Archive | School Choice

Florida schools roundup: Rules for scholarships, special session and more

Scholarship rules: The Florida Department of education proposes rules for two new state scholarships. A one-page set of rules is proposed to determine eligibility for bullied students to receive state scholarships to attend new schools. The Hope Scholarship would be available for students who report being bullied or attacked. If they win approval, students could take the scholarship money and enroll in a private school or use it for transportation to another public school. A requirement that families substantiate the incident for which they are seeking a voucher has been removed. The other scholarship provides tutoring help for struggling elementary school readers. The Florida Board of Education has a public workshop June 6 to discuss the rules. Gradebook. Politico Florida.

Special session polling: Early polling results show a lack of support among legislators to call a special session to deal with education funding, according to Department of State officials. As of late Monday afternoon, 27 Florida House members supported a special session, while 36 opposed. Seven senators back the move, and six do not. Three-fifths of each chamber must support the request, made by two Democratic representatives, in order for a special session to be called. That means 70 yes votes in the House and 23 in the Senate. Polling ends Thursday at noon. News Service of Florida.

Virtual teachers out: Twelve out-of-state Florida Virtual School (FLVS) teachers and support staff were dismissed Friday. FLVS officials announced earlier this month that they intended to bring all jobs back into Florida, and gave 33 out-of-state employees a few days to decide if they would relocate. FLVS spokeswoman Tania Clow says some employees “decided to relocate, others retired and others took positions with FLVS Global.” WKMG. A technical glitch takes FLVS offline for hours on Monday. WKMG. Continue Reading →


School choice bookshelf: Intellectual help is on the way

Two new books lend intellectual heft to the idea that families are the primary educators of children. Photo via Neeta Lind.

I finished a couple of books that bear upon the fate of the ordinary family in its hope to maintain authority over its own affairs, and specifically the governance of its children.

Herewith, a brief report.

Professor Melissa Moschella’s book asks the right question: To Whom Do Children Belong? Parental Rights, Civic Education and Children’s Autonomy. (Cambridge U. Press) The author is a philosopher in the natural law tradition. I have read some of her previous work and can, with great confidence report that she is a master of the Aristotelian-Thomistic approach to ethics, private and public.

Her book proceeds from a lesson or two in the method, gradually to a description of the problem and on to the solution. If nature is the method, the problem is the corruption of what is nature by society’s and government’s collision against the authority of the parent, and (most flagrantly that) the ordinary and low-income family. The primary scene of the crime is conscription of the child for the school called “public” and for a message that is predictable only in its exclusion of anything transcendental. Its effect on the child, the parent and society in quite predictable. The experience of responsibility is left to both parent and child, all to injury of a society drifting toward sheer confusion in our common life and in what is supposed to be home sweet home. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Superintendent named, tests, 47 cents, appeal and more

New superintendent: Diana Greene is chosen as the new superintendent of the Duval County School System. Greene, who has been superintendent of the Manatee County district since 2015, was unanimously approved by the school board. She replaces Nikolai Vitti, who left last summer to take the top job in Detroit. Greene started her teaching career in Duval before moving into administration. At Manatee, she is credited with turning around a difficult financial situation while improving student achievement. In Duval, Greene will immediately have to contend with a $62 million budget deficit. Greene’s start date and salary have yet to be negotiated. Florida Times-Union. WJXTBradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Smooth testing season: Florida Standards Assessments testing ended last week, and Florida Department of Education officials say there were few reports of problems with the test. Students took 4.2 million computerized tests and another 1.2 million with paper and pencil, and the only issues reported were local Internet and power outages. Results are expected in June. Gradebook.

Ad rebuts 47-cent claim: Florida House Republican leaders are fighting back against the claim by educators that the Legislature’s funding for schools amounts to just 47 more cents for each student. Calling it the “47 cent myth,” the lawmakers contend in a 5-minute online ad that they bumped per-student spending by $101.50, an all-time high, and that they put requirements on some of the increases to stop districts from squandering the extra money. “That’s why we put this $100 increase in per student funding directly into the classroom, bypassing the bureaucracy,” the narrator of the ads says. “To them [bureaucrats], it’s not about kids. It’s about control.” Gradebook. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Effects of ending tenure, special session and more

Tenure and achievement: When Florida legislators eliminated teacher tenure in 2011, they argued that making it easier to get rid of bad teachers could lead to better student academic results. Seven years later, a study finds that achievement by students in vulnerable schools has improved only slightly, and that there’s no conclusive way to tell if the elimination of tenure played a role in that modest success. “The intent (of the statute) was to raise student achievement by improving the quality of instructional, administrative and supervisory services in the public schools,” write researchers Celeste Carruthers, David Figlio and Tim Sass. “Whether (the law) or policies like it succeed in attracting and retaining high quality teachers remains an open question.” Brookings Institution. Gradebook.

Special session request: Democrats in the Legislature resort to an obscure rule to force a poll of all lawmakers on the idea of calling a special session to deal with educational funding. Ordinarily, Senate and House leaders decide if a special session is needed. But when they resisted, 35 Democratic members filed petitions with the secretary of state to conduct the poll; 32 are required to force the polling. They don’t expect to be successful, but say it will put legislators on the record in an election year. Answers to the poll are due May 24. Gradebook.

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Florida schools roundup: Tougher tests, Schools of Hope, top employee and more

Testing standards toughened: The Florida Board of Education adopts tougher standards for the state exams high school students must pass to graduate. The board also eliminated the Post Secondary Education Readiness Test, one of the alternatives for students who don’t pass the state exams. Alternatives to the state tests are now the SAT, ACT and just-added PSAT, though the board also boosted the scores needed on those tests to qualify for graduation. The new standards go into effect for students entering high school this fall. Educators protested the changes, saying they will significantly lower graduation rates. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. WFTS. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announces that she’s retiring Jan. 8, the day Gov. Rick Scott leaves office, though she says she’s open to staying on if the next governor asks her to. Stewart has been in the job since 2013, when she replaced Tony Bennett after he resigned. Gradebook.

Schools of Hope: The Board of Education also approves two new Schools of Hope operators, bringing the state’s total to four. Schools of Hope qualify for special financing and grants to expand services and increase instructional time. Officials for KIPP New Jersey and Democracy Prep Public Schools say they look forward to working with school districts and the state to put schools in areas where traditional public schools have struggled. KIPP is helping create a new school in Miami in a partnership with the Miami-Dade district, while Democracy Prep wants to complement KIPP in Miami and is also looking into places like Polk and Hillsborough counties. redefinED.

Employee of the year: Stephanie Melton, an exceptional student education behavioral health assistant at W.E. Cherry Elementary School in Clay County, is selected by the Florida Department of Education as the 2018 school-related employee of the year. She wins $10,000. The other finalists — Sylvester Jones of Bay County; Jermaine Green of Miami-Dade County; Debra Canning of Pinellas County; and Sarah Woods of Sarasota County — each win $6,500. Florida Department of Education.

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Florida schools roundup: Superintendent resigning, security in schools and more

School superintendents: Desmond Blackburn, superintendent of the Brevard County School District since June 2015, is resigning to become the CEO of the California-based New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit that trains and mentors new teachers. Blackburn’s last day is no later than Aug. 10. The school board will discuss its search for a new superintendent at a meeting today. The highlights of Blackburn’s tenure include a restructuring of district operations, scaling back teacher evaluations and district-required testing, and developing a new discipline policy. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. Spectrum News 13. Viera Voice. WKMG. Sun-Sentinel. The Duval County School Board picks three finalists for its superintendent’s job: Diana Greene, Manatee County superintendent; Erick Pruitt, area superintendent of Houston schools; and Michael Dunsmore, superintendent of Wayne County schools in North Carolina. Interview are this week and a decision could be announced as early as 4 p.m. Friday. Florida Times-Union. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School security: Volusia County school officials are now considering hiring 44 armed “school marshals” for each of their elementary schools. Hiring marshals, who would not have the authority to make arrests, would save the district more than $1 million a year because they would work only during the school year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Cape Coral City Council commits $1 million to help pay for 22 resource officers so every city school will be covered. Fort Myers News-Press. Just a few days after creating positions for security guards, the Pasco County School District has begun hiring. Nine offers for the jobs of guarding elementary schools have been made, and another 28 have been approved but are awaiting background checks. The district plans to hire 53 guards and a security director. Gradebook. Stanley Switlik Elementary School in Key West will get a school resource officer from the sheriff for the last two weeks of school. Next year the school district will be responsible for the officer, says Sheriff Rick Ramsay. Florida Keys Weekly. Continue Reading →


This charter school answered prayers

TAMPA, Fla. – When Tay’Shaun Holley stumbled at his neighborhood school, his mom, Crystal Fountain, enrolled him in another district school 20 miles away. But that didn’t lead to solid footing either, and the complications of a single mom juggling three jobs, four kids and grueling commutes began to take its toll. Fountain prayed for help.

Tay’Shaun and his sister, Shanyla, attend Collaboratory Prep, a charter school in Tampa that opened last year. Once struggling in his neighborhood school, Tay’Shaun is now on grade level and poised to soar academically.

Then, a friend called. A neat, new school was opening near Fountain’s home. A charter school.

Fountain researched Collaboratory Preparatory Academy, filled out an application, scheduled a visit. Even before meeting the principal and teachers, she had a feeling: This was the one.

“Honestly, I cried tears of joy,” she said.

Seven months into Tay’Shaun’s first year, the joy continues. The 9-year-old who showed up weary and subdued – and sometimes became frustrated and angry – is now a sunny, outgoing third-grader who’s catching fire academically.

“He’s more engaged. He’s willing to learn,” Fountain said. “I’m very confident my son is going to be successful because of this school.”

More than 280,000 students attend charter schools in Florida, nearly triple the number from a decade ago. There’s probably 280,000 reasons why their parents chose charter schools. But many of them have stories like Fountain and her son.

Tay’Shaun is a model of spunky: beaming smile, carefree dreads. He described the difference between his neighborhood school and his new school this way: “One’s fun. One’s boring.” At the former, “You just sit there. They just give you the answer.”

Fountain had other concerns. In her view, basic communication – between teacher and parent, between teacher and student – was lacking. No remedy emerged for Tay’Shaun’s ADHD. The school as a whole struggled, too, with only a quarter of its students reading at grade level.

Fountain used a district choice program to enroll Tay’Shaun in another school. It was better. Tay’Shaun did better. But not better enough. Meanwhile, the juggling hurt.

Fountain has another son, 14, a daughter, 7, and cares for a 14-year-old niece. Her main business, a residential cleaning service, requires travel throughout Tampa Bay. Fountain had to say no to potential clients because of conflicts with the school schedule. That meant less income to give her kids the other things they need.

“You can’t imagine how stressful it was,” she said.

Then the clouds parted.

Collaboratory Preparatory Academy – CP for short – opened last fall on the fringe of industrial east Tampa. It sits in a trim, yellow building on the same 170-acre oasis that’s home to a bustling parish center and a new Catholic high school. (CP is unaffiliated.) The modest neighborhoods that unfurl nearby are hemmed in by Interstate 4, dotted with union halls – and burdened by some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the city.

CP is K-3 for now, with plans to expand a grade a year until it becomes K-8. Ninety-four percent of its 66 students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch. Eighty-five percent are African-American.

That’s not by accident, said principal Heather Jenkins. Continue Reading →


Florida charter schools aren’t ‘someone else’s business’

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine appears to have settled on a talking point in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor. Drawing on his experience in business, he argues Florida should “stop investing” in alternatives to district-run public schools.

The Tampa Bay Times caught the latest version.

“When I started in business they teach you this one golden rule. You know what that rule is? You don’t invest in your competition,” Levine said. “Right now we have a cottage industry of charter schools. We have all these folks in Tallahassee — this one’s a lawyer who represents a charter school, this one’s a consultant for charter schools, this one gets campaign cash from a charter school …

“What I plan to do …is to take money that we’re putting in someone else’s business and actually put it in our business, which is called the public school,” Levine said of charter schools, which are in fact public schools, but often run by private companies, including for-profit companies.

“Can you imagine if all of a sudden you woke up one day and you found out we’re investing taxpayer money in FedEx, DHL, and UPS, but we’re not putting it in the post office?”

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