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Florida schools roundup: Teacher tests, minorities in AP classes and more

Teacher tests: The Florida Department of Education says a historically high percentage of people who want to be teachers are failing the Florida Teacher Certification Exam, which was recently toughened by the state. And now fewer people are taking the test, as many as 10 percent fewer for some subject areas. “We have a real crisis,” said Dr. Gloria Pelaez, St. Thomas University dean of the school of arts. “This is turning people, good intelligent people away,” said Wendy Mungillo of the Manatee County School District. Melissa Smith, for example. She’s taken and failed the test seven times, and has decided to leave the state and get a master’s degree. Department of Education officials defend the tougher exams, saying they’re in line with more rigorous tests students now take. WFTS.

Minorities and AP classes: A Palm Beach County School District analysis shows an “implicit bias” is in part responsible for lower minority participation in Advanced Placement classes. Minority students with comparable scores to white students are excluded from AP classes at a much higher rate than whites. That so-called “opportunity gap” also favors girls over boys, according to the analysis. “Students who have potential, why are they not in the courses?” Deputy Superintendent David Christiansen said. “There’s a significant gap there that we want to start to close.” Palm Beach Post.

Days lost to testing: Orange County teacher Peggy Dominguez tells a Senate committee meeting this week that she loses 37 days of her 180-day school year to preparing her students for the Florida Standards Assessments tests. Dominguez teaches English at Timber Creek High School. She and others testified about the downsides of the testing process. The Senate is considering a bill that would, among other things, push all testing to the final three weeks of the school year and authorize a study to see if the ACT or SAT tests can be used as a replacement for the FSA. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Education budget boost, teacher shortage and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation budget: The Florida Board of Education is requesting that the state increase per-pupil spending from $7,183 this year to $7,359 next year, with the overall budget increasing about 3.4 percent to $20.9 billion. The proposal would kill the current teachers bonuses program and create a new $43 million plan, and boost funding for Bright Futures scholarships by $29 million. If approved at today’s meeting, the request goes to Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature. News Service of Florida.

Teachers needed: More than a month after school has started, several central Florida school districts are still trying to fill almost 100 open teaching positions. Orange County has 62 openings, Lake 22 and Seminole 11. Orlando Sentinel.

Cash gift for teachers: The mayor of Parkland wants to give $25,000 of the city’s money to give to teachers as a gift. With matching grants, the gift money could grow to $45,000. Sun-Sentinel.

School grades: Some Florida schools improve their grades from the state after appealing the grades they were originally given. Gradebook. Virtual schools in Florida are among those to receive final letter grades from the state. redefinED. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: charter schools, testing glitches, STEM & more

Charter schools. The abrupt closing of Acclaim Academy charter schools in Duval and Orange shows again that charter school reform is long overdue, writes the Miami Herald’s Fred Grimm.

florida-roundup-logoSchool choice. Tampa Bay Times takes a shot at charter schools and private schools in an editorial panning Gov. Scott’s proposal for profit-sharing among hospitals.

Standardized testing. Glitches, again. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa TribuneMiami Herald. Orlando SentinelGradebook. SchoolZone. The Citrus school board weighs in. Gradebook.

STEM. Black students continue to earn a smaller and smaller percentage of science and engineering degrees in Florida universities. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Rick Scott. Study hard to get out of poverty, he tells students at a Volusia high school. Daytona Beach News Journal.

Superintendents. Exit interview with Manatee’s outgoing super. Bradenton Herald. A look at Manatee’s interim. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald Tribune.

School spending. Pinellas explores options for self insurance. Gradebook. The Miami-Dade school board considers what to do with 10 acres of prime real estate. Miami Herald. The Leon school district’s legal tab in several matters is approaching $400,000. Tallahassee Democrat.

School fighting. City officials in Cutler Bay are concerned about 188 reports of fighting at a local middle school, the highest in the state. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: School choice politics, magnet schools, testing & more

Tax credit scholarships. The Florida teachers union may have cost Democrat Charlie Crist the governor’s race by filing suit against the tax credit scholarship program and alienating black voters, writes Lloyd Brown at Sunshine State News. (The school choice program is administered by nonprofits such as Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.)

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools. Pasco begins taking applications Dec. 1 for its first magnet school. Gradebook.

Charter schools. Nearly 50 have shut down in South Florida in the past five years. NBC 6.

Testing. State Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, files a bill to limit to 10 the number of days districts can set aside for standardized testing. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher conduct. A former high school band director in Osceola is arrested for reportedly having sexual relationships with two students. Orlando Sentinel.

Campus crime. A second Sarasota County student is arrested for operating a prostitution ring involving students. Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Students with disabilities. River Ridge High in Pasco offers a club that fosters friendships between students with disabilities and students without disabilities. Tampa Bay Times.

Science. Middle school students in Miami-Dade show off science and innovation skills by designing new shoes. Miami Herald.

Middle schools. Duval looks for ways to boost the performance of its middle school students, among the most struggling in the state. Florida Times Union.

Florida schools roundup: Charters, magnets, Common Core & more

Charter schools: The Legislature considers proposals that would make it easier for the nontraditional public schools to open and provide more oversight. Sun Sentinel. Renaissance Charter Inc., one of the largest charter school operators in the country, is growing in North Florida despite a mixed record of achievement. Florida Times-Union. Lawmakers look at changes to the charter school process, including state review of applications. The Tampa Tribune.

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools: Turning three Polk County schools into magnet schools next fall leaves some students traveling farther to a new school. The Ledger.

Same-sex schools: WLRN in Miami looks at the latest legislative proposal to create more single-gender classrooms in Florida.

Teachers: In a year when Florida’s public school teachers are getting substantial raises, substitutes will see no bump in their paychecks. Orlando Sentinel.

School safety: St. Lucie County School District students will see new deputies in their schools, thanks to a national grant allowing the school resource officer program to expand. TC Palm. School mental health workers grapple with the best way to offer students such services in a patchwork, underfunded system. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Common Core: Republican Party of Florida activists vote  to oppose the Common Core education standards in a sign of growing anger over the national school benchmarks. News Service of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott says the state will unveil its revisions to the standards next week. News Service of Florida. More from The Florida Current.

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redefinED roundup: War on school choice in NY, charter school performance in WI and OH and more

MondayRoundUp_redAlabama: More than 50 students take advantage of the new accountability law which allows students to access scholarships to attend private schools (WSFA).

Arizona: The BASIS Tucson North charter school is one of the best schools in the U.S. and the world (Education Next).

Colorado: Candidates for an open seat on the Denver school board debate last week, with one arguing that school choice harms public schools and the other saying public schools need to have the same freedoms as schools of choice (Ed News Colorado). More than 300 people protested against Douglas County school board policies including teacher evaluations and vouchers (Denver Post).

Florida: Gov. Rick Scott presents Shine Awards for excellent teaching to several private school teachers and principals, including individuals representing schools accepting Step Up For Students tax credit scholarships (Gov. Scott press release). (Step Up co-hosts this blog.)

Georgia: The Georgia Supreme Court rules charter schools do not have to help pay off district schools accumulated pension debt (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Idaho: Terry Ryan, head of the Idaho Charter School Network, wants to make Idaho the leader of rural charter school education (Idaho Press).

Indiana: A new law prohibits school districts from turning away transfer students for any reason other than capacity. As a result of not being allowed to “cherry-pick” students, some school districts are halting their open enrollment policy (Associated Press). Indiana’s voucher program received 20,000 applications from prospective students (Indiana Public Media). State Sen. Vaneta Becker blames school choice as one of the causes for rural county budget problems (Tri State Media). Continue Reading →

redefinED roundup: Louisiana vouchers under fire, charter school performance in Tennessee, Florida Virtual cuts & more

MondayRoundUp_goldAlabama: The Rev. H.K. Matthews, a civil rights icon now living in Alabama, says school choice is an extension of the civil rights movement (

Colorado: The Douglas County School District offers private school vouchers for students but some residents, policymakers and journalists can’t see anything but conspiracy theories (Our Lone Tree News). Fifteen new charter schools open statewide for the 2013-14 school year (The Gazette).

Connecticut: State Superintendent of Schools William McKersie wants public school choice and more digital learning for students (Greenwich Post).

Florida: Education leaders urge the governor to overhaul the school grading system again (which also applies to charter schools) (Tampa Bay Times). Florida Virtual School is facing hard times as program revenue drops 20 percent (Education Week). Charter schools are under scrutiny from the Department of Education after a ban on charging additional fees and requiring volunteer hours from parents (Tampa Bay Times).

Louisiana: The U.S. Department of Justice files suit to block the state’s new school choice program, arguing it violates court ordered desegregation (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Advocate). The Black Alliance for Educational Options and Gov. Bobby Jindal both say the scholarship program provides a vehicle for low-income students to escape failing schools and that the Justice Department should drop the lawsuit (Education Week, Huffington Post, Weekly Standard). The Washington Post editorial board calls the DOJ lawsuit “appalling” (Washington Post). “Course choice” is underway in Louisiana (Education Week).

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redefinED roundup: School choice polls, lawsuits in Alabama & Louisiana, bipartisanship in Kentucky & more

MondayRoundUp_magenta Alabama: The Southern Poverty Law Center is suing to block the new school choice law under equal protections grounds (, NPR, Times Daily, US News and World Report). Essentially, they’re arguing that if you can’t help every child, you shouldn’t help any child (HT to Jason Bedrick).

Florida: Step Up for Students, which administers Florida’s education tax-credit scholarship program, received a $1 million donation from WellCare Health Plans, Inc. The contribution will fund 198 scholarships this school year (PRWeb).

Kentucky: U.S. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) appeared at an event with the Black Alliance for Education Options and Democrats for Education Reform to promote school choice and charter schools (Huffington Post, Education Week).

Louisiana: Education leaders in Baton Rouge are reviewing applications from charter schools to see who might be eligible to use some of the $16 million available for capital and start-up costs (The Advocate). The U.S. Justice Department is trying to stop vouchers from being offered in any school district still under court ordered desegregation (Associated Press, Times-Picayune, The Advocate).

Massachusetts: School choice students in the Berlin-Boylston area won’t be getting bus rides to school anymore (The Telegram).

Minnesota: Charter schools are feeling more pressure to participate in accountability rating systems (Hechinger Report). Continue Reading →