Pine View School
Expanded-day benefits: Students at the state’s 300 lowest-performing elementary schools benefit from the extra hour of daily reading instruction the state requires, according to new research from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. The extra time requirement began in 2012 at the 100 lowest-performing schools, and two years later was expanded to 300 schools. Researchers who looked at the 2012 data say that in one school year, students’ test scores jumped by the equivalent of one to three months of extra learning. That cut the gap in reading test scores between the best schools and average ones by about a third. Chalkbeat.
Teacher shortage: Florida’s shortage of teachers is real and it’s getting worse, the Florida Board of Education was told this week. Cathy Boehme of the Florida Education Association told the board that two years ago, the number of advertised teaching positions posted on district websites was about 2,400. Last year it was 3,000, and this year it’s 4,063. “That’s the acceleration in the teacher shortage you need to be looking at,” Boehme said. “This is a critical problem we must address.” Gradebook.
ESSA plan: After federal education officials recently raised questions about Florida’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the state asks for an extension beyond the Jan. 4 deadline to rework the plan. State officials say they are still reviewing the letter federal officials sent that questions the state’s plans to measure how individual groups of students perform and to consider progress made by English-language learners when holding schools accountable for student learning and progress. “We acknowledge that USED may not be able to provide a final determination within the 120-day period in the law,” Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in her request for an extension. “Our focus is the successful completion of the 2017-18 school year as school districts continue to recover from Hurricane Irma and embrace the nearly 9,000 students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a result of Hurricane Maria.” Politico Florida.
Active shooter training: The University of Central Florida is using video game technology to help train teachers on how to react to an active shooter scenario. The $5.6 million technology was developed by the Homeland Security Department and the U.S. Army, and is similar to the program used to train soldiers in combat tactics. “With teachers, they did not self-select into a role where they expect to have bullets flying near them. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a reality,” says chief project engineer Tamara Griffith. “We want to teach teachers how to respond as first responders.” Associated Press.
Bonuses mistakenly paid: Twenty-seven Leon County School District employees wrongly received about $180,000 from the state’s Best and Brightest teacher bonuses program, according to a recent report from the Florida auditor general. The audit showed that 21 teachers who received $143,155 in bonuses were not rated as “highly effective,” a requirement to be eligible for the payments. Another six who received $40,902 weren’t eligible because they didn’t meet the state’s definition of a classroom teacher. All must repay the district, which in turn will send the money to the state Department of Education. The audit also raised concerns about a lack of competitive bidding to select health insurance companies and the security of personal information for students. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV.
School testing: Florida students’ scores on the SAT and ACT tests continue to lag behind the national average. Eighty-three percent of the state’s high school seniors took the SAT last spring. The average score was 1,017 out of a possible 1,600, while the national average was 1,070. About 73 percent of the state’s seniors took the ACT. The average score of 19.8 out of a possible 36 trailed the 21.0 average nationwide. Orlando Sentinel. A five-year slide in testing scores by Marion County students is reversed in 2017, and Superintendent Heidi Maier attributes the improvement to new policies, new principals and new ways to deliver teaching materials to students. Ocala Star-Banner.
The charter fight: The political fight over the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069, is moving soon into the courtroom as well. One school district has already filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of one portion of the law, and a broader suit by at least 14 districts should be filed in the next few weeks. Supporters of the bill, which includes several provisions favorable to charter schools, plan to launch a public relations campaign that closely examines districts’ spending and start looking for school board candidates who will support the bill. Miami Herald. The Martin County School Board is expected to decide Tuesday whether to join 14 other school districts in suing the state over H.B. 7069. TCPalm. School choice continues to spread in Florida and nationally, but schools in south Florida districts are holding their own by improving their grades and offering a variety of program choices. Enrollment in charter schools is down so far this school year in Palm Beach and Broward counties, while enrollment in traditional public schools is up. Sun-Sentinel.
Pay proliferation: The number of Palm Beach County School District employees being paid more $140,000 a year or more has nearly tripled in the past two years, according to an analysis of district salaries. The number of staffers making $120,000 a year or more has doubled, and the number of those earning $100,000 or more is up 45 percent. In that same time period, the number of teachers earning $50,000 or more has increased by 5 percent. Superintendent Robert Avossa has contributed to the surge by creating at least 16 new, high-level administrative jobs paying $120,000 or more. Palm Beach Post.
Education bill: The Florida House Education Committee passes H.B. 733, the nearly all-inclusive education bill that would cut standardized testing and make significant changes to the state’s K-12 education system. The bill does not include mandatory recess time for elementary students, which is in the Senate’s proposal. Miami Herald. Sunshine State News. Florida Politics. Included in a 76-page amendment to the bill are several provisions to help charter and virtual schools. redefinED. The feud between House and Senate leaders over the state budget continues, though several still think they can reach an agreement before the session is scheduled to end May 5. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State News.
Autonomy for schools: A bill passed by the House would broaden autonomy for principals from a pilot program in seven districts to the highest-performing 20 percent of all public schools. Under the pilot program, principals at low-performing schools have greater control over hiring and would be freed from some state regulations. redefinED.
Teacher contracts: Two special state magistrates have issued different interpretations to districts about whether they can negotiate contract renewal guarantees for teachers who are rated highly effective or effective. In both cases, the districts told the teachers unions a 2011 law did not allow guaranteed teacher contracts. Unions in St. Johns and Pasco counties wouldn’t agree to a contract without that guarantee. In St. Johns, a magistrate agreed with the teachers union. In Pasco, a magistrate sided with the district. Gradebook.
High school rankings: Pine View School in Osprey is rated the top high school in the state in the latest U.S. News & World Report’s rankings. Design and Architecture Senior High in Miami is second, International Studies Charter High School in Miami third, International Studies Preparatory Academy in Coral Gables fourth, and Westshore Junior/Senior High School in Melbourne fifth. U.S. News & World Report. Miami Herald. Naples Daily News. South Florida Business Journal.