centers are offering free child care today to help parents who need to go to work but have children who are still out of school. Orlando Sentinel. Several schools in Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River counties will offer free meals to students and their families today and Friday. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm. Traditional public schools stepped up this week to provide protection and other aid for residents fleeing from the hurricane. redefinED. Tampa Bay Times. The hurricane delays the choice of 25 struggling schools to receive extra financial assistance through the state’s “schools of hope” program. The state Board of Education was supposed to select the winners Wednesday. Fifty-seven schools applied. Miami Herald. Irma causes a gaping sinkhole to open behind an Apopka school. WOFL. Orlando Sentinel. Parents scramble to keep their children occupied while schools are closed. Tampa Bay Times.

State education budget: The Florida Board of Education approves a $21.4 billion request to the Legislature for education funding for the 2018-2019 school year. That’s an increase of 1.85 percent over last year. The request includes an increase in the Florida Education Finance Program of $200 per K-12 student, $421 million for Bright Futures scholarships, $20.6 million more to meet the class size amendment, and $22 million extra for capital projects. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

After the fire: Students and teachers displaced after a fire destroyed Lee Elementary School in Tampa will be moved together to Lockhart Elementary, about a mile and a half away, Hillsborough County School District officials announce. Older students from Lee will attend classes at nearby Young Middle Magnet School until portable classrooms can be set up at Lockhart. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Continue Reading →


Florida’s traditional public schools answered the bell

Hurricane Irma appears to cover Florida almost entirely in this image captured by NASA radar.

This week, Hurricane Irma cut a wide swath of destruction across the Florida peninsula. The ensuing mayhem blocked roads, tore down power lines and damaged homes from the Keys to the Big Bend.

As an outlet focused on the new definition of public education, we’d like to take a moment to recognize an institution that helped protect Floridians from the storm: Traditional public schools.

Media across the country helped document schools across the state that helped shelter residents. Some private faith-based schools certainly helped. But the vast majority of people seeking refuge wound up in traditional public schools. Continue Reading →