Author Archive | Travis Pillow

Florida schools roundup: Shooting, walkouts, turnarounds and more

School shooting. A 19-year-old injured one victim during a shooting at an Ocala high school. He faces terrorism charges. Washington Post. Associated Press. Ocala Star-BannerStudents at Forest High plan a rally in response. Ocala Star-Banner.

Student walkouts. Students across Florida, and across the nation, marked the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre with marches against gun violence. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Today. Naples Daily News. WFSU. Among their demands: A ban on assault weapons. Bradenton Herald. After Manatee County bars protests, students find other ways to voice their views. Bradenton Herald. Meanwhile, a conservative student hosted a Second-Amendment forum. Sun-Sentinel.

School safety. Hundreds of Alachua County parents sign up for active-shooter training. Gainesville Sun. Clay and St. Johns County schools struggle with resource officer funding. St. Augustine RecordFlorida Times-Union. Student fighting appears to be on the rise in Duval County. Florida Times-Union. A Fort Myers High School bomb threat is deemed not credible. Fort Myers News-Press. Protesters vow consequences at the polls for Brevard County School Board members who support arming employees through the state’s new school marshall program. Florida Today. School board members are undeterred. Florida Today. Continue Reading →


Why Florida Democrats would be wrong to ‘stop investing’ in charter schools

The first Democratic Party debate of Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign should worry school choice supporters. It showed the campaign is tied up in national narratives about charter schools, rather than the realities facing public education in the Sunshine State.

Two of the four candidates struggled to estimate how much Florida spends on public schools. Those same two candidates said they don’t regularly consult local media outlets.

And many of those local media outlets have shifted their focus away from specific state policy issues to national questions, like where the candidates stand on the impeachment of President Donald Trump — a question of only symbolic significance to someone running for state-level executive office.

During Wednesday’s debate, all four candidates for governor contended Florida’s schools are underfunded, students are over-tested and teachers are under-appreciated. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said the four candidates were all “good Democrats.” And while they had their disagreements, they could likely agree on a new direction for public education.

“Stop investing in someone else’s business, and that’s the charter school industry,” he said. “Take those dollars you’re putting in someone else’s business, and those lobbyists and everyone else who’s enjoying all the fat there, and put it in our public-school system.” Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: ‘Hope’ upheld, students protest and more

Schools of Hope. A Tallahassee judge has released a written decision explaining why he upheld Florida’s Schools of Hope law on all counts. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

School safety. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students plan to join their peers nationwide in protests marking the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School mass shooting. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Some districts won’t penalize students who participate in walkouts. WFSU. A statewide panel investigating the MSD shooting will convene for its first meeting in Parkland next week. Politico Florida. A Panhandle superintendent explains his district’s deliberations over post-Parkland security measures. Teachers in his district support the idea of arming school staff. Gradebook. Pay raises could be on the chopping block as districts look for ways to fund increased security. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach County schools speed up long-planned facilities-hardening projects to assuage fearful parents. Sun-Sentinel. Pinellas schools could adopt a “Know the Signs” violence-prevention curriculum developed by Sandy Hook families. Tampa Bay Times. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune fields reader questions on school security.

Survivors honored. Time Magazine counts five Parkland students among its 100 Most Influential People in 2018. In an accompanying essay, Barack Obama calls the young people “heroes.” Miami Herald.

Charter schools. Legacy Charter School in Brevard County faced imminent closure for, among other things, not having certified teachers, not have appropriate curriculum materials and being in a state of financial emergency. Florida Today.

Continue Reading →


The ethics of private school choice

The latest edition of the New York Times’ “Ethicist” column features a parent facing a perceived dilemma about school vouchers.

The key word is “perceived.”

An unnamed parent writes about a child who attends a private Montessori preschool. The parent is concerned about what will come next.

My son is thriving in his current environment, and the approach of traditional public schools is significantly different from Montessori’s. If money were no object, I would strongly consider keeping him at his current school.

Our state has a school-voucher program, which uses public money to help low-income families pay for private-school tuition. My family would probably qualify. But I believe that taxpayer dollars would be better spent to fortify public-school systems and should not be funneled to private schools. Given my beliefs, may I apply for a school voucher?

The ethicist answers yes, on the grounds that parents’ obligation to their children trump societal concerns. Continue Reading →


Fla. commission backs charter school-friendly constitution proposal

Florida voters will get to decide in November whether to impose term limits on elected school board members, allow new forms of public schools sponsored by the state and elevate the importance of civic literacy.

The Constitution Revision Commission voted 27-10 to place a combined K-12 education measure on the general-election ballot.

Commissioner Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member, sponsored two of the three proposals that make up P. 6003.

She cast the measure in light of Florida’s recent improvement on nationwide English and math assessments.

“Where will the next wave of gains come from?” she asked fellow commissioners. Continue Reading →


Charter school issues returning to Fla. Constitution Revision Commission

Next week, the panel rewriting Florida’s constitution could approve one or two charter school-related measures for the November ballot.

The first would free the state Legislature to create new types of charter school authorizers. Right now, courts have ruled only school districts can sponsor charter schools. This makes Florida something of an outlier. Of the 44 states that allow charter schools, 35 allow a statewide board, public universities or other organizations to oversee charters.

The proposal is part of P. 6003, sort of an omnibus K-12 public education measure. In addition to the charter school provisions, it would elevate civic literacy as a state priority and impose eight-year term limits on school board members.

Meanwhile, a second proposal would extend charter-like freedoms to school districts. It would require the Legislature to create a process allowing high-performing districts to apply to the state for “innovation district” status. If approved, they would be able to ask for waivers from certain state laws.

P. 6008 would build on the state’s new principal autonomy and Schools of Excellence programs, which free certain district schools from state education laws. It would also build on the thinking behind a personalized learning initiative, where some participating schools and districts say the state’s existing laws create barriers.


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 →


National assessment results bring good news for Florida

The latest nationwide assessment of reading and math outcomes brings good news for Florida.

National education results have slipped or stagnated on the two most recent Nation’s Report Cards. In the 2017 results, released this morning, the Sunshine State stood out as an exception. It was the only state to improve significantly in multiple categories.

The state’s eighth-grade scores improved from 2015 in both reading and math. The latter has long been the state’s weak spot.

In reading, Florida’s eighth-grade scores overtook the national average. Continue Reading →