Author Archive | Livi Stanford

Why is the number of homeschool students declining in Miami-Dade?

Recent data released about the number of home school students in Florida reveals a mystery.

The number of home education students in the state continues to increase. State data show it reached 87,462 during the 2016-17 school year — roughly a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Miami-Dade County, however, saw a decline in enrollment by 11 percent.

Homeschool parents and legal advocates say there is a reason behind Miami-Dade’s declining numbers. When some parents file a notice of intent to homeschool with the district, they say, the district asks for additional documentation such as proof of residency or a birth certificate. These requests go beyond what the law requires.

This creates a new barrier to home schooling, legal advocates and parents say. Some parents are finding new ways around that barrier, such as forming umbrella schools. Others have prevailed in disputes with the district after getting home education advocates involved.

Miami-Dade school officials declined to comment for this story. Audrey Walden, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education, said the department was “looking into it.” Continue Reading →


Parents, teachers support converting Fla. Gulf Coast school to a charter

When Kevin Jackson learned about a grassroots effort to convert his daughter’s middle school to a charter, he became newly hopeful about improving student achievement. In recent years, the Manatee County school has mostly been stuck at a “C” letter grade or below.

“I am so excited for my community and for the parents,” he said. Lincoln Middle School “has developed a negative stigma as far as the area. Now we get an opportunity to compete with the best.”

Jackson said the charter school would have more flexibility to create programs tailored to students’ needs. About 44 percent of the school’s population is Latino, he said, and every student is on free and reduced lunch.

“A charter would allow us to venture outside the box to give our Hispanic population different resources,” he said.

If the change takes place, Lincoln will join 22 other schools that also converted to charters with a majority vote from parents and teachers.

Florida law allows parents and teachers to convert any traditional public school to a charter by petition. But that rarely happens. In some places, administrators and teachers have faced retaliation for aiding conversion efforts, even though the law protects them.

In Manatee County, however, at some key officials support the change. Their district is home to one past charter conversion, and it looks like a success. Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication did well as an elementary school, and it’s set to add middle grades this fall.

At Lincoln, the principal, a teacher and parents argue such a change will enable the school to better serve its population while providing more autonomy and accountability.

A call to change

Concerns about Lincoln’s performance prompted teachers and parents to come together to lobby for change. Nearly 70 percent of students perform below grade level. Continue Reading →


Fla. charter school growth slows

During the 2016-17 school year, 286,809 students enrolled in Florida’s charter schools, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.

That’s an increase of more than 16,600 students from the previous school year.

However, this represents the slowest growth since 2008, both in the sheer number of students and the speed at which it occurred.

From 2010 to 2014, the number of students enrolled in charter schools grew by an average of 13.7 percent a year.  But in 2015 and 2016, the percentage of new charter school students dropped to the single digits. State data show just 6.2 percent growth this past school year.

Charter school closures appear to have outstripped new schools. The number of charter schools operating in the state dropped to 648 in the 2016-17 school year.

Overall, several districts saw increased enrollment in charter schools.

Miami-Dade charter schools grew by 4,584 students to 63,618; Broward also saw a jump in its enrollment to 46,173 students, an addition of 2,376 students; Duval reported an increase of 973 students for a total enrollment of 13,334; Hillsborough saw a boost in the number of students by 1,403 to an enrollment of 18,103; and Orange’s enrollment increased by 1,141 to 13,754.

By contrast, a few districts saw dips in enrollment. Alachua’s enrollment dropped by 722 students to 1,075. Pinellas’ enrollment also declined by 1,003 students to 5,898, as four charters shut down.

A full breakdown of charter enrollment from the 2015-16 school year is available in this spreadsheet. Data from the 2016-17 school year can be found in this spreadsheet.


‘You are trying to meet kids where they are’ – Michael DeArmond on personalized learning

Michael DeArmond

The rollout of personalized learning is taking the education field by storm.

Experts are still ironing out many aspects of the concept, which tailors instruction to students individual needs and interests.

Is the new learning method sustainable? Can there be a universal definition and program for personalized learning?

Michael DeArmond, a senior research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, who with his colleagues Betheny Gross and Robin Lake, visited schools across the country implementing personalized learning, shared his insights on the topic.

Q: Can a universal model of personalized learning work? Continue Reading →


‘Varying degrees of success’: Betheny Gross on personalized learning

Betheny Gross

Personalized learning has been lauded as the next major shift in education, with policymakers stating it is the best way to increase student achievement.

However, like with any major shift, there are bumps along the way.

For example, in Lake County, Fla., it was not implemented consistently across the district, prompting school officials to change course.

And education experts state there is not one concrete definition or universal plan for implementing personalized learning.

Betheny Gross, a senior research analyst and research director at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, helped lead a multi-method study of schools implementing personalized learning. We spoke with her about the new learning method. Gross and her team visited more than 40 traditional and charter schools in  17 cities across the country.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: What, exactly, is personalized learning?

A: It is obviously a fairly broad concept. It is a strategy and approach to provide a personalized experience. It emphasizes crafting education experiences around student interests and talents. It is the idea that you are tailoring the child’s experiences to what they need to learn and for the talents and interests they possess. Continue Reading →

For this Florida teacher, personalized learning works

Justin Crouch

Growing up, Justin Crouch experienced a personalized education first-hand.

“When I was in third grade I had a teacher that personalized for me and it completely changed my outlook on school,” he said. “Mrs. Coad challenged and pushed me according to my abilities rather than just ‘teaching to the middle.’”

The experience inspired him as a teacher to do the same thing for his own students.

In Crouch’s classroom, personalized learning worked, and test scores back it up.

Prior to implementing personalized learning, Crouch said his students scored in the 70s. After the implementation, they scored 10 percentage points higher. Critics of personalized learning argued results elsewhere in Lake County Schools were mixed.

But Crouch said the right mindset helped his high school social studies students succeed.

“The reason I found success in my classroom is because any decision I made in the classroom always went back to, how is this going to benefit the student? How can a student prove mastery to me through the standards?” Crouch said. “I had to provide them with a clear goal of how they are going to do that. My students knew upfront if you don’t follow through on your end of the bargain there is accountability on the back end.”

Since then, Crouch has moved on to Florida Virtual School. The online enterprise started as an experiment in the late ’90s. It now functions like a statewide school district, with personalized learning in its DNA.

Prior to his work with FLVS, Crouch was involved with the rollout of the personalized learning grant at Umatilla High School from 2014-17. He said the program made a difference for the district and for his students. Continue Reading →

What is personalized learning?

In our everyday lives, we have choices.

We rarely buy whole LPs. We use programs like Spotify and Pandora to build custom playlists based on our individual tastes.

In everything from cars to spaghetti sauce, options have multiplied. Choice and customization reign.

As our culture has moved away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to personalization to better meet an individuals’ preferences, the education field is following suit.

However, there is one problem.

Experts say there is not one universal term to describe “personalized learning.” It means different things to a wide range of people who have different agendas.

Some say it is an excuse for unremarkable lessons with computers babysitting students for hours. Others say it is a new phrase that simply describes good instruction, where teachers connect with individual students. Continue Reading →

Central Florida school district changes course on personalized learning

Lake County Superintendent Diane Kornegay

Former Lake County Fla. Superintendent Susan Moxley set out to achieve one goal above all others in her eight years in the top position at the district: Customize education for each student, preparing them for college and careers.

The Central Florida district was one of six in the nation to receive a three-year, $3.1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Next Gen Systems Initiative in 2014. The money was supposed to help prepare schools for personalized learning — a concept that has become a focal point for Gates and other major philanthropists, as well as educators and advocates across the ideological spectrum.

Three years later, the district is changing course.

Most of the grant money has been spent. The district is sending back the remainder of the funding and discontinuing the program.

Under new leadership, district officials argue they do not need to spend money on a program dedicated to personalized learning. Some skeptics say it simply embodies good teaching.

See also: When we say personalized learning, what do we mean?

There’s no question the grant changed practices throughout the district and lit a fire in some educators — some of whom have carried the torch to other employers.

But it’s also clear some of the changes the grant sought, like the development of a competency-based learning system encouraged by a new state law, won’t come to fruition. At least, they won’t in Lake.  

The experience in this district of 41,000 students sheds light on what it will take to spread personalized learning from conference halls and foundation boardrooms to classrooms across the country. Continue Reading →