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Charter school couldn’t change Zoe’s past, but it changed her future

Zoe Jenkins hasn’t seen her mother or father in person in years. But a few months ago, she saw her father on TV. On a crime show. The 18-year-old was watching “Live PD,” a popular A&E program that follows police officers from around the country, often during nighttime patrols. This episode was being shot in Moon Lake, a blighted, crime-ridden community in Pasco County, Florida. The camera zoomed in on a man being questioned by officers. It was her dad, about to do meth in a car, with her brother in the passenger seat. “I had to do a double take,” Zoe said....

Top teacher: Education can be a tool for social justice

AUSTIN, Tex. - Sydney Chaffee has taught her students about apartheid in South Africa. But students simply do not take notes and answer questions. They probe deep questions about morality and justice. “My students draw comparisons between South African kids’ activities and their own power and promise as young people," said Chaffee, the 2017 National Teacher of the Year. “They debate whether they would be willing to risk their lives to ensure future generations can live in a more just world.” Chaffee, a humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Boston, was one of the main speakers at the closing session...

This California district has the mastery-based learning approach some Florida schools want

A school district in Central California is making the kind of changes some Florida schools hope to make – if the law would allow them. The Lindsay Unified School District has made changes allowing students to advance at their own pace. They can choose what areas they want to focus on. Once a student masters a standard they can proceed to the next level. Proposed legislation would have allowed Florida public schools to start replacing conventional A-F grades with a new “mastery-based” system, and given them more flexibility to award course credit based on students’ mastery of the content, rather than...

Peace, love & accountability

The idea of accountability through school choice isn't new. School choice liberals strongly backed the idea a half century ago.

Montana moms get their day in court

Shortly after Montana created its first tax credit scholarship, Mike Kadas, head of the state's Department of Revenue, unilaterally declared that scholarships could not be used at religious private schools. Kadas argued the state's Blaine Amendment, a 19th century relic of Catholic discrimination, barred "direct or indirect" appropriations to religious organizations. School choice moms struck back with a lawsuit claiming religious discrimination. “The rule also violates both the state and federal Constitutions because it allows scholarship recipients to attend any private school except religious ones,” Erica Smith, an attorney with the institute, said in a press release at the time. “That’s...

Florida charter schools win in court

A court ruling this week could lift a cloud over key portions of House Speaker Richard Corcoran's initiative to lure more nationally recognized charter school operators to Florida. Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper upheld all the parts of last year's House bill 7069 that 13 school districts had tried to challenge in court. Among other things, that means charter schools will keep the power to form their own local education agencies and receive federal funding directly. Designated "Schools of Hope" will be able to open with a streamlined application process, and the Legislature will keep its authority to require school...

Education bill leaves questions unanswered on dual enrollment costs for private schools

Mark Heller’s hands were tied. The head of a private college preparatory school in north Tampa wanted to allow many of his students to dual-enroll in a course at a nearby college. But he knew the school could not absorb the costs. “We couldn’t approve it,” he said. “You start getting 10 or 15 students, and you are talking" tens of thousands of dollars. A change in the law in 2013 shifted the cost of dual enrollment programs from colleges to school districts. But it did not address private schools, meaning many of them now must absorb the cost of college courses...

What’s next for personalized learning in Florida after legislation dies

A bill’s death in the waning days of Florida’s legislative session could slow the progress several public schools are making to help students learn at their own pace. The legislation would have allowed districts leading Florida's foray into "mastery-based" learning to start replacing conventional A-F grades with a new grading system based on students' mastery of standards. However, an influential Senate committee chair slowed the bill's progress, and dealt it a death blow during the session's final week. At the same time, supporters say misunderstandings about the bill and its intent caused the measure to lose support. P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School is...