Archive | Education reporting

Florida schools roundup: Teacher bonuses, H.B. 7069, eclipse and more

Teacher bonuses: Each Florida school district will be responsible for determining the eligibility of teachers for state bonuses under the “Best & Brightest” teacher bonuses program, the Department of Education says. The program was redefined as part of the new education bill, H.B. 7069, which also calls for $1,200 payments to teachers rated “highly effective,” up to $800 for those rated “effective,” plus bonuses for those teachers who scored in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT test. Teachers are expected to receive the bonuses April 1. Principals are also eligible for bonuses for the first time, but the state has yet to say how that program will work. Miami Herald.

H.B. 7069: Orange County School Board members informally say they are likely to join the lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. All eight members support the suit, saying the law infringes on the authority of school boards and could hurt students. The board expects to take an official, binding vote next week. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has removed state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, from his assignment as chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee for pre-K-12 education. Replacing him is first-term Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. Simmons angered many Republican leaders by voting against the House’s top priority, H.B. 7069. Negron denies the change was made as punishment. Gradebook. Naples Daily News. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Simmons says he plans to remain involved in education issues. Gradebook.

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. Sun-SentinelGradebook. WPLG. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton HeraldOcala Star-Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WFTV. Florida Today. WQAM. Panama City News Herald. Lakeland Ledger. WJAX. WFLA. WTSP.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, funding formula, tax holiday and more

Teacher pay: Teachers at Memorial Middle School in Orlando will be paid $20,000 more this year as the Orange County School District tries to entice top teachers to turn around the persistently low-performing school. If a state grant can’t be obtained, the district will cover the extra costs. Officials say teachers at five other struggling schools also would get the extra pay if the district gets the grant. Only teachers rated effective or highly effective are eligible for the extra pay, and they’ll have to work an extra 30 minutes a day. Orlando Sentinel. Florida ranks 43rd among states and U.S. territories in average teacher pay at $47,256, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2016. The only states with lower pay than Florida are Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Alaska is No. 1 at $74,122. Tallahassee Democrat.

Funding formula fight: Volusia County School Board chairwoman Melody Johnson makes a personal appeal to the Pasco County School Board to join the fight against the state’s district cost differential (DCD) portion of the school funding formula. She says 55 of the state’s 67 counties have lost money to the DCD, which gives urban districts more money to cover the higher costs of living. Johnson says Pasco has lost $53 million since 2003. Pasco board members asked Superintendent Kurt Browning to investigate and make a recommendation. Gradebook.

Back to school: The back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The National Retail Federation says the average family with children in K-12 schools spends $687 on clothes and school supplies. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State NewsLakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Keynoter. WFLA. WTSP. Florida schools open soon, and some new laws focused on school traffic are in effect. Palm Beach Post. Do school dress codes discriminate against girls? WFSU.

School branding: In an era of school choice, school branding is becoming increasingly important, say some school officials. Education Dive.

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Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, evaluations, charters, budgets and more

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: The Sarasota County School Board votes against joining other districts in a proposed lawsuit against the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. Board member Bridget Ziegler proposed a motion to “suspend all consideration or further allocation of resources toward the support of any potential litigation challenging House Bill 7069,” which was adopted. She said the vote gave the district an “opportunity to send a message that we are above the political theater” of wasting “time, money, and intellectual capital” on legal fees. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sunshine State News. Duval County School Board chairwoman Paula Wright says a proposed audit is unlikely to explain how the district overspent its budget by $21 million last year, and criticizes state Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, for requesting it. Fischer also condemned the board for considering joining a lawsuit against the new state education law. Wright’s reply: “We are not going to be pushed or bullied … to do things quickly for the benefit of others.” Florida Times-Union. A review of text messages details the last-minute fighting in the Legislature over H.B. 7069. Politico Florida.

Teacher evaluations: Florida school districts haven’t lived up to the “spirit” of the state’s 2011 teacher evaluation law, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. In most places, the report says, teachers can still get a larger pay bump for having a master’s degree than for receiving a “highly effective” evaluation. National Council on Teacher Quality.

Charter funding: The Broward County School Board agrees to share some of the property tax money it collects with the five-school charter system owned and operated by the city of Pembroke Pines. The city has been asking for money from the district since 2005. The board said its decision to share applies only to the Pembroke Pines schools and not schools owned and operated by charter companies. A new state law calls for districts to share local property taxes collected with charter schools, but Broward and several other districts say they will be filing a suit challenging the constitutionality of it. Sun Sentinel.

School budgets: The Hillsborough County School Board gives tentative approval to a $2.9 billion budget. Tampa Bay Times. The Bay County School Board tentatively approves a $376 million budget, an increase of $18 million over last year despite a slightly lower proposed millage rate. Panama City News Herald.

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‘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 →


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 →


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 →

Florida’s private schools are growing at a faster rate

Florida’s private schools saw their biggest enrollment growth in 15 years.

Enrollment grew by 22,525 PreK-12 students in the 2016-17 school year. That’s a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year and the second-highest enrollment growth since 2000. According to the new report from the Florida Department of Education, private school students now make up 11.6 percent of all preK-12 students in Florida.

Enrollment ranged from 0 students in rural Liberty County to 76,022 in Miami-Dade. Continue Reading →