Florida schools roundup: Guns and recess in schools, new leader and more

florida-roundup-logoGuns, recess in schools: A majority of Floridians support trained staff carrying guns in schools, and an overwhelmingly number back a requirement of 20 minutes of daily recess for elementary students, according to a USF-Nielsen Sunshine State survey. Villages-News. Politico Florida. Sunshine State News. WJXT. News Service of Florida.

New superintendent: Todd Bowden, the 45-year-old executive director of Career, Technical and Adult Education for Sarasota County and director of Suncoast Technical College, is chosen to be Sarasota County’s next school superintendent. He will succeed Lori White, who is retiring in February. The school board preferred Bowden to Brennan Asplen III, the superintendent for Academic and Student Services in St. Johns County, and Mark Porter, superintendent in Monroe County. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald.

Board squabbles: The Duval County School Board’s discussion of disappointing test results by the district’s International Baccalaureate classes students turns angry, with a 20-minute recess called to break up the shouting. Several members say the poor test results at non-magnet IB programs could be a result of inexperienced teachers, while others think the board is making excuses for the poor results. At one point, board member Becki Couch told fellow member Cheryl Grymes to quit staring at her. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher complaints: Broward County teachers tell the school board that they are overworked and bullied. Teachers made the appearance to protest the district’s $300,000 proposal to buy software that will train them on a new instructional method. The program is voluntary, but teachers worry it will be made mandatory. Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →


When school closures work, and when they don’t

Closing a school can tear the fabric of a community, create job insecurity for educators and force families to make tough decisions about what’s next for their children.

But if it’s done the right way, it can help students get significantly better results.

A new study of closures and charter school takeovers in Louisiana suggests minimizing harm and instability for students might be among the keys to making these extreme measures work.

Perhaps even more crucially, it suggests officials should close schools for poor academic results, not other bureaucratic or budgetary reasons, and that school systems need to ensure affected students actually wind up in better schools.

The study, released this week by Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance, found closing low-performing schools, or turning them over to new charter operators, was tied to a whopping 20 percentage-point jump in graduation rates for New Orleans students (although the effect on college-going was close to zero).

Affected students also saw significant improvements in test scores.

"Intervention" students - those affected by closures or charter takeovers - saw test score gains over time.

“Intervention” students – those affected by closures or charter takeovers – saw test score gains over time. Chart via ERA NOLA.

The research alliance has been probing the results of the sweeping education reforms enacted in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Its findings have shown that converting the city’s schools to a nearly all-charter system, importing teachers from around the country, and drawing a massive infusion of philanthropic donations led to substantial improvements in student results.

Its latest study suggests closures and charter takeovers of low-performing schools were a big part of that story, accounting for somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of the overall improvement in New Orleans public schools. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Florida grad rate lags, legislative leaders and more

florida-roundup-logoGraduation rates: Florida had the eighth-worst graduation rate among U.S. states and the District of Columbia in 2015, according to the White House. The state’s rate was 77.9 percent, its best ever but far behind the national average of 83.2 percent. The rate is measured by the percentage of students who graduate within four years after starting ninth grade. Orlando Sentinel.

Education leaders: New leaders for the Florida Senate and House mean new appointments after the election for legislators who will help set education policy. Here are some of the candidates to push education bills when the Legislature convenes in March. School recess, testing and choice are expected to be hot topics. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent search: The Sarasota County School Board is weighing the recorded opinions of the community as it prepares to select a new superintendent at today’s meeting. The finalists are Todd Bowden, the executive director of Career, Technical and Adult Education for the district; Brennan Asplen III, St. Johns County deputy superintendent; and Mark Porter, Monroe County superintendent. Superintendent Lori White is retiring in February. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Continue Reading →


Survey: Millennials more likely to support educational choice

Members of the generation that arguably has the most at stake in today’s education debate may also be the most likely to support various forms of school choice.

That’s the takeaway from a recent survey by EdChoice. It found millennials (which it defines as adults ages 18-35) are more likely than older generations to support private school vouchers, tax credit scholarships and education savings accounts. They may also be slightly more likely to support charter schools, but the generational divide there is not statistically significant.

EdChoice, previously known as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, oversampled millennials in the latest version of its annual “Schooling in America Survey,” talking to more than 500.

Millennials are more likely than older generations to support educational options. Source: EdChoice.

Millennials are more likely than older generations to support educational options. Source: EdChoice, “Millennial Perspectives.”

Continue Reading →


The week in school choice: Consent of the governed

On Saturday, the NAACP’s board approved its resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools.

Here’s a worthwhile response from Charles Cole, III:

I am a member of the NAACP and contrary to many other black folks; I do have a profound respect for them and what they are meant to stand for. My letter to you is not an entryway or access point for non-Blacks to use to attack the NAACP. My blackness just won’t allow that. Think of this as a family meeting where we have some things to address amongst ourselves. I am not interested in watching Black leaders eviscerate each other at the entertainment of other folks.

This Education Next forum on race and ed reform sheds light on the bigger question of whether the movement has credibility in the communities it serves. Here are some highlights.

Chris Stewart:

Conservatives think it’s a problem to include social justice issues in the reform movement, because it threatens to splinter coalitions by introducing divisive racial and social issues. But ground-level reformers who engage in communities have discovered an important truth: the next wave of school reform won’t succeed without bottom-up consent of the governed, and that isn’t possible without a transformative focus on social justice.

And the kicker:

If there is any real threat to education reform it isn’t the inclusion of advocates who believe deeply in social justice, it’s the inability of cultural fundamentalists to realize there is no future in their own supremacy.

Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Early degrees, tweeting, job security, charters and more

florida-roundup-logoEarly degrees: About eight Florida Atlantic University High School students finish high school with a bachelor’s degree each year. The Boca Raton school is believed to be the only one in the United States where students can earn a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree at the same time. Associated Press.

Tweet trouble: The Miami-Dade Schools Police Department wants to be more active on Twitter. So a half-dozen people in the department were given the account password and encouraged to tweet. Now the department is having to explain why it’s published tweets from Donald Trump criticizing President Obama’s Cuba policies, promoting National Drink Beer Day and wondering if marijuana oil is the female Viagra. Miami Herald.

Teacher job security: Thirty-eight school districts in Florida are finding ways to provide job security for teachers that disappeared when Gov. Rick Scott signed a law eliminating tenure in 2011. Pinellas County plans to join that group this week when teachers vote on a proposal to ensure contract renewal for teachers rated effective or highly effective. Tampa Bay Times.

Anti-charter: The NAACP board approves a resolution calling for a calling for a “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.” The civil rights organization has long been an opponent of charter schools, arguing that they represent a privatization of public education. redefinED.

Graduation rates: U.S. high school graduation rates hit a record 83.2 percent in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the White House. Associated Press. Continue Reading →


NAACP board approves anti-charter school resolution

Despite a full-court press from charter school supporters, the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People approved a resolution on Saturday that calls for halting the growth of charters.

The move reaffirms the civil rights organization’s longstanding positions, spelled out in a 2014 resolution decrying “privatization” in public education. But it also goes a step further, calling for a “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.”

A press release published after the vote said the NAACP’s call for a moratorium would remain in place until:

(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

Charter school backers showed up in Cincinnati to explain the benefits of independent public schools, and USA Today reported that about 140 demonstrators organized by the group Memphis Lift rode buses from Tenessee to protest the vote.

“We have charter schools that are good,” Memphis Lift organizer Sarah Carpenter, a grandmother of 13, said during the protest at Fountain Square. “We are not against public schools. We want good schools of any type. Where was the NAACP when so many public schools were failing our children?”

Continue Reading →


Charter school backers will weigh in before NAACP board vote

A debate over charter schools has split civil rights advocates. Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue.

A debate over charter schools has split civil rights advocates. Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue.

Late last month, a host of charter school supporters — from former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige to school choice luminary Howard Fuller — wrote the NAACP asking to meet with its board before Saturday’s expected vote on a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools.

That meeting never happened.

Still, many of their allies plan to gather in Cincinnati to highlight the benefits of charter schools tomorrow morning. And they’ve invited NAACP board members to hear their case before they vote later in the day.

Charter school backers, many of whom align with the 107-year-old organization on issues outside of school choice, have launched a full-court press in response to a proposed resolution that would toughen the NAACP’s anti-charter stance, in what’s become a major front in a larger battle that has divided civil rights activists. Continue Reading →