Archive | Achievement Gap

Florida schools roundup: Testing extension, ESSA plan reviewed and more

Testing extension: The Florida Department of Education has agreed to extend the window for the Florida Standards Assessments testing and all state end-of-course exams. School districts had asked for a delay in the testing because of a busy hurricane season that caused many districts to miss days of school. Instead, K-12 Chancellor Herschel Lyons extended the testing time-frame by a week. The decision gives districts the option of delaying the tests, or using the full two weeks to complete them. Gradebook.

ESSA plans: A group of 45 bipartisan reviewers gives Florida’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act mixed reviews, with no one awarding the state the highest rating in any of the nine categories studied. The strengths of the plan include a clear, student-focused vision of high standards, an easy-to-understand grading system, inclusion of science and social studies assessments, and the identification of struggling schools. The highest marks came in academic progress, for measuring learning gains, and in continuous improvement for identifying struggling schools and helping them improve. The weaknesses: incorporating subgroups into the accountability system, and in marking progress toward English language proficiency. The 74.

Dangerous school zones: Miami-Dade County has the most dangerous school zones in Florida, according to an analysis of vehicle crash data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles by San Diego company 1Point21Interactive. Eight schools in the county are in the state’s top 10 most dangerous school zones. Miami Herald.

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Florida schools roundup: Scholarship reforms, Bright Futures bill and more

Scholarship reforms: School choice advocates recommend a series of reforms at a House education subcommittee hearing Wednesday called to discuss concerns about oversight of private K-12 schools that receive money from one of the state’s scholarship programs. Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up For Students, which helps administer two of the programs and hosts this blog, says the state should eliminate the cap on inspections of those private schools, have fire and inspection reports submitted directly to the state, and demand those schools adopt stronger financial reporting requirements. Orlando SentinelredefinED.

Bright Futures: The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approves a bill that would permanently expand Bright Futures scholarships. S.B. 4 would fully fund Bright Futures scholarships for about 41,000 students who have a grade point average of at least a 3.5 as well as a score of 1,290 on the SAT or a 29 on the ACT, and provide 75 percent funding to Medallion scholars. It now goes to the Senate floor. Sunshine State News. Meanwhile, a House committee approves a “Sunshine scholarship” proposal that would cover tuition and fees for students entering the Florida College System whose family income is less than $50,000. Politico Florida.

Virtual teachers’ union: Administrators of the Florida Virtual School are fighting back against a drive to unionize the school’s teachers. “We believe that a union is not needed here at FLVS and that bringing a union into our school can drastically affect our relationship with you,” CEO Jodi Marshall wrote in an email to the staff. “That is why we intend to oppose the union by every legal means available to us.” Gradebook.

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Florida schools roundup: Textbook challenges, school taxes and more

Textbook challenges: A bill is filed that would expand the law allowing anyone to challenge materials used in public school classrooms. H.B. 827, filed by state Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, would give challengers the right to challenge books and also suggest replacements to both local school boards and the State Board of Education. Those boards would then be required to ask publishers of the suggested alternatives if they wanted to make a pitch for public school business. Right now, nearly every state school district buys textbooks for core courses from a state-approved list that is reviewed by teachers and experts hired by the Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel.

School tax hike: The Palm Beach County School District is considering asking voters to raise their property taxes so the district can boost teacher salaries. School officials say the only way experienced teachers can expect significant raises is if voters agree to boost the current $25 tax per $100,000 of assessed property value to $45. That tax was approved in 2010 to provide money to hire teachers for arts, music, physical education and specialized choice programs, and generated about $43 million last year. The tax is up for renewal next November. Palm Beach Post.

Schools of Hope: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says charter schools opening under the state’s “Schools of Hope” legislation must be innovative and go to the areas with the greatest needs. “For our movement, we need to be careful and continue to go out there and innovate and have the success … rather than go out there and there is money to be made opening up in this nice neighborhood,” Corcoran said at the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s national meeting in Nashville last week. redefinED.

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Florida schools roundup: Shelters, choice, turnaround schools and more

Schools as shelters: A bill is filed that would require any K-12 school that receives construction funding from the state to be available as an emergency shelter or, if it doesn’t meet the requirements to be a shelter, for any other use officials think is necessary. That requirement would include charter schools. H.B. 779 was filed by state Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. No companion bill has yet been filed in the Senate. Gradebook.

School choice growth: New research suggests that the growth of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program has not led to a corresponding increase in the number of schools that perform poorly academically. Urban Institute researchers conclude: “This analysis indicates that participation in the [tax credit scholarship] program has not shifted toward schools with weaker track records of improving student outcomes, as measured by two broad categorizations. But it provides less guidance on the ideal level of government regulation in private school choice programs.” Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program. The program has grown from 50,000 low-income students receiving scholarships in 2012 to more than 100,000 this year. redefinED.

District consultant: The Duval County School Board will spend $480,000 for a consultant to help turn around eight struggling schools. Turnaround Solutions Inc. was founded by James Young, a former Duval principal with experience in turning around failing schools. Three of the schools have less than a year to boost their grades from the state, while the others have until the end of the 2018-2019 school year. If they don’t improve to at least a C grade, state law requires the district to close the schools or allow them to be taken over. Florida Times-Union.

Panel: Turn over school: An oversight committee at Oscar Patterson Elementary School is recommending that the struggling school be turned over to an outside manager. The Bay County school has gotten poor grades from the state the past two years, and under state law the district has to contract with an outside entity to manage the school, close it and transfer the students, or close it and reopen it as a charter school. The recommendation now goes to Superintendent Bill Husfelt. If he agrees with the recommendation, the district must have a signed contract with a management company by Jan. 31, 2018. Panama City News Herald.

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Florida schools roundup: Blaine Amendment, school spending and more

Blaine Amendment: The Constitution Revision Commission’s Declaration of Rights Committee approves a proposal to put repeal of the Blaine Amendment before voters in 2018. The amendment prohibits the use of tax money “directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect or religious denomination.” In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court cited the amendment when it ruled that a state violated the law with its scholarship program for students to attend private schools. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has long called for a repeal of the amendment. The proposal now goes to the full commission, where 22 of the 37 members would have to approve it to put it on the November 2018 ballot. Sixty percent of voters would then have to approve the repeal to put it into effect. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida.

Education spending: Gov. Rick Scott continues a state tour to promote his education budget, which he says will boost spending on K-12 education to a record $21.4 billion. “We’re going to have historic funding for the sixth year in a row,” says Scott about his proposal to increase per-student spending from $7,297 to $7,497. But an analysis in Folio Weekly magazine questions that statement. Using the Consumer Price Index calculator, the magazine says it would take $8,377.89 per student today to match the $7,126 per student from then-Gov. Charlie Crist’s 2007, pre-recession budget. Florida Politics. WJCT. Florida and 28 other states are spending less on education now than they were before the 2008 recession after an adjustment for inflation, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And Florida and six other states each spent at least 15 percent less per-student in 2015 than in 2008. The 74.

Superintendent honored: Pinellas County School Superintendent Mike Grego is named Florida superintendent of the year for his work to close the achievement gap between black and nonblack students. Grego, 60, has been superintendent in Pinellas for just over five years. He now represents Florida at the national competition in Nashville in February. Gradebook. WUSF.

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Florida schools roundup: Enrollment influx, evaluations, housing and more

Refugee influx: The academic performances of most students who came to Florida schools after Hurricane Maria will not be counted when the state figures grades for districts and schools, says Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. She says the federal government approved the exception for English language learners, which covers most of the nearly 8,000 students who fled the hurricane and have enrolled in Florida schools. Most of the extra students – 7,212 – are from Puerto Rico, and 710 are from other islands. Orange County has gotten the most refugee students, 1,793 for an 0.8 percent increase, while Osceola County has enrolled 1,218, which is a 2.2 percent increase. Housing remains the biggest problem for the refugees, members of the state Board of Education are told. Gradebook. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of FloridaFlorida Politics. Daily Commercial.

Teacher evaluations: Several states, including Florida, have begun to change the way they evaluate teachers. Florida still uses testing and student performance indicators to determine one-third of teacher evaluation scores, but now allows districts to decide whether they want to use a state-approved formula for student growth to determine the other two-thirds. Six other states – Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma – now let districts decide what data to use to evaluate teachers. Education Week.

Housing for teachers: Broward County School Board members are considering ways to convince developers to build more housing that teachers can afford. Among the ideas is to waive school impact fees for those developers who build homes for people with incomes of up to $42,700 for a single person or $61,000 for a family of four. “We have a drastic need for teachers and many of them can’t afford to live in the county,” says board member Patti Good. The median home price in Broward is about $355,000, which is more than most teachers can afford. Sun-Sentinel.

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Florida schools roundup: Free tuition proposal, improving finances and more

Free tuition proposal: A proposal is filed with the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to provide free higher education tuition and fees to family members of first responders, law-enforcement officers and active-duty military members who are killed on the job. The proposal was filed by commission member Emery Gainey, and is supported by Gov. Rick Scott. The commission will decide what proposals to put on the November 2018 ballot, and voters would have to pass the proposals with a 60 percent majority. News Service of Florida.

Finances improving: Finances have improved in Florida’s 67 school districts for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016, according to a report from the Florida auditor general. Jefferson County was the only district with a financial condition ratio under 3 percent, which helps determine if districts have the state-required 3 percent in reserves, and that district has been turned over to a charter school company. The audit shows that 42 districts have some deficiencies, compared to 54 a year ago. Gradebook.

Displaced students: Central Florida leaders appeal directly to Gov. Rick Scott for financial help to help them absorb the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico and other areas devastated by hurricanes this summer. An estimated 143,000 people have arrived in Florida from Puerto Rico alone, and 6,300 are children who are enrolling in state schools, mostly in central Florida. Osceola Superintendent Debra Pace says the additional 1,300 students are “equal for us to two additional elementary schools added to the population.” Orlando SentinelFlorida Politics. Other areas around the state are seeing a similar influx, and are making plans to prepare for more. WUSF. Lakeland Ledger.

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Florida schools roundup: Bright Futures, hurricane help, ESSA plan and more

Bright Futures: A bill that would make the expansion of Bright Futures scholarships permanent passes a Florida Senate committee and is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee next month. S.B. 4, filed by state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, provides full funding for tuition and fees and summer classes to Bright Futures academics scholars, plus $300 for books. Bright Futures scholars must have a 3.5 GPA and score a 1,290 on the SAT test or a 29 on the ACT. The bill also covers 75 percent of the expenses for medallion scholars. Sunshine State News.

Help for states: The U.S. Education Department is making $2 million available for Florida officials to help students and educators who were affected by several devastating hurricanes. The money will go to the Florida Department of Education for mental health assessments; overtime pay for teachers, counselors and law enforcement; substitute teachers; and emergency transportation. The U.S. department has already awarded the Texas Education Agency $2 million, and the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands education departments also will get $2 million each. U.S. News & World Report. The 74.

ESSA plan questioned: Civil rights and education groups are lobbying U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reject Florida’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In a letter to DeVos, the groups allege Florida’s plan does not protect minority, disabled and low-income students and those who are learning English. “ESSA plans that allow schools to shirk their responsibility to all children, especially groups of children who have been shortchanged for too long, fail to meet the intent of the law and should be rejected,” the letter states. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Education Week.

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