Archive | School Choice

Sisters of St. Joseph named ‘Women in American History’

St. Benedict The Moor School, St. Augustine, Fla.

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) recently recognized the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, for the orders historic role educating African Americans and combating racism at the turn of the 20th century Florida.

According to the St. Augustine Record, DAR designed the Catholic order “Women in American History,” to recognize their efforts.

More than a century ago, three sisters from the order were arrested for the crime of being white while teaching black students at St. Benedict the Moor School in St. Augustine, Fla. Passed in 1913, the “Sheats Law,” named after the state’s first elected superintendent of public instruction, prohibited whites from educating black students. A conviction could result in fines up to $500 (nearly $13,000 in 2018 dollar values) or imprisonment for up to six months.

The Sisters of St. Joseph fought against the law by continuing to educate black students, in violation of the statute. After the arrest of the three Catholic sisters in 1916, the Diocese fought the law in court and won.

RedefinED chronicled the Sisters of St. Joseph as part of the Know Your History series here.


Florida schools roundup: Hope Scholarship, Kavanaugh and more

Hope Scholarship delays: While the new state scholarship for bullied students technically begins when school resumes in August, funds for the Hope Scholarships won’t be available until after Oct. 1 and possibly not until later in November. The scholarships will be funded through voluntary donations of the $105 from the sales tax that drivers pay for vehicle transactions. The collections do not begin until Oct. 1 and car dealers have 20 days to report their previous month’s tax collections, which could delay the money being available until Nov. 20 or later. The scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and state analysts project a demand of about $27 million in the first year. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, will help administer the program. News Service of Florida.

Kavanaugh and education: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has defended then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s Florida school vouchers program against a constitutional challenge in 2000, publicly praised attempts to break down the barriers between religious schools participating in programs financed with public funds, and supported the use of public address systems for student-led prayers at public school events in Texas. The 74. Miami Herald. Politico. Sun-Sentinel. Education Week. Continue Reading →


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 →


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: Framers may file brief, lawsuit threat, bond projects and more

Framers may weigh in: The so-called “framers” of the 1998 constitutional amendment that requires the state to provide high-quality public schools will be allowed to file a brief in a court challenge of a state education law, the Florida Supreme Court rules. The group Citizens for Strong Schools is suing the state, claiming it is not fulfilling its obligation to provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system” of public schools. Ten of the members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission had asked to be allowed to file a brief on their intent in the phrasing of the amendment, in support of the suit. The state objected, and will still be allowed to challenge the brief. News Service of Florida.

Union threatens lawsuit: The Florida Education Association says it will file suit today against the portion of H.B. 7055 that allows teachers unions to be decertified if they can’t maintain more than half the eligible membership. “This is about equity and fairness, and being targeted and singled out,” says FEA president Joanne McCall, who says the law applies only to teachers unions. Gradebook.

Broward bond projects: A watchdog group says it’s time for the Broward County School District to outline a plan for fixing decaying schools or admitting it can’t be done before the deadline it set. Florida TaxWatch, which was hired by the district to monitor the progress of the work scheduled under an $800 million bond referendum approved in 2014, found that only 10 percent of the identified projects have been completed and only 12 percent are under construction. “We are desperately behind and we need to know why,” says board member Heather Brinkworth. Sun-Sentinel. A timeline of the bond program. Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Investigation on testing urged, security deal and more

Testing investigation: Six conservative legislators are calling on the Florida Department of Education to investigate whether three school districts deliberately limited the number of low-performing 7th-graders taking the state end-of-course civics exam in order to earn better school grades from the state. Sen. Dennis Baxley and Reps. Jason Fischer, Michael Bileca,  James Grant, Bob Rommel and Jennifer Sullivan, all Republicans, and the Florida Coalition of School Board Members suggest that the Duval, Manatee and Polk districts limited the number of struggling students taking the test in order to boost the grades of schools and keep charter schools from moving in under the Schools of Hope law. District officials say they are simply having many of the struggling students take the test as 8th-graders, when they might be better prepared, which state law allows them to do. Gradebook. redefinED.

School security: A school safety agreement is reached between the Sarasota County School Board and Sheriff Tom Knight. The district will pay 80 percent and the sheriff 20 percent of the $1.6 million for 11 deputies to cover 10 schools, plus a lieutenant and two sergeants. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. More than 100 people have applied to become armed guardians to protect Manatee County schools. Most have law enforcement or military backgrounds, officials say. About 40 will be hired. Bradenton Herald. The city of Clermont agrees to provide resource officers for three elementary schools and a K-8 charter school. The Lake County School District will pay the city $279,653 for the officers, and a one-time fee of $211,280 for equipment, including new police cars. Daily Commercial. A coalition of law enforcement groups is looking at ways to make schools safer. The initiative is led by Max Schachter, whose son Alex died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Feb. 14. Schachter’s group, Safe Schools for Alex Foundation, organized the meeting of the eight groups after he discovered there is no nationally recognized list of recommendations to improve school security. Sun-Sentinel. As individual districts work to meet the state mandate for an armed guard in every school, the Florida Department of Education is working to finish setting up its Office of Safe Schools to coordinate the security efforts. Damien Kelly, formerly a public corruption inspector for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is its director. WFSUContinue Reading →


Civics shifts, school grades and Schools of Hope

Last year, Florida lawmakers created a new program called Schools of Hope. Its goals were twofold: Ratchet up the pressure on low-performing public schools to quickly increase student achievement, and encourage new alternatives — especially proven charter school operators — to take root in struggling communities.

School letter grades released yesterday suggest the first part of the plan is working. The number of persistently low-performing district schools (those rated F, or those rated C or lower for three or more years) fell by about 40, from around 90 to around 50.

There were some success stories that might deserve more attention, like Broward County’s Martin Luther King Montessori Academy. The district created the public Montessori magnet to turn around persistent low performance in a high-poverty school after gathering input from the community. The initiative appears to have worked. MLK’s grade rose from an F to a C this year.

Then there were schools like Matthew Gilbert Middle School in Duval County.

The school has earned D’s and F’s since 2012. Last year, it earned 333 points in the state’s school grading formula and received a D.  This year, it rose to a C, bolstered by improved performance on state civics tests. Last year, 144 students took the civics test, and 47 percent passed. This year, only 44 students took the civics test, and 95 percent passed. Increased social studies scores netted the school 40 points in its A-F score this year, and it earned a total of 402 — enough for a C. Without the civics improvement, it would have narrowly missed a C and faced takeover under Schools of Hope.

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members, an association of conservative-leaning school officials, made waves this week when it decried similar civics maneuvers in other Duval schools, as well as some in Polk and Manatee Counties.

Here’s what happened. Most Florida public-school students take their civics tests in seventh grade. This year, some districts decided a large number their students, particularly low-scoring students in low-performing schools, would take their civics tests in eighth grade, instead.

As a result, a large number of low-scoring students in these districts did not take the civics test this year, and will likely take the test next year. The civics passing rates in their schools rose substantially. In some cases, letter grades did, too. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: School grades improving, unions lose case and more

School grades improve: The number of Florida schools getting a grade of A or B from the state this year is up 2 percentage points, from 56 to 58 percent, according to the Florida Department of Education’s annual report. The state also says the number of schools receiving a D or F dropped a percentage point, from 8 to 7 percent, and 96 percent of the schools that got an F last year moved up at least one grade. More than 3,200 schools were graded, and 1,027 received an A. Districts were also graded, and 53 of the 67 got an A or B, up from 48 last year. The grades are calculated with an 11-category formula that includes student achievement, learning gains on state tests and high school graduation rates. Florida Department of EducationOrlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Here are reports from individual school districts: Miami-DadeOrange, Osceola, SeminolePalm Beach, Broward, DuvalHillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, PolkBrevard, LeonSarasota, Manatee, HighlandsLee, CollierLakeAlachua, Marion, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian RiverSt. Johns, Clay, Nassau, BakerHernando, Volusia, Flagler, Bay, EscambiaCitrus, Jefferson, Gadsden. No Florida charter school will be closed, since none received back-to-back F grades from the state. redefinED.

Ruling hits unions: The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that public labor unions, such as teachers unions, cannot compel workers who do not wish to join to pay dues to support for collective bargaining. Forcing dissenting employees to pay dues to a union is a violation of First Amendment protections, wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito for the majority. The case, Janus v. AFSCME, overturned a precedent set in the 1970s that allowed unions to collect dues for contract negotiations and other labor activities from workers who didn’t join. You can read Wednesday’s decision here. The 74. New York TimesAssociated Press. Tallahassee Democrat. Chalkbeat. Education WeekPolitico. More on the decision and the possible ramifications. The 74. Continue Reading →