Archive | Achievement Gap

Florida schools roundup: Testing bills, recess, graduation rates and more

School testing: State senators will consider competing school testing bills this week. SB 926 would push testing back to the final three weeks of the school year, and the test results would have to be returned to teachers within a week. It’s sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami. The second bill, SB 964, also delays tests until the final month of the school year, but eliminates specific tests, allows districts to give pencil-and-paper tests, and gives principals wider discretion on teacher evaluations. It’s sponsored by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. Tallahassee Democrat. Montford is confident his bill will be given consideration, even though it was left off the Senate Education Committee’s next meeting agenda while SB 926 was included. Gradebook. An amendment added to the Senate’s school testing bill would specify that any school board member could visit any school in his or her district at any day and any time. No school could require advance notice, and a campus escort would not be required. The amendment was proposed by Flores. Gradebook.

School recess: The House has finally scheduled a hearing for a bill that would require recess for elementary school students. But the bill, HB 67, has several significant differences from the Senate bill, which has moved through committees and is headed to the Senate floor. The House bill calls for daily recess time, but allows schools to count recess time toward physical education class requirements, allows P.E. classes to count for recess time, and removes fourth- and fifth-graders from the requirement. Miami Herald.

Graduation rates: A bill drafted late last week in the House would count students who move from traditional high schools to alternative charter or private schools in the graduation rate of the school the student left. The bill surfaced just after the Florida Department of Education announced it would investigate whether traditional high schools were pushing struggling students into alternative charter schools in order to boost their graduation rates. That investigation was sparked by a report in ProPublica in February. redefinED. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Teacher tests, minorities in AP classes and more

Teacher tests: The Florida Department of Education says a historically high percentage of people who want to be teachers are failing the Florida Teacher Certification Exam, which was recently toughened by the state. And now fewer people are taking the test, as many as 10 percent fewer for some subject areas. “We have a real crisis,” said Dr. Gloria Pelaez, St. Thomas University dean of the school of arts. “This is turning people, good intelligent people away,” said Wendy Mungillo of the Manatee County School District. Melissa Smith, for example. She’s taken and failed the test seven times, and has decided to leave the state and get a master’s degree. Department of Education officials defend the tougher exams, saying they’re in line with more rigorous tests students now take. WFTS.

Minorities and AP classes: A Palm Beach County School District analysis shows an “implicit bias” is in part responsible for lower minority participation in Advanced Placement classes. Minority students with comparable scores to white students are excluded from AP classes at a much higher rate than whites. That so-called “opportunity gap” also favors girls over boys, according to the analysis. “Students who have potential, why are they not in the courses?” Deputy Superintendent David Christiansen said. “There’s a significant gap there that we want to start to close.” Palm Beach Post.

Days lost to testing: Orange County teacher Peggy Dominguez tells a Senate committee meeting this week that she loses 37 days of her 180-day school year to preparing her students for the Florida Standards Assessments tests. Dominguez teaches English at Timber Creek High School. She and others testified about the downsides of the testing process. The Senate is considering a bill that would, among other things, push all testing to the final three weeks of the school year and authorize a study to see if the ACT or SAT tests can be used as a replacement for the FSA. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charter district, tests, home-schooling and more

Charter district: The Jefferson County School Board agrees to turn over operations of the district’s struggling schools to the charter school company Somerset Academy. The proposed deal will be taken to the Florida Board of Education today for approval. If the deal is approved, Jefferson would become the first charter district in the state. In its application, Somerset said it will operate an elementary, middle and high school on a single campus led by a single principal, bring in a rigorous curriculum, including Advanced Placement classes, pay teachers 7 percent more than they can get in surrounding counties, pay competitive benefits, and work to bring students attending the alternative school back into the traditional schools. redefinEDWFSU.

Testing debate: The debate over the state’s standardized testing intensifies at a Senate Education Committee meeting Tuesday. Supporters of former Gov. Jeb Bush are backing a moderate revision of the current system, while others want more significant changes, including fewer tests. Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who is leading the committee in the medical absence of Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, said no decision has been made on what direction the bills will take, and that Hukill will make that call. News Service of Florida.

Help for home-schoolers: Students who are home-schooled would have greater access to college classes and career education courses offered by school districts in a bill approved by the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. Districts also would be required to accept home-education registrations as long as parents and their children meet the state’s requirements. redefinED.

Religious expression bill: The Florida Senate moves the so-called “religious expression” bill to a third and final reading. If approved, the bill would be sent to the House, which has a slightly different version. The bill would give students more freedom to express religious thoughts in public schools. Gradebook. News Service of Florida. Continue Reading →


How a Florida principal helps open access to more AP courses

Julie Lueallen, principal at East Ridge High School

Growing up in a single-parent, low-income household in the late 1970s, Julie Lueallen had fewer opportunities to excel in education.

Now, she’s the principal of East Ridge High School, one of the highest-performing schools in south Lake County, Fla.

Growing up, she said, she was an average student who had potential. Her teachers did not steer her into honor courses, which at the time were the only classes available for students to receive more rigorous coursework that would prepare them for college.

“It was all in your grades,” she said. “Nobody even talked about opening that world to me. They counseled kids, but not the kind of kid like me.”

Lueallen, a product of nearby Tavares High School, said she had some excellent teachers. But she might never have gotten onto a college-preparatory track without an advocate who knew the school system well and argued on her behalf: her mother.

“If my mom was not pushing I wouldn’t have gotten into honors courses,” she said. “Having a parent that is savvy in a high school curriculum. That is important.”

Now, as a principal, she advocates for all students to take advantage of the opportunities she and her mother had to fight for. Her school has emerged as a leader in Florida’s effort to push more into Advanced Placement courses and toward college credits.

According to a new report from the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the AP program, Florida ranks fourth in the nation in the percentage of graduating seniors who have passed at least one AP exam, which can lead to credit for an entry-level college course. Over the past decade, low-income children of color have driven most of the state’s improvements.

Beginning in the 1990s, Florida leaders decided to open AP courses to more low-income, black and Hispanic students. The College Board, which administers AP exams, has adopted an equity and access policy, which states: Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Testing, Bright Futures, Vitti, budget and more

Testing bills: The Florida Senate Education Committee meets Tuesday to consider seven bills that could change Florida’s testing-based accounting system. Among the ideas being discussed: moving the testing to the final three weeks of the school year, ending the requirement to fail any third-grader who doesn’t pass the reading test and doesn’t have an exemption, and changing the rules on reporting test results. Gradebook. Lawmakers are pushing for tougher passing standards on the Florida Standards Assessments exams. Orlando Sentinel.

Bright Futures: Escalating eligibility standards for Bright Futures scholarships, tied to higher SAT and ACT scores, are shutting out an increasing number of students from Miami-Dade schools with large populations of low-income and minority students. At Hialeah High School, for example, almost 20 percent of students qualified for Bright Futures in 2011. By 2015, it was 8 percent. “I think the challenge with Bright Futures is that it doesn’t take into account the students who need us the most, the low-income students, the students who haven’t had the benefit of the best schools, whose parents don’t know the system and what needs to be done to get those high scores on the test,” says Lenore Rodicio, the executive vice president and provost for Miami Dade College. Miami Herald.

Vitti looks to Detroit: Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is one of three finalists for the superintendent’s job at the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Vitti, a native of Detroit, took the job in Duval in 2012 with a mandate to change the culture and direction of the 128,000-student district. His tenure has been marked with progress in some areas, such as graduation rates, cutting into the achievement gap and creating more school choice, but also with rocky relationships with some school board members. Detroit, which once had 224,000 students, is down to 47,000, and there are more students in charter schools than in district schools. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. WJAX.

Budget improves slightly: State economists think Florida will have about $300 million more revenue than expected for next year’s budget, but legislators don’t think it will have much of an impact. The proposed budget is more than $82 billion. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, says he’s happy for the forecast improvement, but says cuts are still inevitable. Naples Daily News. News Service of Florida. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, defends the House’s budget priorities during a talk at the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club. He says cuts in education spending shouldn’t affect K-12 schools, but will have an impact on higher education. Pensacola News Journal. Continue Reading →


Fla. district poised to pick charter school network for unprecedented turnaround

A struggling rural North Florida district could soon choose one of the state’s largest charter school networks to lead an unprecedented turnaround effort.

Somerset Academy is the only organization still in the running to operate Jefferson County, Fla.’s public schools. The school board is set to vote on the charter group’s application Tuesday.

Depending on the local board’s vote, the state Board of Education might address the issue when it meets Wednesday in Tallahassee.

Somerset is a nonprofit network associated with the management company Academica. It runs a total of 50 schools serving nearly 17,600 students, according to its website.

The network would run a turnaround effort unlike any Florida has seen. The state Board of Education approved the move in response to more than a decade of academic and financial turmoil in Jefferson County schools.

Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Class sizes, schools of excellence and more

Class sizes: A bill that would allow schools to comply with the 2002 class size amendment by using schoolwide averages instead of specific classroom counts passes the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. Schools would be expected to try to get math, reading, science and social studies class sizes to levels required by the constitutional amendment. But there would be no penalties if school averages complied with the law, even if some classrooms did not. Orlando Sentinel. WFSU.

Schools of excellence: A bill that would give top-performing public schools more freedom from state and district regulations passes the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. Public schools with an academic performance among the state’s top 20 percent in their grade range at least two out of three consecutive years would become “Schools of Excellence.” At those schools, principals would have greater freedom to make budget and staffing decisions, teachers would get credit toward continuing-education requirements for their certifications, and the schools would be free from mandates on reading time and have flexibility on class sizes. The bill sponsor, Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, says “it would encourage innovation.” redefinED.

Religious expression: A bill that would ban school districts “from discriminating against students, parents, and school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression” is passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is now ready for a full Senate vote. The Florida House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee passes a slightly different version of the bill. Florida PoliticsMiami Herald. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Sunshine State News.

Testing rollback: A bill that would put limits on the state’s standardized testing passes the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. The bill cuts the window of testing to three weeks nearer to the end of the school year, authorizes a study to see if the SAT and ACT tests could replace the Florida Standards Assessments, and require results to be returned to teachers in a “timely manner.” Sunshine State News. News Service of Florida. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Capital funding, budget cuts, testing and more

Capital funding for schools: A bill that would allow school districts to raise local tax rates for construction and maintenance also would require those districts to share the money with charter schools. Now, Senate PreK-12 Appropriations chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, says if the bill passes, “there won’t be a need” for the state to provide money for capital funding. This year, that amount was $150 million. Miami HeraldPolitico Florida. redefinED. WFSU.

Education budget cuts: Senate PreK-12 Appropriations chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, releases a list of $46.3 million in cuts to education as “a starting point for our budget discussions.” The largest cuts are $14 million from the program for school uniforms, $13.95 million from teacher bonuses and $7 million from administrator professional development. Meanwhile, the Florida House identifies $485 million in education budget cuts in an exercise to meet Speaker Richard Corcoran’s call to trim $2 billion from the state budget.  Gradebook. Naples Daily News.

Testing bill: A bipartisan group of Florida state senators are urging the state to make a “common sense” decision to cut back on testing. Their bill would eliminate some tests, move the testing dates to the end of the school year and allow districts to give paper-and-pencil exams instead of online, among other things. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Continue Reading →