Archive | Achievement Gap

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 →


Florida schools roundup: Education bill, student march, gun bills and more

Education bill: The Florida legislative session moves into its final three weeks, with a series of education issues to be decided. The Senate is reviewing the House education bill, and among the proposals being considered is replacing the House bill with the Senate version. Both bills would establish a Hope Scholarship for students who are victims of bullying or violence, though they disagree on how to pay for the program, and force teachers unions to disband if paying membership falls below 50 percent of the employees represented. Higher education issues, such as permanently funding an increase in Bright Futures scholarships, also will be addressed. News Service of Florida. redefinEDGradebook. WUSF. Miami New Times. Gatehouse Media. WLRN. About 150 Tampa Bay area teachers protest against H.B. 7055 just down the street from House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s Land O’Lakes office. Gradebook.

Political pressure: Marjory Stoneman Douglas students plan a march on the capital Wednesday to demand action on gun safety, just one of several rallies planned. Florida legislators say they will consider laws enacting an age limit to buy an assault rifle and add a three-day waiting period for all rifle purchases. Gov. Rick Scott has organized three meetings today to discuss school safety improvements and ways to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses. Miami Herald. Associated PressPolitico Florida. News Service of FloridaOrlando Sentinel. Sunshine State News. Florida Politics. WLRN. Legislation pushed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be considered once legislators strip out a provision allowing people to get a concealed carry permit without a thorough background check. Politico Florida. President Donald Trump says he would support an improvement in putting criminal offenses and other data into the national instant background check system. Sun-Sentinel. Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie has spent much of the past five days acting as a tour guide for state and national politicians to the tragic shooting in Parkland, with the bullet casings and pools of blood still on the floors. “We’ve given them detailed tours and explanations of what has happened so they become sensitized to the tragedy and we can get the support we need,” Runcie says. “We only have one opportunity to make sure they understand what was inflicted on our community.” Miami Herald.

Cruz’s rifles, appearance: Accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz had purchased 10 rifles in the year leading up to the killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last week. CNN. Cruz made his first appearance in a Broward circuit court Monday, but said nothing. The appearance was to discuss a sealed defense document that reportedly involved access of defense lawyers to Cruz. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WKMG. NBC News. Sun-Sentinel. The Florida Department of Children and Families will release 22 pages from a 2016 report compiled after caseworkers visited Cruz. The DCF got approval for the unusual move from a Broward County judge, which was necessary because Florida law prohibits the release of DCF files without a court order. Miami Herald.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher bonuses, shootings aftermath and more

Teacher bonuses: More than 163,500 Florida teachers qualify for bonuses under the state’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, according to Florida Department of Education data. The bonuses range from $800 to $7,200. More than 9,000 will get the top awards. They qualify by being rated highly effective and scoring in the top 20 percent when they took the ACT or SAT. Also receiving bonuses of $4,000 or $5,000 are 638 principals. The state will spend almost $215 million on the bonuses, which will be paid by April 1. The bonus program was created in 2015 but has been controversial, and the Legislature is considering bills this year to amend it. Orlando Sentinel.

More on Nikolas Cruz: Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz would plead guilty to killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to avoid the death penalty, according to his lawyer. Sun-Sentinel. The FBI apologizes for not following up a tip in January that Cruz may have been planning a school shooting. Miami Herald. Associated Press. The Florida Department of Children and Families investigated Cruz after he made threatening posts on social media, but determined he was a low risk to harm himself or others. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. Cruz was regularly in trouble for cussing, insulting people and disrupting classes when he attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to his disciplinary file. Sun-Sentinel. The couple who took Cruz into their home after his mother died say, “We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know. We didn’t see this side of him.” A longtime friend also called Cruz “lonely and ostracized.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Other developments: Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie says the district is proposing to tear down Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Legislators agree. Runcie also says the school will remain closed through at least Wednesday. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. A hospital spokesperson says the last critically injured victim of the shooting is improving. Sun-Sentinel. Stoneman Douglas principal Ty Thompson posts an emotional video message for the community. Sun-Sentinel. These are the heroes of the massacre. Miami Herald. CNN. More than nine out of 10 U.S. public schools now hold regular active shooter drills. Vox. An expert on school security warns officials to avoid “knee-jerk” reactions to improving security, and lists several things districts can do now to lead to safer schools. New Orleans Times-Picayune.

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Florida schools roundup: Budget discussions, motto mandate and more

Budget and Bright Futures: Florida House leaders introduce what they call an austere state budget of about $85 billion, which is about $2.5 billion less than Gov. Rick Scott has proposed. One of the areas the House would cut back on is higher education spending, in part by not expanding the coverage to 75 percent of tuition and fees for “medallion scholars” in the Bright Futures program, which the Senate has approved. Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, says the cuts are intended to force colleges and universities to use their stockpiles of unspent funds. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. The proposed House budget also includes a spending boost of $100 per K-12 student, a provision that would eliminate a requirement that the 300 lowest-performing schools use the extra funding they get from the state to add an hour per day of reading instruction, and would allow any district in the state to participate in the principal autonomy program. Gradebook. Politico FloridaredefinED. The House budget includes a specific cut of $381,000 for Broward College that is directly related to the college’s decision to pay the outgoing president his $381,000 salary for a year after he leaves, calling it a paid sabbatical. WLRN.

Motto at schools: The motto “In God We Trust” would have to be prominently displayed on every school building in Florida under a bill that receives unanimous approval from the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. The measure was filed by Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, and Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Destin. The phrase became part of the seal on the state flag in 1868, and was adopted as the state motto by legislators in 2006. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. WCTV. Gradebook.

Personalized learning: A bill that would make the personalized learning pilot program available to all state school districts is approved by the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. If approved by the Legislature, the bill would broaden the use of the mastery-based learning method, which allows students to advance to higher levels in subjects when they can demonstrate mastery of a topic. The bill would also give districts the freedom to decide how to award course credits. redefinED.

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Florida schools roundup: School oversight, merit pay, testing and more

Private school oversight: A bill is filed for the legislative session beginning today that would tighten some standards for private schools receiving state scholarships. Under the bill, filed by state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, private schools would be required to hire only teachers with at least a bachelor’s degree. The proposal would also tighten financial accountability, ban school owners with recent bankruptcies from receiving scholarship money, increase school inspections by the state and make it more difficult for schools to submit falsified fire or health inspection reports. Simmons says his bill is an attempt to strike a balance between too much regulation and not enough. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship and Gardiner scholarship programs. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher merit pay: Two Republican legislators want to delete the requirement in state law that student test scores be used to evaluate teachers. The bills, filed by Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, and Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, would give schools boards the option of using student test scores in evaluations. “We don’t think student test scores should be tied to our evaluations,” says Plasencia. “It’s frustrated many teachers, and it’s driven some really good teachers out of the profession, a lot of them early.” Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher test-taking: The rising numbers of teachers failing the state’s newly revised Florida Teacher Certification Exam prompts state Rep. Robert Asencio, D-Miami, to file a bill that would require the Florida Department of Education to appoint a task force to study whether the test is appropriately measuring teacher competency and other issues. “Whenever we have such a high failure rate we have to figure out what’s going on,” says Asencio. WPTV.

Legislative session: Gov. Rick Scott delivers his final state of the state speech today at the opening of the legislative session. It’s expected to contrast his first one in 2011, when he called for sharp cuts in education spending. News Service of Florida. Associated PressTampa Bay Times. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WCTV. Politico Florida. The Senate is expected to pass a higher education bill Thursday that would permanently expand Bright Futures scholarships, and will consider a bill that would require high school students to complete a financial literacy course in order to graduate. News Service of Florida.

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Florida schools roundup: ESSA, active shooter training, bonuses and more

ESSA plan: After federal education officials recently raised questions about Florida’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the state asks for an extension beyond the Jan. 4 deadline to rework the plan. State officials say they are still reviewing the letter federal officials sent that questions the state’s plans to measure how individual groups of students perform and to consider progress made by English-language learners when holding schools accountable for student learning and progress. “We acknowledge that USED may not be able to provide a final determination within the 120-day period in the law,” Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in her request for an extension. “Our focus is the successful completion of the 2017-18 school year as school districts continue to recover from Hurricane Irma and embrace the nearly 9,000 students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a result of Hurricane Maria.” Politico Florida.

Active shooter training: The University of Central Florida is using video game technology to help train teachers on how to react to an active shooter scenario. The $5.6 million technology was developed by the Homeland Security Department and the U.S. Army, and is similar to the program used to train soldiers in combat tactics. “With teachers, they did not self-select into a role where they expect to have bullets flying near them. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a reality,” says chief project engineer Tamara Griffith. “We want to teach teachers how to respond as first responders.” Associated Press.

Bonuses mistakenly paid: Twenty-seven Leon County School District employees wrongly received about $180,000 from the state’s Best and Brightest teacher bonuses program, according to a recent report from the Florida auditor general. The audit showed that 21 teachers who received $143,155 in bonuses were not rated as “highly effective,” a requirement to be eligible for the payments. Another six who received $40,902 weren’t eligible because they didn’t meet the state’s definition of a classroom teacher. All must repay the district, which in turn will send the money to the state Department of Education. The audit also raised concerns about a lack of competitive bidding to select health insurance companies and the security of personal information for students. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV.

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Florida schools roundup: ESSA plan needs revisions, grad rates and more

Feds order ESSA revise: The U.S. Department of Education says Florida is among 10 states that will have to revise their plans on implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act. The department’s letter to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says the state’s plan does not fulfill ESSA requirements in three areas: identifying schools with large achievement gaps between student subgroups, including English-language learners’ proficiency scores in the state’s accountability system, and providing the state’s tests in students’ native language. The letter informs the state it has no choice but to change its plan to comply with ESSA. Education Week. Politico Florida.

Graduation rates: Florida school districts are expecting graduation rates for the class of 2017 to fall because the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069, won’t allow them to count students who left for private schools. Legislators fashioned the bill to stop districts that were suspected of funneling students who couldn’t pass the state’s test to alternative schools, where they could graduate without passing the tests. But many educators think the law unfairly penalizes schools that try to help students who struggle with the traditional graduation path. TCPalm.

Personalized learning: A pilot program on personalized learning would be opened to any school district in the state under bills filed by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. A 2016 law created the pilot program for school districts in Pinellas, Palm Beach, Lake Seminole counties, and the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, to experiment with “competency-based learning” that allows students to progress at their own pace. The bills would also change the words “competency-based” to “mastery-based.” redefinED.

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Florida schools roundup: Schools of Hope rules, grade pressure and more

Schools of Hope rules: Rules have been proposed to implement the “Schools of Hope” part of the education bill passed in the Legislature earlier this year. The rules define what companies can be “hope operators,” who can then open a charter school within 5 miles of a persistently low-performing public school. The law outlined three criteria for becoming a “hope operators” – that student achievement exceeds district and state averages in the states in which they have schools; that college attendance rates have to exceed 80 percent; and that at least 7 in 10 students at their schools are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch. But the proposed rules would allow the state to choose operators that meet just one of the criteria, at least for the time being. Politico Florida.

Performance pressure: The pressure is on at Hawthorne Middle/High School in Alachua County. When the school got a D grade from the state in the spring, state officials gave school official three choices if the school’s grade isn’t a C or better next spring – close, transition to a charter school, or find an outside provider to run the school. School officials chose to close, which is reflected in the #AllIn slogan plastered on the walls of the school. The school is the heart of this rural community, and residents have rallied around the improvement plan. WUFT.

Tax bill and education: The final version of the federal tax bill retains the $250 deduction teachers can take for spending their own money on supplies for their classrooms, allows 529 college savings plans to be used for up to $10,000 in annual K-12 expenses, including private school tuition, and ends qualified school construction bonds, among other things. It also limits to $10,000 what taxpayers can deduct in either a combination of property and income taxes, or property and sales taxes. Some educators say that could pressure local government officials to lower property taxes, which would potentially lower revenue for schools. Education Week.

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