Fla. Hope Scholarship program begins with funding delay

By Lloyd Dunkelberger

News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Board of Education next week is expected to approve a rule outlining how a new scholarship program for bullied students will work.

But while the Hope Scholarship program, approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year, begins with the new school year, there will not be any funds for the program until sometime after Oct. 1.

The delayed funding for the scholarships may lead to an uneven start for the program, which will allow students who are victims of bullying or other types of harassment to use the scholarships to attend private schools or to transfer to another public school. Continue Reading →


RedefinED is looking for a new editor

As readers will learn in more detail on Friday, redefinED editor Travis Pillow, an education journalist extraordinaire, is leaving Florida and this blog to set up shop in another hotbed of educational innovation – New Orleans. (Okay, so there’s also an amazing woman, who happens to be an enormously talented educator and Travis’ new fiancée, who provides an even more powerful draw.)

We’d like to think there is another Travis out there somewhere, perhaps even among our audience. So we steal a piece of the blog this morning to advertise ourselves. The position of editor is open, and we are accepting applications.

RedefinED is a seven-year-old education blog with what we view as a national footprint in the arena of school choice. The editor is in charge of all operations of the blog and related social media, including planning, writing, editing and execution of the daily output. In that role, the editor oversees the work of three staff members, including a writer, social media specialist and a part-time daily roundup editor. We seek someone with seasoned writing, editing, interviewing, research and organizational skills and a broad knowledge of education issues. She or he must have a bachelor’s degree in journalism or related field and at least five years of related experience or equivalent combination of education and experience. The blog is published by Step Up For Students, a nonprofit that helps administer four state-authorized scholarship programs in Florida, and we would prefer the editor be based in our administrative headquarters in St. Petersburg.

Those who are interested can apply online here.


The charter school turnaround that may not have been

A small, single-gender charter school in Bradenton, Fla. is celebrating a remarkable turnaround. In two years’ time, Visible Men Academy has improved its state letter grade from an F to an A.

The school’s improvement caught the attention of a local TV news station.

[T]wo years ago, the school switched to i-Ready: a widely-used learning program for Florida testing. Almost instantly, the growth parents were already seeing inside the classrooms was reflected outside on test scores, going from an F to a C last year, and another two-grade jump to an A in 2017-18.

“They are the most supportive people in this universe, that would help you out anywhere, anytime, any place,” says Breyon Peterson about faculty. Breyon has attended VMA since kindergarten, and will start 5th grade next year.

“My grandson went to local camp for the last two weeks, and halfway through the second week, he said when can I go back to school,” says Leesa Holmes, who chose VMA so her grandson would have male role models.

In addition to the work of its teachers, the school may have benefitted from a fortuitous bit of timing.

Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charter school funding and more

Charter funding fairness. Emboldened by a new legal opinion that rebuts an Indian River County judge’s ruling in favor of charter schools, the Palm Beach County School Board may exclude charters from a proposed tax referendum, after previously thinking about including them. Palm Beach Post.

School security. Broward school officials can’t figure out how Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz slipped through the cracks when he should have been participating in a behavior intervention program. Sun-Sentinel. An investigative panel is set to receive a briefing on his mental health history. News Service of Florida. Armed officers on campus have become the new normal. Florida Phoenix.

Career prep. Collier County schools get a $3 million grant to boost a manufacturing program. Naples Daily News.

Census fears. A Miami-Dade school board member worries fears of federal immigration enforcement could lead to an inaccurate population count. WLRN.

Continue Reading →


Palm Beach personalized learning program gives students ownership

Students in Geniel Joseph’s fourth-grade Accelerated Math class are performing exceedingly well on FSA’s.

Students were asked to solve the multiplication problem 24 times 36 in Geniel Joseph’s fourth-grade Accelerated Math class in Palm Beach County, Fla.

Joseph wrote on the wipe board one way they could solve it: by breaking apart 36 into 30-plus-six and 20-plus-four.

Then, she said, they could use the distributive property to multiply 30 times 20 and 30 times 4, and then 6 times 20 and 6 times 4 to get the answer.

She then stepped away from the wipe board and asked students to discuss among themselves how best to come to the answer.

Instead of choosing the method Joseph modeled, students began thinking of other ways that they could come to the answer.

One student theorized that instead of breaking apart the 20 and 4, they can focus on adding two 10s plus 4.

Joseph remained available if students needed help, but she urged them to find the answer on their own. And the students found many ways to solve the math problem with their classmates’ help. They explored their own methods to reach solutions to complex problems. In the process, they took ownership of their learning.

School officials in Palm Beach are learning that when they give students choice, students become animated and focused. At schools like Seminole Trails Elementary, where Joseph teaches, they often excel academically. The district’s new accelerated math program gives them the freedom to decide how they will solve math problems. It also lets them pick up the pace, so they’re constantly doing challenging work.

The hope is that eventually, they’ll complete more than a year’s worth of math coursework in a year’s time, setting them up to take algebra classes in middle school, and, if they’re up for it, multiple years of college-level math in high school. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charter school turnaround, Sisters recognized and more

Historical recognition. The Sisters of St. Joseph, a group of Catholic nuns who took on a racist establishment and discriminatory education laws to help educate descendants of freed slaves in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, receive recognition from the Daughters of the American Revolution. St. Augustine Record.

Visible gains. Visible Men Academy, a single-gender charter school targeting economically disadvantaged youth, describes its remarkable improvement from an F to an A in the state’s grading system over a two-year span. WWSB.

Battling back. A Sarasota high school student recovers from a traumatic brain injury caused by a freak accident during dance practice. Classmates and teachers at her public school, which features a unique performing arts program, have rallied around her. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teachers unions. As teachers unions take the state to court over HB 7055, some, like the Leon County Classroom Teachers Association, are pushing to boost dues-paying membership levels above 50 percent. WFSU. There isn’t much money in the budget for raises, but Pasco County’s teachers union holds out hope as labor talks with the school district begin. Gradebook.

Crowding. Palm Beach County wants to build new schools to relieve crowded campuses in fast-growing areas of the district. State officials won’t let them, saying other schools in the district have ample space for students. Palm Beach Post. Rapid growth could soon turn a Lee County high school into a “mega-school.” Fort Myers News-Press. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Civics, algebra, animal cruelty and more

Civics testing. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart concludes Florida school districts did not break the law when they shifted state civics test-takers from seventh grade to eighth grade, and that their moves were “educationally sound.” Orlando Sentinel. Sarasota-Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. Florida Times-Union. Gradebook.

Bullying. A mother’s secret recording catches a teacher calling a kindergarten student a “loser.” Miami Herald.

Low bar? Students may pass Florida’s mandatory Algebra I assessment, but still not be ready to do algebra on a college level. Florida Phoenix.

Animal cruelty. Lawyers specializing in animal issues criticize a decision not to prosecute a teacher who drowned mammals in front of his students. Citrus County Chronicle.

Early learning. Tougher tests lead to lower statewide ratings of kindergarten readiness. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Security, summer jobs, civics tests and more

School security. Some Palm Beach County officers still live on K-12 school campuses, part of a decades-old program intended to prevent vandalism. That could soon change. Palm Beach Post. Miami-Dade County Public Schools swear in a diverse crop of new cops to protect classrooms. WLRN. Plenty of applicants show interest in joining the state’s Guardian program to protect Brevard County Schools. But the district says they won’t be ready to go by the time school starts. Florida Today.

Civics tests. Lawmakers and district officials debate shifts that caused some middle school students to take civics tests later in their academic careers, boosting some schools’ A-F letter grades.  Orlando Sentinel.

Summer jobs. A Miami program connects students in the Overtown neighborhood with work opportunities. Miami Herald.

Elections. A survey of “influencers” suggests teacher pay is a top issue. Miami Herald.

Continue Reading →