Archive | Education reporting

Florida schools roundup: Recess, charters, alternative schools and more

Recess bill advances: A bill requiring mandatory daily recess of at least 20 minutes for all Florida K-5 students passes the state Senate Education Committee. Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said the bill showed “the power of advocacy, of parents” who pushed legislators to act when local school boards would not. The bill now goes to the Senate PreK-12 Appropriations Committee for consideration. Miami HeraldAssociated PressFlorida Politics.

Charter facilities funding: The Senate Education Committee approves a bill that would send a proportional share of a district’s property tax revenue to charter schools based on enrollment, with more money attached for those schools that have large low-income or special needs populations. But a second bill that would have increase districts’ local tax authority is delayed. Supporters say the measures need to move forward together to allow districts to catch up on construction that’s been backlogged since the recession. redefinED. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Hidden dropouts: Alternative schools increasingly are being used by public schools as places to hide struggling, problem students who might otherwise drag down a school’s graduation rate, test scores and grade, according to an investigation by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism website. The Orange County School District is one of 83 U.S. school districts that bumped its graduate rate by at least a percentage point between 2010 and 2014 by sending an increasing number of students into alternative schools. ProPublica.

Florida 4th in AP: Florida ranks fourth in the nation in the percentage of students taking and passing at least one Advanced Placement course, according to the College Board, the organization that runs the AP program. In Florida’s class of 2016, 29.5 percent passed at least one AP exam. That’s over the national average of 21.9 percent and 11 percentage points better than 10 years ago. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Evaluations, recess, discipline, LGBT sign and more

Teacher evaluations: About 98 percent of the teachers evaluated in Florida during the 2015-2016 school year were rated either “highly effective” or “effective,” according to the Department of Education. Less than 1 percent of the state’s teachers got an “unsatisfactory” rating, and only 1.2 percent were rated “needs improvement.” The numbers have shown little change over the past few years. Evaluations are used by districts for raises and contract renewals, and by the state for determining eligibility for teacher bonuses. Okaloosa County was tops in the state with 97.6 percent of its teachers graded as highly effective, while Putnam County was lowest with just 1 percent. Gradebook.

Daily recess: A survey by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability reveals significant differences in how school districts offer recess, how often and for how long. Only 11 districts have some recess policy, and only eight of those made daily recess a requirement. Supporters of legislation to make daily recess mandatory in all Florida elementary schools argue the results show the need for statewide legislation, instead of allowing individual districts, schools or even teachers decide. Miami Herald.

Discipline disparity: Black students are twice as likely to be expelled as other children, four times more likely to be suspended and almost three times more likely to be arrested, according to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. And children with disabilities, especially black students with disabilities, are more likely to be disciplined than those without disabilities. Florida is below the national average in arrests and expulsions, higher in referrals and about the same on suspensions. WTVJ.

LGBT sign stays: A Milton High School junior will be allowed to keep a “So gay I can’t even drive straight” sticker in her car window. Rachel Campbell was cited by a school police officer for the sign, calling it a violation of a school policy prohibiting “offensive or obscene” tags or stickers. Campbell said she wouldn’t remove it, and now principal Tim Short says it can stay. Northwest Florida Daily News. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Less money for school recognition, testing and more

Recognition money: The Florida Department of Education is handing out 36 percent less recognition money to schools this year. Last year, 1,673 schools received $134.58 million. This year, 1,226 schools are getting $85.7 million. State officials say the decline is due to the number of schools with A grades falling from 1,184 to 754. Officials attribute to decline to harder Florida Standards Assessments tests and higher standards for individual school grading. Florida Times-Union.

Testing cutbacks: Another bill is filed in the Florida Senate that would push most state-mandated testing to the end of the school year, but this one also calls for an end to five specific exams, state oversight of teacher evaluations and the rules that tie teacher evaluations to student test scores. It also wants a written alternative to computers and allow districts to use national tests like the ACT or SAT instead of the 10th-grade language arts section of the Florida Standards Assessments. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, would kill the ninth-grade language arts Florida Standards Assessments test and end-of-course exams in Algebra 2, civics, geometry and U.S. history. Orlando Sentinel.

House vs. feds: The Florida House Education Committee will consider a resolution Tuesday that asks Congress to “end all current, and prohibit any further, interference by the United States Department of Education with respect to public school governance.” The resolution also asks Congress to turn Title 1 funding for low-income children and IDEA Part B funding for disabled students into block grants controlled by the states. Gradebook.

Teacher evaluations: There are more than 2,800 teachers in the Manatee County School District, and only three received unsatisfactory evaluations. Two others were told they needed to improve. “Highly effective” was the evaluation 48.1 percent of the teachers received. Fifty percent were judged to be “effective” and 8 percent weren’t evaluated at all, according to Florida Department of Education statistics. Teachers with highly effective ratings in other state districts ranged from 97 percent in Okaloosa County to 6 percent in Putnam County. Teachers suggest the disparity in the numbers points to the pointlessness of the evaluation process. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Testing reform, funding, incentives and more

Testing reforms: Under the proposed “Fewer, Better Tests” bills filed Wednesday in the Legislature, all K-12 assessment testing would take place in the final three weeks of the school year, starting in the 2017-2018. S.B. 926 and H.B. 773 would also require results be returned to teachers within a week of testing, and that an understandable report be sent to parents. It also directs the education commissioner to study the feasibility of replacing the Florida Standards Assessments with the SAT or ACT. If the changes are approved, the state would also have to renegotiate its contract with testing vendor American Institutes for Research. Bill sponsors Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah; and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, say the goal of the bills is to reduce stress and anxiety among students, parents and teachers. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida.

Per-student funding: Florida’s spending per student ranks well below the U.S. average among states, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics. In the 2013-2014 school year, Florida spent $8,714 per student. The U.S. average was $10,936. Miami-Dade County spent the most per student among districts, $9,106. Gradebook.

Teaching incentives: Senators on the Florida PreK-12 education budget committee react coolly to Gov. Rick Scott’s $58 million proposal for incentives to recruit and retain teachers. Specifically, senators criticized Scott’s proposal for $10 million in hiring bonuses for new teachers who score in the top 10 percent in their subject-area exam. “It concerns me that we continue to look for the best performers in college — and not the best teachers,” said Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze. Miami Herald.

Gun-free zones: Bills filed in the Legislature this week are aimed at ending gun-free zones in Florida – including at K-12 schools. Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R-Villages, filed S.B. 908 and H.B. 803 to eliminate all restrictions on where people with concealed-carry permits can take their guns. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Bonuses, achievement gap, arrests and more

florida-roundup-logoTeacher bonuses program: The chairman of the Florida Senate K-12 education appropriations subcommittee says he wants to rewrite the bill authorizing teacher bonuses. Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would remove the use of teachers’ SAT or ACT scores from the formula for granting bonuses and replace it with a different measure of performance. He also said principals could get more authority in parceling out bonuses, and bonuses could be used to get better teachers to work in poorer schools. Officials hope these and other reforms will help recruit and retain teachers. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-SentinelGradebook. Politico Florida. WFSU.

Achievement gap: Two Polk County legislators file bills that would approve a study to find out why the state’s middle schools are performing significantly worse than elementary schools in reading and math. The bills are S.B. 360, filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and H.B. 293, filed by Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland. Bridge to Tomorrow.

School arrests: Nearly 70,000 U.S. students were arrested in the 2013-2014 school year, and in 43 states and the District of Columbia black students were arrested at disproportionately high levels, according to an Education Week analysis of federal data. Florida was 11th in the number of arrests, with 1,768. About 39 percent of the arrests were of black students, who made up just under 23 percent of the student population. Education Week.

Unequal treatment? An assistant principal who was demoted when she became pregnant in 2010, then won a $350,000 settlement against the Palm Beach County School District, questions why the man who demoted her was never disciplined, reprimanded or even investigated by the school district. Anne Williams Dorsey says the continued employment of Darren Edgecomb, now principal of Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington, “raises eyebrows, to put it politely.” Palm Beach Post. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Budget priorities, a teacher’s ‘Oscar’ and more

florida-roundup-logoBudget priorities: Preliminary education budget numbers from the Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee include a big bump for student uniforms and a big cut in teacher bonuses. The optional districtwide K-8 student uniforms program is budgeted for $14 million, up from $3.75 million a year ago. The Best and Brightest teacher bonuses program, which received $48 million last year, is tentatively budgeted for $13.95 million. Subcommittee chairman Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, has told committee members that millions of dollars need to be cut from the budget for schools, and that no program should be considered off-limits. Gradebook.

A teacher’s Oscar: Lukas Hefty, the magnet program coordinator at Douglas L. Jamerson Elementary in St. Petersburg, is one of 35 U.S. educators to win a 2016-17 Milken Educator Award, which is often called the “Oscars of Teaching.” Hefty is the only educator from Florida selected. He wins $25,000 and will attend a Milken educator forum in New Orleans in March. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF.

False addresses: An investigation reveals that 97 addresses given by Calusa Elementary School parents and guardians are questionable and need to be checked further. About 370 students are scheduled to be rezoned out of Calusa’s boundaries to ease overcrowding, and many parents have long suspected that some students are there because they use false addresses. The Palm Beach County School District has not said what its next step will be. Sun-Sentinel.

District rezoning: Almost 1,000 students in Seminole County will change schools in August to relieve overcrowding at six elementary schools: Highlands, Keeth, Lake Mary, Layer, Winter Springs and Woodlands. Public hearings on the boundary changes are Tuesday and Jan. 24. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Construction, autonomy, gifted program and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool construction: K-12 schools and colleges and universities will be competing for school construction money during the next legislative session, which begins in March. Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, says higher education is a top priority, but it’s unclear how much money will be available and how it will be shared. Orlando Sentinel.

Principal program: The Florida Board of Education expects to detail the rules outlining the autonomy principals will be given in turning around struggling schools. The pilot project could be rolled out in seven districts: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Duval, Jefferson, Madison and Seminole counties. The board meets Jan. 17. Gradebook.

Gifted programs expand: In the past three years, the Seminole County School District has doubled the number of black, Hispanic, English-learning and low-income youngsters in its gifted program. Orlando Sentinel.

Middling grades: Florida is given a C grade, slightly below the U.S. average, in the annual Quality Counts report from Education Week’s Research Center. Florida’s score was 72.5, while the U.S. average was 74.2. The grades are calculated from a success index, spending on education, spending equity across state districts and an achievement index. Massachusetts is the top state with a score of 86.5 and a grade of B. Education Week. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Education bills, sexually abusive teachers and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation legislation: About a dozen education-related bills have already been filed for the next session of the Legislature, which begins in March. Among them: an end to in-state college tuition for immigrant students who don’t have full legal status, a requirement of 20 minutes of recess a day for elementary students, a rework of the teacher bonuses program, allowing computer coding to satisfy foreign language requirements, and allowing people to bring guns on college campuses. Sun-Sentinel.

Sexually abusive teachers: A publishing company’s year-long investigation finds that 100 teachers who sexually abused students are continuing to work in U.S. classrooms because schools are covering up evidence and keeping allegations secret. The investigation also rated the states on teacher background checks. Florida received a grade of C, rating highly for making information on teacher discipline available online and for its strong mandatory reporting of teacher misconduct, but lower on the state’s screening system and on sharing information about teacher misconduct with other states. USA Today.

New superintendent: The Lake County School Board hires Diane Kornegay as its new superintendent. Kornegay, who is deputy superintendent at the Clay County School District, was the clear favorite of the board and the only one of the six finalists to be asked back for a second round of interviews. She will replace the retiring Susan Moxley. Kornegay will be paid $196,000, but she can make up to $34,000 more in incentives for student performance. Daily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →