Archive | Magnet schools

Florida schools roundup: Online education, PreK, charters and more

florida-roundup-logoMore on budget: An item in Gov. Rick Scott’s budget would eliminate restrictions on students’ eligibility for online classes. Right now, students in grades 2-5 cannot take virtual courses part-time, and students in middle and high schools can take select virtual courses only if they were in a public schools the year before. redefinED. Scott’s budget also includes $50 per student more for Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program, boosting it to an average of $2,487. That’s still below the 2005 total of $2,500, and is far below the national average of $4,520. Orlando Sentinel.

Money for charters: Senate Education Appropriations chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, files a pair of bills that would create a consistent revenue stream to charter schools for construction and maintenance. S.B. 604 would allow districts to boost the property tax rate from a maximum of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.70. And S.B. 376 would funnel some of that money to qualifying charter schools. Gradebook.

Trafficking education: A bill is filed in the Legislature that would include instruction on the dangers of human trafficking in Florida schools’ health education curriculum. Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says he got the idea for the bill, S.B. 286, from a high school student. WFSU.

School leasing: Palm Beach County School Board members express reservations about leasing a high school rather than building one and owning it, and decide to schedule a workshop to discuss the proposal further. Board members are open to the idea of a private-public partnership to get a high school built in Boynton Beach, but would want the district to eventually own it. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Extra pay, middle school marriage and more

florida-roundup-logoPayment questioned: A Broward County School District audit reveals that the district paid a former district police employee about $23,000 over her approved salary in 2015. Jillian Haring was a special assistant to the district police chief, making $60,664. But she was also being paid for other duties that the district did not need, according to the audit. Haring now works in the district’s special education department. Sun-Sentinel.

Middle school marriage: The Bonita Middle School student had an arranged marriage at 13 and was a mother at 14. Now she’s 20, and her 31-year-old husband has been arrested and faces charges of lewd and lascivious behavior. And Lee County school officials are left to wonder how the situation could have gone unnoticed for so long. Fort Myers News-Press.

School choice: At its quarterly meeting, the Florida NAACP debates the role of charter schools. The national NAACP recently passed a resolution calling for “a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.” But there is dissent in the ranks about the issue. WOFL. redefinED.

Magnet programs: While Alachua County’s magnet school programs offer great opportunities for high-achieving students, critics say there are too many barriers for entry for students of different academic backgrounds. School officials say they are working hard to identify and encourage students of all backgrounds to apply. Gainesville Sun.

Legislative priorities: Common Ground, a group of organizations that has called for the end of Common Core standards, now says it wants the Legislature to end the Common Core-aligned Florida Standards Assessments in both English and math. Sunshine State News.

Religion in schools: State Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, writes on her Facebook page that the motivation for filing a bill to protect religious expression in schools is to get prayer back in schools. Daniels is a minister and founder of Kimberly Daniels Ministries International. Florida Politics. Continue Reading →


Florida district officials talk school choice

Parents and students want options. And, increasingly, Florida school districts are finding ways to offer them. That was the message officials from two large districts brought to state House panel looking at all the state’s forms of school choice.

Marc Mora

Marc Mora explains Lee County’s school choice programs to the Florida House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee.

Marc Mora is chief of staff at the Lee County School district, which has operated an open enrollment program for 20 years. The district is divided into three geographic zones, and assigns families to schools in a lottery. The system is designed to let families choose their schools, and ensure they get an option reasonably close to home. Mora said 82 percent of families get their first choice of school, and 96 percent get one of their top three.

“We know that parents desire a choice of schools, to see a list, to be able to visit during these open-house periods, to meet with the principals, to take a tour, to see what the students and teachers are doing,” he said, adding: “We encourage parents to go out to the schools and check them out, because … every school is unique, and there’s a fit for every student.”

Since it was first created 20 years ago, Lee County’s open enrollment system has helped solve other problems, from helping the district comply with court-ordered desegregation to eliminating the need for endless boundary changes to accommodate constant influxes of new students in fast-growing Southwest Florida.

Open enrollment systems like Lee’s are expanding statewide under a new state law that districts are starting to implement. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Choice growth, open enrollment, new bills and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool choice growth: More than 1.6 million Florida preK-12 children enrolled in school choice programs during the 2015-2016 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education. That’s an increase of more than 74,000 over the previous year, and it accounts for 45 percent of all Florida students. Choice and magnet programs now have 287,568 students, open enrollment has 280,134 and charter schools 270,301. redefinED.

Open enrollment: School districts in central Florida are beginning to implement the open enrollment law passed by the Legislature last year. Under the law, students may attend any public school in the state that has vacancies for them. More than 1,000 parents in Osceola County have already applied for a transfer. Lake County parents can apply Feb. 1, and Orange, Seminole and Volusia will soon follow. Orlando Sentinel. Hundreds of Lee County students apply to change schools in the first day under open enrollment. A lottery and available space will decide assignments. Fort Myers News-Press. The Volusia County School Board will review changes the district must make to bring it into compliance with the state’s open enrollment law. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Citizenship education: In addition to giving students more school choice, Florida House education leaders want them to learn how to become good citizens. “The purpose of education goes to the meaning of man. You want to raise up a great citizen,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, speaking on the Florida Channel. Corcoran also said students get “a well-rounded, think-outside-the-box education,” which would help them become good citizens, parents and employees, no matter what job they pursue. Orlando Sentinel.

Education bills: A House bill that would prohibit religious discrimination in schools now has a Senate companion bill. Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, filed S.B. 436. The House bill was filed by Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. A bill is filed by Rep. Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte, that would bar school districts from offering annual contract renewal guarantees to teachers who are rated as “highly effective” or “effective.” Gradebook. A higher education bill that would broaden Bright Futures scholarships passes in the Florida Senate Education Committee. Florida Politics. Associated PressNews Service of Florida. WFSU. Continue Reading →

School choice growth accelerates in Florida; 1.6 million students choose


The changes in Florida’s educational landscape show no signs of slowing.

On the contrary, more than 1.6 million preK-12 students enrolled in school choice programs during the 2015-16 school year. School choice enrollment increased by more than 74,000 – nearly the same amount as the previous two years combined, according to an analysis of Florida Department of Education data.

Although 45 percent of all preK-12 students in Florida choose schools outside their neighborhood zones, the two most widely used forms of choice are offered by public school districts.  

Enrollment in choice and magnet programs increased dramatically, taking the top spot from open enrollment. Charter schools grew by 19,000 students and are vying with magnets to become the most popular public-school option. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Education bills, absentee students, homeless and more

florida-roundup-logoLegislative bills: More education bills are filed for consideration in this year’s legislative session, which begins in March. Among them are a bill to require Bright Futures recipients to do community service to renew their scholarships, have the Florida Department of Education commission a study of other states with high-performing middle school students in reading and math, and an expansion of charter schools’ ability to enter into financial arrangements. Politico FloridaGradebook.

Absentee students: Almost 13 percent of Pinellas County students miss 21 or more days of school every year, well above the state average of 9.7 percent and highest among the state’s largest school districts. The numbers prompted the district to launch an attendance awareness campaign, and officials say the early results are promising. Tampa Bay Times.

Homeless students: The number of homeless students in St. Johns County is rising. School officials blame damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in October. There are almost 700 homeless now, and district officials expect to end the school year with more than last year’s 807. St. Augustine Record.

Magnet process: Two Marion County magnet elementary schools will begin filling seats through a lottery system, school officials announce. Admission to Dr. N.H. Jones Elementary School and Madison Street Academy had been determined by test scores and race. School officials are changing the process to meet state and federal requirements. Ocala Star Banner.

Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Testing, Bright Futures, teacher absences and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool testing: After a hearing Wednesday, leaders of the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee say they expect to present a bill this legislative session that will cut down on student testing. “I think that what you’re hearing is that there is a complete consensus among the senators on this committee that there is some common ground that can be reached so we get back to a sense of sanity in this,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. School superintendents also asked the committee to return to paper-and-pencil testing, arguing that computer-based testing is too expensive and time-consuming; to allow nationally recognized tests like the PSAT, ACT and SAT to stand in for some state tests; and to give school districts leeway to set up their own evaluation systems for teachers. Sun-Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. WFSU. Politico Florida. Sun-Sentinel. Tallahassee DemocratNews Service of Florida.

Bright Futures: The Florida Senate releases its plan to revise higher education, and one of the key points is an expansion of Bright Futures scholarships. The proposal would increase the scholarships to include all tuition and fees, plus $300 for books per semester. And those who receive the scholarships would be able to use them for summer classes. The estimated cost is $151 million. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. SaintPetersburgBlog.

Teacher absences: Duval County has one of the highest teacher absence rates in Florida and in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. More than half of Duval’s teachers miss two or more weeks during the 2013-2014 school year – almost twice the national average of 27 percent and well above Florida’s rate of 39 percent. Florida Times-Union.

Financial progress: The state auditor general’s three-year audit of the Manatee County School District’s finances shows far fewer problems than the district had in 2014. This audit found just nine operational problems compared to 32 in 2014. And there were no financial findings this time, compared with nine three years ago. “Where we were three years ago was close to an F, so we are getting closer to an A,” said audit committee chairman Joseph Blitzko. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Turnarounds, bonuses, choice, discipline and more

florida-roundup-logoTurnaround concerns: A battle is developing between state and local education officials over control of schools. The Department of Education has been actively intervening to turn around low-performing schools, sometimes requiring schools replace principals and teacher. That puts the state “on the verge of overstepping their authority,” says Bill Husfelt, Bay County superintendent. “Tallahassee talks about the federal government and the control they have, and then the state turns around and does the same thing to local institutions.” Politico Florida. Principals at three struggling Palm Beach County schools are getting more money and more authority to turn around their schools under a new state program that will measure whether cutting bureaucracy leads to better student performance. Sun-Sentinel.

Teacher bonuses: The governor and members of the Florida Senate and House have all signaled an interest in reworking the bonuses program for the state’s teachers. The current law gives up to $10,000 to teachers who are rated highly effective and scored in the top 20 percent on their SAT or ACT tests. The Florida Board of Education is pushing for a $43 million bonus program that would “support bonuses for new teachers who show great potential for and veteran teachers who have demonstrated the highest student academic growth among their peers.” News Service of Florida.

School choice: Parents in Palm Beach County have reversed a trend of choosing charter schools over the district’s public schools. Three years ago, charter schools added 4,100 students while public school enrollment declined by 700. This year, district schools have added 2,436 students, and charter schools just 330. Palm Beach Post.

Discipline disparity: Black students were suspended at three times the rate of white students during the 2015-2016 school year in Manatee County, according to the school district’s records. Black students make up about 14 percent of the district’s enrollment, but drew 33 percent of the out-of-school suspensions. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →