Archive | Education and Public Policy

Florida schools roundup: Hope Scholarship, enrollment counts and more

‘Hope Scholarship’: Bullied and abused public school students could be eligible next year for a new school choice program being proposed by Florida House Republicans. Under the program, dubbed the “Hope Scholarship,” those students could apply for a transfer to a different public school or for a state scholarship to attend a private school. Nearly 47,000 incidents of bullying, hazing or abuse are reported each year in Florida schools, and most involve violence. The legislation has not yet been written, but House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says the scholarship could be set up like the tax credit scholarship program, which provides scholarships for more than 100,000 low-income students to attend private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer that program. Miami Herald. Orlando SentinelredefinED. News Service of FloridaGradebook. Politico Florida. Sunshine State News. WUSF.

Enrollment uncertainty: Legislators say the effects of the hurricane season are causing uncertainty in estimating K-12 enrollment for the next school year. Officials were working off an estimate of an additional 26,764 students for the 2018-2019 school year, but that was before several hurricanes swept through the islands and displaced thousands. “If you have more students (than the estimate), you spread it thinner,” says Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, talking about the school funding formula. “If you have less students, you don’t get the money.” So far, 12 districts and 19 charter schools are asking the state to delay the usual timetable for counting school enrollment, which is typically this week. If the requests are approved, the counts would have to be done no later than the week of Dec. 11-15. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Almost 150 Puerto Rican students displaced by Hurricane Maria already have registered to attend schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee and Polk counties. About 440 have signed up in Orange and Osceola counties. Hundreds, if not thousands more, are expected. WMNF.

Local education agencies: Two charter school companies in Florida are applying to the state to be designated as local education agencies, which would allow them to directly receive federal funding for teacher training, supporting low-income students or helping children with special needs, and gives also them greater control over how they use the money. Somerset Academy, which recently took over the Jefferson County School District, and the United Cerebral Palsy schools, which serve special needs students in central Florida, want to join two other state charter school networks in getting the designation. redefinED.

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Study: Florida’s schools show signs of ‘resegregation’

By Lloyd Dunkelberger

The News Service of Florida

Although Florida is becoming a more racially diverse state, its public-school system is becoming more segregated, a new study from the LeRoy Collins Institute shows.

“Student enrollment trends in Florida over the past decades show growing racial isolation for Hispanic and black students on some measures, with signs of continuous segregation on others,” the study said.

Some 32 percent of Hispanic students and 35 percent of black students in Florida attend “intensely segregated” schools, defined as have a nonwhite student body of 90 percent or greater, according to the study.

One out of every five schools was intensely segregated in the 2014-2015 academic year, about double the 10.6 percent of the schools that fell into that category in 1994-1995. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Most schools reopen, testing delay, ESSA and more

Back in session: Most Florida public school districts reopened Monday or are expected to today or tomorrow, according to the Florida Department of Education. School districts are also making decisions on how they’ll make up the time missed for Hurricane Irma. Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-SentinelGradebook. Florida Times-UnionBradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WSVN. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. Students in 48 Florida counties affected by the hurricane will get free meals at school through Oct. 20. News Service of FloridaAssociated PressMiami Herald. Tampa Bay TimesPalm Beach Post. Florida Today. WINK. Daily Commercial. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. In Collier and Lee counties, several child-care centers say they will take in students until schools reopen next Monday. Naples Daily News. Many school signs in south Florida are missing or broken, and officials are urging drivers to slow down and be cautious through school zones. Sun-Sentinel. Florida Virtual School will provide remote access to all students displaced by the hurricane. Governor’s office.

Testing schedule: The Florida Department of Education adjusts its end-of-course exam retakes in biology, civics, U.S. history, algebra I and geometry due to Hurricane Irma. The assessments can begin Sept. 18, but has left the final date open for now. It did the same for the retake of the 10th grade language arts exam. “We will offer as much flexibility as needed,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a memo to superintendents. Gradebook.

ESSA extension: The U.S. Department of Education has granted Florida an extension to file its plan on how it will comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act. The deadline had been Monday, but it’s now Oct. 13. Education officials cited the devastation of Hurricane Irma in extending the deadline. Politico Florida.

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Florida schools roundup: More schools reopening, questioning VAM and more

Back to school: Most of Florida’s 67 school districts have reopened or are expected to today, tomorrow or Wednesday, according to the Florida Department of Education. A handful of schools will start later, and Hardee County schools remain closed until further notice. School districts are also starting to consider how they’ll make up the days missed. Florida Department of Education. Miami HeraldSun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Naples Daily News. Associated Press. Daily Commercial. Keynoter. Charlotte Sun. WFLA. WTSP. WFTVGradebook. More reports on damages to schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Lakeland Ledger. Free school meals will be provided in all Florida counties affected by Hurricane Irma. Brevard Times. Experts say teachers should address Irma with students as classes resume, and give them a chance to discuss their experiences. Tampa Bay Times. About 8.5 million U.S. students lost classroom time due to Irma. USA Today. School officials pay tribute to school employees who worked at hurricane shelters. Ocala Star-Banner. Miami Herald. Will Irma be the impetus to require charter schools to be built to serve as hurricane shelters? WLRN. redefinED.

VAM questioned: Some education experts are questioning the effectiveness of the state’s value-added model (VAM) for rating teachers. They say it’s easier for a teacher to earn a high VAM score if she or he works at a school with few poor students. State education officials disagree, saying their research shows no bias against high-poverty schools in VAM data. The state has spent about $4 million of federal money to develop VAM, and pays $509,000 a year for analysis and reporting, says Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Audrey Walden. Florida Times-Union.

Child Baker Acts up: The number of children who are involuntarily committed for psychological evaluation is up significantly in Florida and Bay County. Across the state in the fiscal year 2015-2016, the number of children committed under the state’s Baker Act was up about 34 percent over 2010-2011. In Bay County, the increase is 109 percent since 2011. The Baker Act is invoked most often when schoolchildren threaten suicide. Panama City News Herald.

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Devos calls for change during Fla. education pow-wow

By Jim Saunders

News Service of Florida

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gathered Wednesday with about a dozen leaders of Florida business, higher-education and advocacy organizations to talk about reshaping the education system to offer more choices and to better prepare students for jobs.

DeVos, during an hour-long meeting in a conference room at the Florida Chamber Commerce, urged the leaders to “double down” on efforts to expand choices for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. DeVos has long been a major supporter of voucher programs and charter schools.

She pointed to the “notion that for too many years we’ve tried to have too many top-down approaches — be it from Washington or, in some cases, from the state level — to try to fit all children into one box.” Continue Reading →

Schools of Hope — coming to a community near you?

Last week, the state Board of Education set plans in motion that could bring new charter schools to as many as three high-poverty rural areas in North Florida.

It was one of the first tangible effects of the state’s new Schools of Hope legislation.

But a memo distributed by the state Department of Education shows the impact won’t end there.

Another 37 schools across the state are in basically the same position as the three schools that brought plans before the state Board. They’ve struggled for three or more years with D or F performance ratings, and are nearing the end of a state-mandated turnaround process.

If these schools don’t raise their letter grades to C’s, they will have three options for the 2018-19 school year. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Indoor recess, turnarounds, court challenge and more

Indoor recess: When Florida elementary schools reopen next month, they’ll be required to offer students at least 20 minutes of recess a day. But Florida Department of Education officials say recess could be held in classrooms, since there is no requirement that the time for free play be outdoors. Districts are required to report their compliance with the law by Sept. 1. Charter schools are exempt. Associated Press. Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay says giving 20 minutes of school a day for recess leaves the district with 340 minutes a day of instructional time. The state requires at least 300 minutes. Each of the county’s 32 public elementary schools will arrange its own schedule. Daily Commercial.

Turnaround schools: The Florida Board of Education has ordered three school districts to revise turnaround plans for troubled schools. These are the first to fall under the new education law, which gives districts less time to turn around schools and offers three options if they don’t: close the schools, turn them into charters or bring in an outside “partner” to help run the schools. Gadsden County will bring in help for the coming school year, then search for a charter school company to take over Gadsden High in the 2018-2019 school year. Alachua County’s plan to turn around Hawthorne Middle/High School was rejected, and district officials will have to prepare a plan using one of the three options. Hamilton County will have to choose a charter company to take over Hamilton High before next spring. redefinED.

Education challenge: How do you measure if the state has a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools,” as required by the state constitution? That’s what First District Court of Appeal judges seemed to be wondering during a hearing Tuesday in the case challenging Florida’s education policies. A group known as Citizens for Strong Schools brought the suit, arguing troubling racial achievement gaps show the unconstitutionality of the system. The state argues that funding levels are sufficient, that Florida students’ achievements have improved significantly in the past 20 years, and that the constitutional language was political and not a literal standard that judges can interpret. The state won the first round in state court in May 2016. Miami Herald. News Service of FloridaWFSU. Associated Press. Sunshine State NewsPolitico Florida.

District spending: The Duval County School Board is asking district officials for details on how they spent $21 million more than they were budgeted to in the last fiscal year. Some of the causes are known: $3.4 million related to employees taking early retirement, $4.8 million in unbudgeted transportation costs, $1.4 million less from the state for per-student funding and $3.3 million for capital costs. Board members say they want to avoid repeating any mistakes the district may have made. Florida Times-Union. The Polk County School District is still waiting for numbers from the Florida Department of Education in order to present a proposed budget to the school board. District Chief Financial Officer Mike Perrone called the situation “unique,” with the districts typically getting the numbers by the second week in July. Lakeland Ledger. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Charters, turnaround schools, teachers and more

Charter funding: Superintendents from around the state tell members of the Florida Board of Education that the new education bill provision requiring districts to share capital funding with charter schools could result in traditional public schools crumbling. “You really could see the potential unraveling of long-term maintenance and construction for public school systems across the state,” says Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “It is not a good indicator when one of the two largest credit rating agencies declares a negative condition for school systems on the basis of a policy statement out of Tallahassee.” WTVY. News 13.

Appeal denied: The Florida Board of Education declines an appeal by a Clay County charter school to remain open after the school received F grades from the state the past two years. The board cited data showing that students from Orange Park Performing Arts Academy performed “significantly lower” than similar schools, and also pointed out that no other public school in Clay County received a grade below C. redefinED.

Turnaround plans: The Florida Board of Education approves a turnaround plan for the new Gadsden High School, but with conditions: The district must hire a charter company to operate the school by the 2018-2019 school year, fire teachers with unsatisfactory ratings, and provide monthly progress reports to the board. WTXLTallahassee Democrat.

School may close: The Palm Beach County School Board is expected to vote Wednesday to close the half-empty Odyssey Middle School. If it does, the closing would be the first of a traditional public school in the county in more than 25 years. The school opened in 2001 in Boynton Beach at a cost of $21 million. In the past 13 years, enrollment has gone from 1,360 to 730. Palm Beach Post. Continue Reading →