Another year for Stewart: The Florida Board of Education extends the contract of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart by a year to “help ensure Florida remains on this positive trajectory” of rising high school graduation rates, improved school grades and gains on national math and reading tests. She had been scheduled to leave the office she’s held since 2013 on Jan. 7, Rick Scott’s final day as governor. “Serving as education commissioner has been a highlight of my career, and I am honored to accept the state Board of Education’s invitation,” Stewart said. News Service of Florida. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Capital Soup. The board selects 14 struggling schools as “Schools of Hope.” Each receives an extra $2,000 per student to help improve student performance. Gradebook. Gary Chartrand concludes an eight-term term on the Florida Board of Education by praising the state’s emphasis on parental choice of schools. “Choice is important,” he said. “The more choice we have, the more freedom we have.” redefinED.
Evaluating evaluations: School principals say changes in teacher evaluations have overburdened them with work and hurt their relationships with teachers, according to a new study that focused on Hillsborough County and five other large U.S. school districts that underwent significant changes in the evaluation process. The biggest concern of principals is the time required for the evaluations. “I mean, honest to God. I just can’t do it by myself,” said one principal. “If I’m running my school, something’s going to lose out, either academics or your school because you’re just one person.” Another principal said just walking in a teacher’s room creates tension. “I feel like every time I walk in, a teacher’s like automatically on pins and needles thinking I’m there in an evaluative capacity,” said the principal. Chalkbeat.
In his final meeting after serving nearly eight years on the Florida Board of Education, Gary Chartrand on Thursday used the occasion to speak of parental choice.
“To me, education is as important as oxygen,” said Chartrand, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott and served two terms. “A great education is not only a privilege, but a right. … The potential to live the American dream is not just for a few, but for all. That is why we need to fight for all educational opportunities for students to reach their potential. Choice is important. The more choice we have, the more freedom we have.”
Chartrand is executive chairman of Acosta, a North American sales and marketing firm in Jacksonville, and is credited with bringing KIPP charter schools to Florida. He also founded the Chartrand Foundation, which provides funding to public schools in lower-income neighborhoods.
Board member Michael Olenick said Chartrand played a huge role in “forging our education policy.”
And Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said Chartrand worked to always represent the student.
“I have to say you make those decisions with a student in mind,” she said. “No matter where pressure comes from, you hold firm and you demonstrated some of my favorite words: strength, courage and encouragement.”
Chartrand said he tried as a board member to emphasize the importance of educational choice.
“Not every school is going to fit for the child, and I think we need to empower parents to make those decisions,” he said.
‘Schools of hope’: Just 11 struggling Florida schools are designated “schools of hope” by the Florida Board of Education. More than 50 schools applied, and the state’s new education law set aside about $52 million to provide extra funding to as many as 25 schools. Each of the 11 schools will get $2,000 extra per student to provide such additional services as tutoring, counseling, more teacher coaches and salary supplements for teachers to run student clubs. The “schools of hope” are Lucille Moore and Springfield elementaries in Bay County; Homestead Middle, Lorah Park Elementary, Miami Carol City Senior High, West Homestead K-8 and Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary in Miami-Dade; Gove Elementary, West Riviera Elementary and Palm Beach Lakes High in Palm Beach; and Idyllwilde Elementary in Seminole County. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says she will allow the schools that didn’t get chosen to amend and resubmit their applications. She said the next round will add no more than 14 schools to the program. News Service of Florida. Palm Beach Post. Gradebook. Politico Florida. WLRN. Florida Times-Union. State Board of Education member Gary Chartrand says the state needs to quickly complete its rules for implementing charter school legislation. The charter companies the state hopes to recruit are starting to make decisions now about where to open new schools, and need to know the rules before expanding into Florida. redefinED.
Waivers requested: The Central Florida School Boards Coalition, which represents 13 school districts, is asking the state to grant waivers for class size violations penalties because of the influx of students from the islands who were displaced by hurricanes. The coalition is also asking for more time to count students, more money to educate the displaced students and for “flexibility” on the state’s school accountability rules. School districts in the coalition are Brevard, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Manatee, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Polk, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties. Orlando Sentinel.
‘Schools without rules’: An Orange County private school with a troubled past took in $5.6 million in state scholarship money in five years even as it falsified fire safety inspections, hired people with criminal records and didn’t pay some of its teachers. Last summer, the state finally banned Agape Christian Academy from the scholarship programs for 10 years. Orlando Sentinel. A private school operator in Brevard County continued to benefit from the state scholarships even after one of his three schools was closed when he was charged with felony lewd or lascivious molestation. Orlando Sentinel. Here’s a list of private schools in Florida that have students who get scholarships from the state though the tax credit, Gardiner or McKay scholarship programs. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner programs. Orlando Sentinel.
Florida needs to hurry up and hash out its landmark charter school legislation, a key member of the state Board of Education said today.
Gary Chartrand is a longtime backer of KIPP Jacksonville. For years, he’s called for the state to recruit more charter school organizations with similar missions, and similar national profiles, to high-poverty, academically struggling areas.
He said the new Schools of Hope law gives him hope that can finally happen. The legislation creates a revolving loan plan, a grant program and a streamlined application process for charter school operators with proven track records that want to open within five miles of a persistently struggling school.
Teachers needed: Just days before the school year begins, school districts in west-central Florida still need hundreds of teachers. Hillsborough County has the most openings, 205. Pasco needs 128, Polk more than 110 and Sarasota, Hernando and Citrus counties are also hiring. Pinellas County has just seven jobs left to fill. “You have 67 public school districts in Florida, so we’re all competing for that same small group of students that are graduating from Florida universities and colleges,” says Teddra Porteous, assistant superintendent in Polk County. WFTS. WTSP. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.
Spending analysis: The Duval County School Board delays an outside audit of the district’s spending, opting first to have the board auditor and district staff do an analysis of how the district spent $21 million more than it was budgeted to last year. Two state representatives had asked for an audit, which board members rejected. Now those members are saying they will likely have an outside audit done after the spending analysis. Board chairwoman Paula Wright says the first analysis should be able to narrow the focus of the second, which should lower its cost. Florida Times-Union.
School recess: Elementary students in Pasco will get their 20 minutes of free, unstructured recess every day. The district’s new student progression plan calls for “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day,” according to the plan. Decisions on how to make that happen will be made by each school’s principal. Gradebook.
Graduation investigation: The Florida Department of Education launches an investigation to see if school districts are dumping struggling students in their senior years into alternative schools to improve the graduation rates at traditional high schools. Last month, the investigative news website ProPublica reported that alternative schools in the Orange County School District are used as “release valves” that take in students unlikely to graduate. State Board of Education member Gary Chartrand described the report as a “very serious allegation,” and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said, “It’s critical that every decision is made with the best interest of the students in mind.” Associated Press. Orlando Sentinel. WFSU. Politico Florida.
Charter capital funding: The Florida Board of Education adopts rules that would deny construction funds to charter schools that received two consecutive grades below a C from the state, starting in the 2017-2018 school year. Board members say they are simply trying to follow state law, which requires charter schools to show “satisfactory student achievement” to be eligible for capital funding from the state. Members of the Florida Association of Independent Public Schools, who challenged the rules before with state’s administrative law court, don’t like these revisions either. “This seems like deja vu all over again,” said Mark Gotz, the president of School Development Group. “Charter schools are public schools and need to be treated equally and equitably.” redefinED. Gradebook. Politico Florida.
Charter district: The plan to turn over operations of the struggling Jefferson County School District to a charter company is approved by the Florida Board of Education. The Jefferson board and Somerset Academy are expected to finalize a contract in April, with the charter company opening the county’s elementary, middle and high schools at a single location in August. Jefferson will become the first all-charter district in the state. WFSU. Tallahassee Democrat. Politico Florida.
More from state board: Department of Education officials tell the Florida Board of Education that they are proposing several amendments to the state’s rules on English-language learners (ELL) to adjust to new federal standards. One of the changes would lower the proficiency levels required for ELL students, which some critics think could push those students out of the program before they are ready. The board will vote on the proposed changes at its next meeting. Gradebook. The state board also approves a pilot program that would give select principals in seven counties greater autonomy over the operations at their schools. Broward, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Duval, Jefferson, Madison and Seminole counties will participate. redefinED.
A school district in rural North Florida is in dire straits, prompting state education officials to grapple with unprecedented questions. What happens when a school district can no longer operate its own schools?
That possibility came into view Tuesday, when the state Board of Education, for the third time, rejected a plan by the Jefferson County school district to turn around a persistently struggling school.
Jefferson County Elementary School is currently rated a D under the state grading system, and hasn’t earned a C since 2009. Citing that grim track record, lingering staff vacancies and an ongoing financial emergency, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said, “I am truly of the opinion that the district lacks the ability” to turn around the situation on its own.
She asked the district to choose a new plan from among three options: Recruit a charter school operator to take over the elementary school, bring in an outside company to operate it, or close the school and send students elsewhere.
“I think when we do one of those three things, our students in Jefferson County will be the beneficiaries, and that is the ultimate goal, and what we are charged with doing,” Stewart said.
The district only has one elementary school, so any of those options would take it out of the business of running elementary schools altogether.
The future of Jefferson’s combined middle-high school is also in question. The state board previously approved its turnaround plan, but Stewart said she had doubts the district was following through, and that it hadn’t hired a principal with bona fide turnaround experience. As a result, she said, the board might consider similar options for Jefferson’s secondary students at a future meeting.
Jefferson County is an outlier in many ways. It has the lowest student achievement in the state. Hershel Lyons, the state’s chancellor for K-12 schools, said more than half of its high school students had been forced to repeat more than two grades. Jefferson has one of the state’s highest poverty rates. Its student population has shrunk by an unparalleled 30 percent in five years. It is now Florida’s smallest school district. It has the highest rate of private school enrollment in the state, and other parents have moved their kids to neighboring districts.
Despite having the state’s second-highest rate of per-pupil spending, it’s pulling itself back from the brink of financial crisis. Its finances are under the supervision of a volunteer emergency board.