Phase 2 begins Friday, suggestions for reopening universities, K-12 planning, budget worries and more
University reopening plans move forward, teacher of the year finalists, Pasco wins AP award and more
In this episode, Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill talks with Eric Hall, who joined the Florida Department of Education in February 2019 to deal with some of the state’s most high-profile initiatives, including the expansion of school choice.
A little more than a year into Hall’s tenure as head of innovation, COVID-19 began roiling education, and it looks like those disruptions will continue into the fall. A firm believer in the power of Florida Virtual School, he is convinced the state’s investment in online learning leaves the Sunshine State well-positioned to educate students. He discusses with Tuthill FLVS’ capacity to ramp up to serve nearly 4 million children, how to prevent rising achievement gaps in a distance-learning environment and his belief that great teachers drive technology.
“We have conditions in place that have empowered parents to make the best decisions for their children … we’ve got to double down and hold ourselves accountable as a state.”
· The agility of Florida Virtual School as both a COVID-19 safety net and an expanded resource for a shift to blended learning for families who want it
· How distance learning and blended education extends the classroom beyond the school day while creating greater equity for less resourced families
· How to realign resources to get increased technology to more families
An 82-year-old Catholic school in Florida has abruptly announced its closure, another telling sign that COVID-19 is eroding the financial ground beneath private schools.
At the beginning of the school year, the Catholic Diocese of Orlando had been discussing the possibility of revamping the St. Joseph Academy in Lakeland, Florida, a half-hour east of Tampa. But in a letter to parents Friday, the Very Rev. Timothy LaBo, pastor of St. Joseph Church, said the financial devastation wrought by the pandemic quickly led to a “serious impact on our re-enrollment numbers.”
“What we could not have imagined was the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect upon our world in such a short time,” LaBo wrote in the letter obtained by Lakeland Now.
The closure of the K-8 school shocked St. Joseph parents, who immediately launched an effort to save the school. But it’s not a surprise to those watching private schools across America struggle as parents lose jobs, businesses close and charitable contributions evaporate.
A survey by Step Up For Students, the nonprofit scholarship funding organization that hosts this blog, found 73 percent of Florida private schools said they are experiencing declines in re-enrollment last year, and 58 percent said they’re worried about their viability for the coming school year. The research and advocacy group EdChoice got similar results when it surveyed private schools nationwide last month. More than 20 million Americans lost their jobs in April, including 893,000 in Florida.
The Sunshine State has one of the biggest private school sectors in the country, and some of the nation’s biggest school choice programs. But those programs are primarily for lower-income students and students with special needs. It remains to be seen how much they will help private schools trying to retain working-class and middle-class parents who may be forced, in coming months, to make agonizing decisions about their children’s educations.
Seventy-eight of St. Joseph Academy’s 162 K-8 students used the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship or Family Empowerment Scholarship for lower-income students, while 26 used the Gardiner Scholarship or McKay Scholarship for students with special needs. (The FTC, FES and Gardiner programs are administered by nonprofits like Step Up.)
To date, the most meaningful government relief for private schools has come from the Paycheck Protection Program, which offer a two-month respite for small businesses and nonprofits. Other federal relief streams for education are aimed primarily at public schools, and attempts to steer a more equitable share to private schools has met with relentless pushback.
Other potential remedies, including the possibility of temporary tuition tax credits, have so far generated little debate. Likewise for the potential negative impacts on public schools, which will likely have to absorb former private school students in the face of massive financial and logistical challenges.
Editor’s note: The Philadelphia Inquirer recently encouraged a debate between a local parent and veteran policy analyst and redefinED guest blogger Jonathan Butcher on the question of whether grading is necessary to keep students on track amid arguments that grades during the pandemic are ambiguous and unfair. Butcher argued in favor of the former. Here is his commentary.
Most of us will spend at least a dozen years in school starting at age 5. For an increasing share of young adults, the education experience lasts 16 years or more, as the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolling in college has risen from 35 percent to 41 percent since 2000.
Pandemics, mercifully, do not last as long as our school-age years.
Each school year builds on the prior one, so officials must prevent the 2019-20 school year from becoming a lost academic experience for Philadelphia students. Abandoning student grades during the pandemic would put everyone — policymakers, taxpayers, parents, teachers, and students — at a disadvantage next fall.
Thousands of students will return to physical, hybrid, or virtual city classrooms in August. Without some measure of how children finished the year, teachers will not be able to match instruction to each child’s needs.
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Family. Opportunity. Gratitude.
These are the words on the minds of a handful of South Florida students standing on the threshold of adulthood.
On June 2, the five seniors – Shawn Cuellar, Elisa Hernandez, Katherine Cabrera, Isabel Perez and Ron Mendez – will bid farewell to the school they’ve grown to love, La Progresiva Presbyterian, located in a working-class section of Miami.
Shawn, Elisa and Katherine arrived at La Progresiva as middle-schoolers. Isabel started as a pre-kindergartner. If you ask Ronald, he’ll tell you he’s been at La Progresiva his whole life.
Principal Melissa Rego has watched each of them grow up, deal with challenges, and emerge victorious.
Despite the fact that their world was turned upside down by COVID-19 – no senior trip, no prom, no graduation – these students are anything but resentful. They have some regrets for what has been lost, but their eyes are trained on their futures: becoming a veterinarian, serving in the military, raising a family.
Earlier this week, Rego sat down with the students and encouraged them to talk about where they’ve been and where they’re going. How their reality is different from what they imagined, how the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship that made it possible for them to attend a private school has shaped their lives, and how their lives might have been different without it.
Two members of the redefinED team were fortunate to be part of the conversation. Here is what we witnessed.