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Florida schools roundup: School removing teachers, amendments and more

All teachers to be removed: Every teacher at a struggling Hernando County elementary school will be removed at the end of the school year, school officials said at a meeting Friday. Administrators decided to give Moton Elementary School a “fresh start” after it has received D grades from the state the past two years. District spokesperson Karen Jordan says without the move, the state would have taken over the school. Veteran teachers will be transferred, while newer teachers will have to apply for other open jobs in the district. Tampa Bay Times.

Education amendments: The Constitution Revision Commission will consider 12 ballot proposals this week. Two of them address K-12 education. Proposal 6003 would place an eight-year term limit on school board members, allow an alternative process for approving public and charter schools, and require civics education in public schools. Proposal 6008 would allow “high-performing” school districts exemptions from following some laws that apply to districts. The commission must send its ballot proposals to the secretary of state by May 10. News Service of Florida. redefinED. The proposal to bundle three education proposals into a single amendment for voters to consider in November is drawing criticism from education leaders around the state. Gradebook.

Charter schools’ troubles: Even as the Eagle Arts Academy charter school missed making a payroll for its teachers, it continued to pay another company owned by school founder Gregory Blount for the use of the school name, logo, website and data-processing system, according to school records. The company has been paid at least $42,000 since last June by the Wellington school. Palm Beach Post. Eagle Arts Academy teachers got a full paycheck Friday, though they remain concerned about the checks they’re due at the end of the month. District officials say they’ll close the school within the next 90 days unless it can balance its budget and pay more than $700,000 in back rent. Palm Beach Post. The Brevard County School Board will decide Tuesday whether to close the Legacy Academy Charter School in Port St. John. District officials say the 200-student K-6 school is in a financial emergency, employs noncertified teachers and operates without basic instructional materials. Florida Today. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: ‘Safety specialists,’ budgets, testing and more

Security in schools: The Polk County School District and Sheriff Grady Judd are working on a plan to have an armed “safety specialist” in all county elementary schools this fall. The district is finalizing a job description, but the specialists will fall between a sworn school resource officer and an armed school employee. As many as 90 will be hired, and the school district will pay for them. Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd says the pay will be “significantly less” than what resource officers and teachers make. Judd says the specialists’ job is to be a “visual deterrent to an active shooter, and be trained to suppress the active shooter threat” if necessary. Lakeland Ledger. WKMG. WFLA. Manatee and Sarasota school districts are struggling to find funding to comply with the state law to have an officer in every school by fall. Law enforcement authorities in both counties contend that since the school districts are getting some money from the state, they should be responsible for the full costs of school security. WWSB.

Budget ‘crisis’: Volusia County School Board members say the district is in “crisis mode” after the preliminary budget shows a deficit of $4.2 million. School officials blame a small increase in funding from the state, an underfunded state mandate on school security and proposed 1 percent teacher raises for the deficit. “I’m a little alarmed by it and very cautious about what we must do,” says board chairwoman Linda Cuthbert, who noted that decisions need to be made soon. “It’s certainly going to be a difficult budget cycle,” says Deb Muller, chief financial officer for the district. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Testing cautions: National Assessment of Educational Progress testing results have positive news about Florida, and particularly several three large school districts. But they also show there’s work to be done, especially in 8th-grade math and in closing the achievement gap between racial and ethnic groups. redefinED. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says her top goal is to close the academic achievement gap between students of different racial and economic backgrounds. She says part of the problem is chronic teacher absenteeism. “I can tell you … with our most vulnerable students that we have our teachers that are less motivated and less capable. We’ve got to make that shift and we’ve got to help them become better or help them find another profession,” Stewart said in a speaking appearance in Sarasota. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Continue Reading →


National tests bring celebrations, and some cautions, for Florida’s urban school districts

We’ve written before about the improving results in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and the potential for improvement in Duval County.

The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show those positive trends continue. But they also show there’s still work to do.

Urban school districts may have shown slightly more improvement than the nation as a whole, where results were largely stagnant.

The three Florida districts included in the Trial Urban District Assessment results provided their share of bright spots. In fourth-grade math, for example, Miami-Dade and Duval were two of just four districts that posted statistically significant score increases.

In both places, disadvantaged students helped drive increases.

Experts caution against using scores like the national assessment results released Tuesday to gauge things like the effects of specific policies or the performance of district leaders. However, the numbers paint a useful picture of how three Florida urban districts are doing.

Miami-Dade feels the love Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Security measures, nation’s report card and more

School security: The Broward County School Board accepts Superintendent Robert Runcie’s recommendation and votes unanimously against participating in the state’s guardian program to arm specified school employees. The district will ask the state if it can redirect money from the guardian program to hire resource officers. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. The state will send Duval County $4 million for school safety, but interim superintendent Patricia Willis says the district needs $14 million to place a resource officer in every school. Florida Times-Union. Palm Beach County School Superintendent Donald Fennoy is planning to restructure the district’s police force, which includes choosing a new chief and adding 75 officers to the 150 it has now. Palm Beach Post. Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey, who had strongly pushed the school board to participate in the guardian program, is now recommending against it, and Superintendent Desmond Blackburn says he agrees. Ivey says he’s worried the debate about arming school employees is overshadowing the more important need for resource officers in every school. Florida Today. Polk County school officials are considering hiring armed security guards for their schools. “Basically, what we’re doing is creating our own police force,” says Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. Lakeland Ledger. To meet state mandates on school security, many Florida districts are shifting money from other projects, including instructional, dipping into reserves or contemplating borrowing. Reuters.

More on report card: While most of the nation had so-so results on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and mathematics assessments, also known as the nation’s report card, Florida students outperformed their peers in grades 4 and 8 reading and grade 4 math, and was the only state to show improvements in three of the four categories. Three large Florida districts — Miami-Dade, Duval and Hillsborough — also ranked among the leaders of the 27 that participated in a trial urban district assessment. Here’s the full NAEP report and highlights. Florida Times-Union. WJCT. WJXTredefinED. Miami HeraldThe 74Florida Governor’s Office. What’s Florida doing that other states could emulate? Education Week. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos praises Florida as a “bright spot” in NAEP testing, but pointing to the stagnant scores and a widening achievement gap, says “we can and we must do better for America’s students.” Education Week. Politico Florida. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Teacher housing, court case, signs and more

Housing for teachers: It’s becoming harder for Miami-Dade County teachers to find a place they can afford to rent in Miami-Dade County. So the county and the school district are collaborating on a plan to build apartments for teachers above a new school. The first phase of the plan would be to tear down an abandoned public housing project near Southside Elementary School in the Brickell area and build a school for grades 6-8. One floor would be used for apartments, with other floors devoted to parking and classrooms. “When you look at teacher salaries, it’s just impossible for them to get into the housing market,” says Ned Murray, associate director of Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center. If it’s successful, the county and board will propose building a 300-apartment complex next to Phillis Wheatley Elementary, just north of downtown. Miami Herald.

Education court case: Now that the legislative session is over, the Florida Supreme Court will resume its review of the lawsuit that alleges the state has violated its constitutional role to fund an “an efficient, safe, secure and uniform high-quality education.” Legislative leaders asked the court to suspend its review during the session. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court after an appeals court ruled that the question of financing was not an issue for the judicial branch. The case, Citizens for Strong Schools, was filed in 2009. Gradebook.

Atheists offer signs: The Tampa-based group Atheists of Florida is offering to provide signs with the saying “In God We Trust” free to every school in Florida to fulfill a requirement in the recently passed education bill. “We want to help educate about the First Amendment and the establishment clause, as well as about the diversity in our country,” says executive director Judy Adkins. One of the versions would state “E Pluribus Unum, In God We Trust” in a circle with red, white and blue stars and stripes. The outside of the circle would contain words from the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Gradebook. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: March, walkouts, Cruz’s brother, votes and more

March For Our Lives: More than 1 million people are expected to attend March For Our Lives rallies Saturday in Washington, D.C., and at least 800 other sites around the world, according to the students who have organized the rallies in response to the school shootings in Parkland on Feb. 14 that killed 17. They are calling for stricter gun regulations. “It just shows that the youth are tired of being the generation where we’re locked in closets and waiting for police to come in case of a shooter,” says Alex Wind, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Associated Press.

Board member rips walkout: Marion County School Board member Nancy Stacy says Superintendent Heidi Maier’s plan to allow student walkouts on campuses April 20 is “pure liberal fascism at its finest.” Stacy says Maier is being used by the “political idiots of the left.” In a series of emails to the superintendent, Stacy also wrote that: “We all know the students didn’t arrange a thing here or Tallahassee or nationwide. This is another example of why we need (school) vouchers for parents to escape this abusive manipulation of their children’s minds.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Cruz’s brother arrested: The brother of accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is arrested after deputies say he trespassed onto the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus. Zachary Cruz, 18, had been warned to stay away from the school. He said he went to the school to “reflect on the shooting and to soak it in …” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Associated Press.

School tax votes today: Voters in Sarasota and Manatee counties go to the polls today to vote on increasing property taxes by 1 mill for schools. A yes vote would increase revenue for schools in Sarasota County by about $55 million a year, and by about $33 million a year in Manatee. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: School safety, budget, education bills and more

School safety bills: The Florida House Appropriations Committee rejects a proposal to ban the sale and possession of about 200 types of semi-automatic rifles, and approves a school safety bill that calls for arming teachers in schools if district superintendents or school boards approve. The goal of the school marshal program is to put 10 armed teachers in every school. The bill also would put a resource officer in every school, raise the age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, impose a three-day waiting period for purchasing guns, improve mental health counseling, make public school buildings safer and give police broader powers to seize guns from people who threaten themselves or others. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar bill. Sun-SentinelTampa Bay TimesPolitico Florida. Palm Beach Post. GateHouse. Tallahassee Democrat. The Legislature’s proposed gun reform bills have plenty of loopholes. Tampa Bay Times. Gov. Rick Scott provides further details about his $500 million plan to improve school safety. WQAM. WFLA.

Budget deal: The Florida Senate and House agree on a bill that would cut taxes by $80 million this year, and appear close to agreeing on an overall state budget. Specific budget details will be negotiated in conference committees. The most contentious issue in the tax cut talks had been the amount local property taxpayers pay for public education. The rate is tied to property values, which are rising. The Senate wanted to keep the tax rates the same, which would bring in more money, while the House considers that a tax increase. The compromise exempts new construction from being counted. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

Education bills: Last week, the Senate Education Committee removed a provision from the massive education bill that would decertify public employees  unions that drop below 50 percent membership of represented workers. Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee put the provision back into the bill. It  exempts first responders, leaving teachers unions as the biggest target. Gradebook. Politico FloridaredefinED. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. News Service of Florida. The autonomous public schools provision in the education bills continue to be tweaked. redefinED.

Continue Reading →

Florida (still) an Advanced Placement course leader

Florida ranks no. 4 in the country for its percentage of high school students who have scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam. Source: College Board.

Florida remains a leader in pushing high school students toward college credit.

The Sunshine State keeps its no. 4 ranking in the latest report on Advanced Placement courses from the College Board. Only Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts had a larger percentage of students pass at least one AP course. And only Massachusetts has made faster improvements over the last 10 years.  Continue Reading →