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Florida schools roundup: Reading tests, achievement plan, budgets and more

Reading test results: About 90 percent of the state’s high school seniors who had to retake the Florida Standards Assessments language arts test have failed, according to the Florida Department of Education. Last year the number was 84 percent. Students must pass the test to be eligible to receive a diploma. The nearly 16,000 who failed this year can keep retaking the test until they post a passing score. Gradebook.

Achievement plan approved: The Pinellas County School Board approves a plan to eliminate or greatly narrow the achievement gap between white and black students within 10 years. The plan, worked out between the school district and the Concerned Organization of the Quality Education of Black Students, will also settle a long-running lawsuit over the education of black students by the district. The agreement addresses graduation, student achievement, advanced coursework, student discipline, identification for special education and gifted programs and minority hiring. District officials also have committed to providing quarterly progress reports and responding in a more timely manner with reliable information. Tampa Bay Times.

Education bill: More reaction from various groups, education officials and politicians on the Legislature’s education bill, which has yet to be sent to Gov. Rick Scott for consideration. Once it lands on Scott’s desk, he’ll have 15 days to act. Gradebook. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. Miami Herald.

Trump’s education budget: President Trump’s proposed budget would boost programs of school choice, especially charter schools, and cut spending for special education, teacher development, after-school programs and career and technical education. Associated PressEducation Week. NPR. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: School choice, education bill, test scores and more

School choice: In a speech Monday night, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says President Trump will offer the “most ambitious expansion of education choice in our nation’s history.” DeVos did not offer details, other than saying states would not be forced to participate. “Our cause is both right and just,” DeVos said. “You and I know the fight will not be easy. The opponents of modernizing our education system will pull out all the stops. They will not go quietly into the night.” Washington Post. Education Week.

Education bill: Broward County teachers join other school officials and education leaders in urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto the education bill, saying the bill will hurt the district’s ability to recruit and retain quality teachers. Sun Sentinel. News Service of Florida.

Reading test scores: Third-graders in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties show improvement on the Florida Standards Assessments reading tests. In Santa Rosa, 74 percent scored at Level 3 or high, an increase from 70 percent last year. In Escambia, 59 percent were at Level 3 or higher, up from 50 percent last year. Pensacola News Journal. Fifty-three percent of Polk County’s third-graders scored at Level 3 or higher in the state reading test, up from 51 percent last year. Lakeland Ledger. Martin, Indian River and St. Lucie counties all had more third-graders reading at grade level or above than they did a year ago. TCPalm. Marion County third-graders improve their reading scores by 5 percentage points over last year. Ocala Star Banner.

Muslim school security: Studies show that Muslim students are increasingly being bullied in public schools. A 2016 Council on American-Islamic Relations report identifies “209 incidents of anti-Muslim bias, including harassment, intimidation, and violence targeting students,” and a 2015 report concluded that “55 percent of Muslim students aged (11 to 18) reported being subject to some form of bullying because of their faith.” For many parents, the solution is sending their children to Islamic schools. redefinED. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Reading test scores, achievement plan and more

Third-grade reading results: Eighty-one percent of the state’s third-graders posted passing scores on the Florida Standards Assessments reading exam this year, according to the Florida Department of Education. Fifty-eight percent of students scored at Level 3 or high, meaning they met grade-level expectations, which is an increase from 54 percent last year. The 19 percent who scored at Level 1 – about 43,300 students – face retention if they can’t pass an alternate test or demonstrate proficiency through a portfolio of classroom work. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-UnionSarasota Herald-Tribune. Space Coast Daily. Brevard Times. Bradenton Herald. Associated PressNews Service of Florida.

New achievement plan: An agreement is reached on a 10-year plan to eliminate or greatly narrow the achievement gap between white and black students in Pinellas County. The Concerned Organization for the Quality Education of Black Students had been suing the Pinellas County School District, alleging that it was shortchanging black students throughout the educational process. The agreement, reached Friday, addresses the lingering issues on graduation, student achievement, advanced coursework, student discipline, identification for special education and gifted programs and minority hiring. District officials have committed to providing quarterly progress reports and responding in a more timely manner with reliable information. Both sides are calling the agreement a “turning point” for the district. Tampa Bay Times.

From high school to med school: Four graduates of Florida Atlantic University High School have been admitted directly into the FAU College of Medicine. The four students will begin training as doctors in 2018 and be eligible for residency at age 22 or 23. It’s believed to be the only program of its kind in the United States. FAU High is a school where students can earn high school and college credits at the same time. Sun Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Education bill, Bright Futures, testing, recess and more

Education bill: The Florida Association of School Boards has already urged Gov. Rick Scott to veto the Legislature’s education bill, H.B. 7069. Now the group says it wants Scott to also veto the proposed Florida Education Fund Program, which sets per-student spending. The board says 90 percent of the the $240 million increase in the program will go for school enrollment growth and increased retirement plan contributions, and what is left is not enough to “adequately serve our students.” Gradebook. News Service of Florida. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, praises Rep. Roy Hardemon, D-Miami, for being the only Democrat in the Legislature to vote for the education bill. Miami Herald.

Bright Futures: The boost in money for Bright Futures scholarship winners in the education bill would expand the program significantly, but it also renews concerns about fairness in who qualifies. In 2015, about 51,200 students were eligible. Less than 4 percent were black, and 20 percent were Hispanic. “When you pour most of your money into your top-tier scholarship, you are giving that money to upper-middle-class white kids,” says Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy organization. Tampa Bay Times.

Certification tests defended: Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says the state’s teacher certification exams are useful and appropriate, despite failure rates of 30 percent on some portions and the escalating costs to the test-takers. “We have a lot of research that shows the exams are not flawed,” said Stewart. “I think it’s a reflection of we’ve raised standards for students and, consequently, we need to raise standards for teachers and make sure that they are experts in the content area that they’re teaching.” WFTS.

Daily recess: All public K-5 elementary school students in Marion County will get 20 minutes of recess every day, starting in the fall. Superintendent Heidi Maier made recess an issue in her campaign for the job last fall, and in following through, she wrote: “It is the right thing to do. We have the research which shows recess is needed for kids to retain information.” Ocala Star Banner. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Education bill, interim superintendent and more

Education bill: A national school choice group is urging Gov. Rick Scott to sign H.B. 7069. The Center for Education Reform, based in Washington, D.C., says the Legislature’s education bill would “help successful charter schools to grow and to serve more low-income students” and “ensure equitable distribution of Title I funds.” The bill would give charter schools a share of local property taxes, offer financial incentives for charter companies to start schools in areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools, and more. Miami Herald. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says he hopes the governor doesn’t veto the education bill. Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, who helped put together the bill, is urging Scott to read the bill, independent from misleading “rhetoric” critics have used, before making a decision. Miami Herald. More local districts, political leaders and groups are urging Scott to veto the bill. Sun SentinelOrlando Sentinel. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. Port St. Joe Star. Associated PressCreative Loafing Tampa.

Interim superintendent: The Duval County School Board chooses Patricia Willis to be interim superintendent. Willis is a former Duval deputy superintendent who retired in 2012. She takes over for Nikolai Vitti, whose last day is Friday, and will be paid $22,916 a month through Jan. 31, 2018, if necessary. Florida Times-Union. WJAX.

State of the schools: In her annual state of the schools speech, Orange County School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins says two of the biggest issues the district faces are the rapid growth of student enrollment and the shortage of teachers. WFTV.

Testing troubles: Pasco County students are not doing well in district-designed course finals, and teacher say the reason is that the tests do not reflect what the students have learned this year. The district is calling for a deeper look at the criticism to see if a new approach is warranted. Gradebook. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Education bill, superintendent contracts and more

Education bill: State Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, appears before the Florida Board of Education to promote the education bill passed by the Legislature, saying legislators were trying to find ways to “consistently close the achievement gap” and “erase the negative effects of poverty.” Board member Andy Tuck pointed out that 18 counties, including some of the poorest in the state, will receive less money for education next year than they got this year. Gradebook. Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, also appearing at the state board meeting, says he, his school board and the state superintendents association are”vehemently, strongly … advocating for a veto of HB 7069.” Politico Florida. redefinED. The Florida School Board Association, which represents 64 of the state’s 67 school boards, is the latest organization to urge Gov. Rick Scott to veto the Legislature’s education bill. In a letter to Scott, the association calls the bill “substantially flawed and unworthy of your approval to be enacted into law.” Miami Herald. News Service of FloridaFlorida Politics. Associated Press. WMNF. More local school leaders urge a veto of the education bill. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Citrus County Chronicle.

Philosophical fight: Whether Gov. Scott vetoes the education bill or not, the philosophical battle over who control the state’s public schools is likely to continue. redefinED.

Eakins declines raise: Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins turns down a proposed 3 percent raise from the school board, which extended his contract by three years. He will get a $2,000 bonus on top of his $225,000 salary if the district’s graduation rate improves. “My bonus is going to be when every student, every teacher, every employee becomes successful,” Eakins told the board. Tampa Bay Times.

New superintendents: In a 4-1 vote, the Alachua County School Board selects deputy superintendent Karen Clarke as the new school superintendent. Clarke has been with the district since 1992. Contract negotiations begin today, with an advertised contract range between $160,000 and $180,000. Gainesville Sun. The Flagler County School Board approves a three-year contract at $135,000 a year for new superintendent James Tager. Flagler Live. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Education bill, teacher certification, aid and more

Education bill: Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t announced whether he intends to veto all or parts of the budget or education bills, but some Republicans close to him think he will veto the education bill to force the Legislature to renegotiate education spending and cuts made in tourism marketing. Politico Florida. More educators from around the state are urging Scott to veto the education and budget bills. Miami HeraldOrlando SentinelDaily Commercial. Public News Service. WTVJ.

Teacher certification: The Florida Department of Education’s proposed changes in teacher certification are being put on hold at least until the 2018-2019 school year. Implementing the changes for next school year could have put hundreds of teachers into the “out of field” category. The delay allows districts time to help those teachers qualify for “subject matter expert” certification. Gradebook.

Financial aid boost: State and federal governments have approved increases in financial aid for students going to or already in college. At the state level, the Legislature bumped up the funds available for the Bright Futures Scholarships, and students can now use them for summer classes. Pell grants for college students will also be available for the first time for summer classes. News Service of Florida.

Interim superintendent: The Duval County School Board cuts a potential field of interim superintendents from seven to three, and will conduct interviews Wednesday. Those being considered are Earl Lennard, who was Hillsborough County superintendent from 1996-2005; Pearl Roziers, assistant superintendent in Duval and head of the district’s school choice program; and Patricia Willis, who was a Duval deputy superintendent from 2007-2012. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti leaves next week to become head of the Detroit school system. Florida Times-UnionWJXT. WKOV. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Selling the bill, Title I troubles, a top teacher and more

Selling the bill: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, posts a cartoon on YouTube to explain and defend the education bill that was passed last week. Corcoran calls it “#toontruth for anyone who likes the truth in animated video format.” Orlando Sentinel. How the education bills passed in Tallahassee on recess, testing and charter schools could affect St. Johns County schools. St. Augustine Record. Teacher bonuses would be smaller and many more teachers would earn them under the new education bill. Bridge to Tomorrow. The school choice movement is breaking into two camps: one that wants to use choice to improve public schools, and one that wants greatly expand choice by using tax money. Associated Press.

Title I, Medicaid concerns: The Legislature’s decision to distribute federal Title I funding directly to schools and spread it to more schools could have devastating long-term effects on poor students, say district officials. Districts will be forced to cut special programs for low-income students, including after-school and summer school, or shift money from other programs to make up the difference. “A number of our community members and parents are aware of the services we provide in our 63 Title I schools,” said Felita Grant, Title I director for Pinellas County schools. “It would be a shock to them, if this bill goes through, the number of services we would have to cut back on.” Tampa Bay Times. School districts around the country say proposed cuts in the Medicaid program will have a significant impact in schools. Associated Press.

Teachers honored: Diego Fuentes, who teaches music to students with severe disabilities at the Hillcrest School in Ocala, is chosen as one of five finalists for the Department of Education’s 2018 Florida teacher of the year award. Fuentes was awarded $5,000. The winner will be announced July 13. Ocala Star Banner. Palm Beach County’s teacher of the year and school-related employee of the year are surprised with free, two-year leases of BMWs. Palm Beach Post.

Teaching incentives: Experienced teachers are being offered up to $70,000 in incentive pay over three years to work at struggling Carver Middle School in Orlando. More than 100 teachers have already applied, school officials say. Those hired will get an extra $20,000 for the 2017-2018 school year, and $25,000 in each of the next two years. Carver has received two Fs and a D in school grades in the past three years, and nearly 80 percent of its students failed their Florida Standards Assessment exams. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →