Archive | Religious education

Catching up on nationwide private school enrollment trends

The U.S. Department of Education is out this week with a new report on private school data from across the country. The last such data came out two years ago. Here’s what the numbers from the 2015-16 school year show.

Enrollment in private schools continued to decline. And yet, there were more private schools and more private school teachers.

Between 2013 and 2015, the number of students fell 9 percent, to 4,903,596.

But the number of teachers rose about nine percent, to 481,558.

Meanwhile, the number of schools jumped by nearly 1,000, to 34,576.

This factoid might be related. In the fall of 2013, roughly 36 percent of private schools had fewer than 50 students. Two years later, 46 percent of private schools were in that category.

Enrollment in faith-based schools is still falling. It dropped by just over 6 percent from the fall of 2013 to 2015. But enrollment in “nonsectarian” schools is falling faster. It dropped by more than 18 percent during the same period.

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Siblings from Argentina adjust and thrive thanks to school choice scholarships

In a three-year span, Mariel Ubfal’s world fell apart. Her husband died. She moved her family to the United States. Then she watched as her children struggled in school.

The move from Argentina to America came in 2008, three years after Mariel’s husband died from cancer. At the time, all four of her children were under the age of 10. “Leaving was not easy,” Mariel said. “But I knew this was the right decision for my kids.”

Starting over wasn’t easy, either.

Being unemployed and underemployed for the first few years, Mariel struggled to pay bills and, at times, even to feed her kids. As if that wasn’t enough, her children began having behavioral and academic issues in their neighborhood schools – something that never happened in Argentina.

After moving to Miami from Argentina, the Mohadeb kids — Agustin, Barbara, Matias, and Sebastian — attended Hebrew Academy in Miami on Florida tax credit scholarships.

Troubles first hit her three eldest – Matias, Agustin, and Barbara Mohadeb.

Matias hated school because he struggled learning a new language. In eighth grade, he earned D’s and F’s and routinely got into fights. Agustin was held back in sixth grade for poor academics. Barbara failed fifth grade because she did not speak the language.

Mariel felt desperate. She called the school and tried setting up meetings with her sons’ teachers, but that proved difficult.

“Maybe it was the language barrier, I’m not sure, but I wasn’t able to help my kids succeed at their local school,” she said.

Mariel searched for a better option and found a school that felt like home, but couldn’t afford the tuition. Then a friend told her about the Florida tax credit scholarships. (Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps provide the scholarships to more than 100,000 low-income and working-lcass students.)

It was “the answer to my prayers,” she said.

In 2010, Matias, then 15, and Agustin, then 13, began ninth and seventh grade respectively at Hebrew Academy.

The school is smaller and more family-oriented than their previous schools, Mariel said, and its teachers are more accessible to parents. The curriculum is rigorous and the school has high expectation for student academics and parental involvement, she said.

Progress didn’t happen immediately. Matias’s behavior was terrible in the beginning. At one point, he refused to go to his new school, and Mariel couldn’t get him out of bed. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, funding formula, tax holiday and more

Teacher pay: Teachers at Memorial Middle School in Orlando will be paid $20,000 more this year as the Orange County School District tries to entice top teachers to turn around the persistently low-performing school. If a state grant can’t be obtained, the district will cover the extra costs. Officials say teachers at five other struggling schools also would get the extra pay if the district gets the grant. Only teachers rated effective or highly effective are eligible for the extra pay, and they’ll have to work an extra 30 minutes a day. Orlando Sentinel. Florida ranks 43rd among states and U.S. territories in average teacher pay at $47,256, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2016. The only states with lower pay than Florida are Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Alaska is No. 1 at $74,122. Tallahassee Democrat.

Funding formula fight: Volusia County School Board chairwoman Melody Johnson makes a personal appeal to the Pasco County School Board to join the fight against the state’s district cost differential (DCD) portion of the school funding formula. She says 55 of the state’s 67 counties have lost money to the DCD, which gives urban districts more money to cover the higher costs of living. Johnson says Pasco has lost $53 million since 2003. Pasco board members asked Superintendent Kurt Browning to investigate and make a recommendation. Gradebook.

Back to school: The back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The National Retail Federation says the average family with children in K-12 schools spends $687 on clothes and school supplies. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State NewsLakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Keynoter. WFLA. WTSP. Florida schools open soon, and some new laws focused on school traffic are in effect. Palm Beach Post. Do school dress codes discriminate against girls? WFSU.

School branding: In an era of school choice, school branding is becoming increasingly important, say some school officials. Education Dive.

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U.S. Supreme Court gives legs to anti-Blaine Amendment crusade

Speculation swirled after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Missouri could not exclude private religious schools from a playground grant program.

Did justices signal they set their sights on a legal obstacle to school vouchers? Even informed legal scholars disagreed.

But the high court sent a much clearer signal this morning.

Justices granted a petition by the Douglas County, Colo. school board. The school district wanted the high court to review a ruling that hobbled its local voucher program. State courts argued vouchers violate the Blaine Amendment in Colorado’s constitution, which bars public funding of religious institutions. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Special session, testing, prayer case and more

Special session: A proposal to change the way K-12 schools are funded fails in the Senate, and the chamber appears to be closer to agreeing to the House’s spending plan for K-12 education. But the special session could collapse over a dispute about spending for higher education. Speaker Richard Corcoran says the House will not join the Senate in overriding Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of about $75 million in projects for colleges and universities, as Senate President Joe Negron has demanded. His escalating feud with Negron over education priorities and the agreement Scott and Corcoran reached last week is threatening to sink the special session. Today is the final scheduled day. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay TimesPolitico FloridaMiami Herald. News Service of Florida. Palm Beach PostFlorida Politics. Gradebook. redefinED. Sunshine State NewsPolitico Florida.

State testing results: Florida sophomores post a 62 percent pass rate on the Florida Standards Assessments algebra 1 exam, up 7 percentage points over last year’s performance, say Florida Department of Education officials. There was no change in the 50 percent pass rate on the language arts exams. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Department of Education. WJXTHere are reports on testing results, and potential effects of those results, from districts and schools around the state. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-UnionGradebook. GradebookBradenton Herald. Fort Myers News-Press. Gainesville SunOcala Star Banner. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. TCPalm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Flagler Live. Panama City News Herald. WFLAOnly 11 percent of Florida’s high school seniors who had to retake the algebra 1 end-of-course test passed it, according to the Florida Department of Education. GradebookPolitico Florida.

Prayer court decision: A federal judge rules against a Tampa Christian school that claimed its free speech rights were violated when the Florida High School Athletic Association did not allow it to broadcast a prayer before a football game. The FHSAA denied Cambridge Christian School’s request to use a stadium loudspeaker for a prayer before a state championship football game in 2015, saying allowing it would have implied an endorsement of the message. The federal judge’s decision concluding the school had no right to broadcast the prayer concurred with the recommendation from a magistrate judge in February. News Service of Florida. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Veto override, special session bickering and more

Education bill: The Florida Senate votes to override Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of the K-12 education bill. Senate Appropriations chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, says the vote is “an insurance policy” to keep schools operating after June 30 in case no agreement can be reached on education spending during the special session. That seems increasingly possible, as Senate and House leaders continue to bicker over details of the bill and other issues. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. News Service of FloridaFlorida Politics. Miami Herald. Associated PressPolitico Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, proposes using $215 million earmarked in H.B. 7069 for teacher bonuses and charter schools to increase funding for public schools. Miami HeraldPolitico Florida. redefinED. School officials in Volusia, Flagler, Lee and Levy counties like some aspects of the education bill, but are urging Gov. Scott to veto it primarily because of the additional money that would go to charter schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Fort Myers News-Press. Cedar Key Beacon. Manatee County school officials worry about the education bill’s restrictions on how districts can spend federal Title I money. Bradenton Herald.

Early-release days: Brevard County school officials want to move early-release days from Wednesdays to Fridays. They say the proposal would help students who are dual-enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, which doesn’t hold classes on Fridays. The district and the teachers union must agree on the proposed change. Florida Today. WKMG.

Ex-principal defended: Pinellas County School Board member Linda Lerner defends a principal who made racially charged comments and has since retired. Lerner says Christine Hoffman, formerly the principal at the mostly black Campbell Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg, made a mistake by telling the staff working on student class assignments that the school’s “white students should be in the same class.” Lerner said: “Sometimes white people say something racially insensitive. … One mistake should not ruin a career.” Gradebook. Continue Reading →

Private schools enroll ‘the historically un-favored’

Private school leaders (Gant, second from left and Grammer, first from right) talk including at the American Federation for Children gathering.

From think tank reports to protests that greeted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in Indianapolis, a common thread binds many of the most stringent objections to vouchers and other school choice programs.

The arguments go something like this. Private schools don’t serve all students. They exclude vulnerable students. They contribute to racial segregation, and, in the wake of Brown v. Board, hatched voucher-like programs to evade integration.

Leaders of private schools that have begun to enroll tens of thousands of students who use vouchers to pay tuition see things differently. Most private school choice programs are aimed either at low-income students or those with special needs. Turning to these programs to boost enrollment has prompted some private schools to re-examine their identities as exclusive institutions.

“We’re in a new phase,” Vernard Gant, director of the ACE Student Success Center with the Association of Christian Schools international, said during a panel discussion hosted by the American Federation for Children. “Most of the growth that we’re now seeing in the Christian school movement is now happening among this very diverse student population.” Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Budget fight, choice, top teachers and more

Budget battle: Gov. Rick Scott again hints that he’s considering vetoing the $83 billion state budget, calling it the result of “backroom deals.” “I am beginning to review the budget and I have the option of vetoing the entire budget or vetoing the items that circumvented the transparent process and do not have an acceptable return on investment for hardworking taxpayers,” said Scott. Governors often use line-item vetoes, but not since Lawton Chiles in 1992 has a governor vetoed the entire budget. Scott began signing bills Tuesday. Palm Beach Post. Tampa Bay Times. WFSU. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham calls the budget “education-eviscerating,” and she joins school districts and officials in calling on Scott to veto it. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. Florida PoliticsLakeland Ledger. Gradebook. Here are nine ways Florida schools will change if the education bill is signed into law. Tampa Bay Times. Several legislators missed the vote on the education bill because they were eating lunch or using the bathroom. Miami Herald.

School choice bills: School choice was a winner in this year’s legislative session. Among the bills passed were financial incentives to attract charter schools, more money for tax credit scholarships, broadened eligibility for scholarship money students with disabilities, and money to charters for construction. redefinED. WFSU.

Other education bills: Among the less-noticed education bills that were passed during this legislative session were measures to expand scholarship programs for low-income students and those with disabilities, a state study of best practices for middle schools, and rules allowing parents and community members to challenge classroom textbooks and materials. Some that didn’t pass include an attempt to allow computer coding class to be counted as a foreign language requirement, a move to bring minimum teacher salaries to the national average, and a bill to end mandatory retention of third-graders based on state reading tests. Gradebook. Lake County School Board members express disappointment that the Legislature didn’t provide more relief from standardized testing. Daily Commercial.

Budget-cutting: Changes in the way the state distributes federal Title I funds will force Duval County school officials to cut deeper than they’d like in programs at their high-poverty schools. Previously, the funds came into the district, which could then decide where best to spend the money. Under the education bill passed by the Legislature, the money will be spread around to more schools and go directly to the schools. Florida Times-Union. Volusia County school officials say they have a $7 million gap between expected revenue and expenses for the 2017-2018 school year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. School officials in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties say they expect to cut 5 percent out of their budgets because of the education bill. WEAR.

Teachers honored: The Department of Education names two of the five finalists for the 2018 Florida teacher of the year award. Tammy Jerkins, a pre-calculus teacher at Leesburg High School, and Michael Miller, a fifth-grade teacher at Kissimmee Elementary School, each were awarded $5,000. The winner will be announced July 13. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial. Continue Reading →