Lawsuits. The Florida Education Association says it will drop one of its school choice lawsuits. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Palm Beach Post. Saint Petersblog. Scripps/Tribune. Times/Herald. redefinED.
Rankings. A change in criteria sends Florida tumbling in Education Week‘s Quality Counts rankings. redefinED. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Tribune. Palm Beach Post. Associated Press. Gradebook. StateImpact. WFSU. US News & World Report.
Charter schools. South Florida lawmakers file bills to restrict proposed new charter schools. Palm Beach Post.
School choice. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel publishes a rundown of different school options parents might consider.
Grade inflation? The Palm Beach Post writes there is less to Florida’s No. 6 ranking in the latest Education Week Quality Counts report than education reform supporters suggest, and encourages teachers and politicians “to dig into the details.”
Teacher evals. Despite concerns raised by Senate President Don Gaetz, the Shanker Blog says it wouldn’t make sense if school grades and the new teacher ratings were too closely associated. The Tampa Bay Times interviews David Steele, who’s in charge of the Gates-funded teacher evaluation project in Hillsborough.
Teacher pay. More on Democratic bills to raise teacher pay to the national average. Palm Beach Post.
School security. Bills are filed to use taxes from gun sales for guidance services, and to expand gun-free zones around schools, reports SchoolZone. The superintendents association releases a district-by-district SRO survey, reports the Northwest Florida Daily News.
Technology. StateImpact Florida writes up what to expect at the Florida Educational Technology Conference, where 10,000 educators will gather. Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg says he’s putting together a proposal that aggressively invests in new technology, reports Gradebook.
$10,000 degrees. All 23 state colleges accept Gov. Scott’s challenge, reports the Associated Press. More from Miami Herald, Lakeland Ledger, Pensacola News Journal, Bradenton Herald, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Gradebook.
Quality Counts. Florida ranks No. 6 this year in Education Week’s annual report. Coverage from redefinED, Associated Press, Miami Herald, Gradebook, Orlando Sentinel, StateImpact Florida, Fort Myers News Press, Naples Daily News, WCTV, News4Jax. More from Huffington Post.
Charter school access. SchoolZone takes a critical look at the first policy paper from the Center for School Options, a new think tank chaired by former Education Commissioner Jim Horne. It grades the 10 biggest districts in the state on charter school access. The Fort Myers News Press writes up Lee County’s top grade.
Charter school attendance. Palm Beach district officials suggest tighter controls are needed after a Mavericks charter school overstated its attendance and received $160,000 more in per-pupil funding. Palm Beach Post.
Career and technical. Tampa Bay school officials are headed to Germany to learn more about programs there. Tampa Bay Times.
Suspension and grad rates. A Johns Hopkins University study of Florida ninth graders finds much higher graduation rates for those who were never suspended as freshmen versus those who were suspended even once or twice.Education Week.
Rick Scott. Visits Fort Lauderdale High School. South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Superintendent searches. Interim education commissioner Pam Stewart applies for the superintendent’s opening in Manatee County, reports Gradebook. St. Lucie County gears up to replace retiring Superintendent Michael Lannon, reports TCPalm.com.
School security. Hillsborough is going too far, editorializes the Tampa Bay Times. So is a Lake County School Board member who wants to arm teachers and principals, writes Orlando Sentinel columnist Lauren Ritchie.
Rezoning angst in Seminole. Orlando Sentinel.
At the EdFly Blog today, former Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas asks a reasonable question: Why isn’t the Florida teachers union trumpeting the dramatic gains of Florida teachers? This morning’s Education Week ranking is just the latest in a long string of credible reports that finds Florida making steady academic progress. Shouldn’t Florida teachers, doing more with less and under enormous pressure to produce results, get credit from those who portray themselves as their biggest supporters? Here’s Thomas:
Florida scored another impressive victory with the state finishing sixth in the Education Week “Quality Counts’’ rankings.
This follows news from last month that Florida fourth graders finished second in the world on international reading assessments. In October, Miami-Dade won the prestigious Broad Prize for urban school districts because of progress in closing the achievement gap. Florida kids ranked second in the nation in learning gains dating back to the 1990s. I could go on.
Alas, Florida’s good news is not celebrated by all, even by its own teachers’ union. The Florida Education Association has been silent on all of the above, even though its teachers are on the front lines of these successes. Repentant reformer Diane Ravitch actually compared student achievement in Florida and Massachusetts. Of course Massachusetts kids perform better. Look at the student demographic and income data, Diane. Are you serious?
The reason for this denial is that Florida did not achieve its success by acceptable means. By that, I mean if the state had achieved these results by tripling education spending and eliminating its accountability provisions and school choice options, the above victories would have been trumpeted from the rooftops by the FEA and Diane as well.
Continue reading Thomas’ post here.
Teacher evals. StateImpact Florida writes about the new Gates study on the best way to identify the best teachers. SchoolZone notes it. Jay P. Greene rips it. District officials in Palm Beach County don’t feel good about the new, state-mandated system, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Common Core. Reformers have to win the messaging battle, writes Mike Thomas at the EdFly Blog: “Our success in passing school reforms has had more to do with prevailing in legislative bodies than prevailing in the public arena. This has led to a dangerous neglect of the need for marketing. We now are paying the price for that as our opponents vigorously fight back, defining reform as an attack on public schools that is degrading the quality of education. That this isn’t true doesn’t matter. Sound bites often trump data.”
Rezoning retreat. After affluent parents complain, Seminole district officials back away from plans to equalize the number of low-income students at each school. Orlando Sentinel.
Fire them. Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia recommends firing two aides and demoting a principal and assistant principal in the aftermath of the drowning of a special needs student. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Tribune.
For the fifth year in a row, Florida’s public school system ranks among the best in the country, according to the latest annual analysis by Education Week.
Released this morning, the highly anticipated “Quality Counts” report puts Florida at No. 6 among states this year, trailing only Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Arkansas. In the previous four years, Florida came in at No. 11, No. 8, No. 5 and No. 11, respectively.
“For Florida to be a global leader in job creation and economic growth, we have to provide our students with a quality education,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a written statement. “Today’s news that Florida has moved into the top ten in the nation for overall quality of education reinforces that we’re taking the steps needed to ensure our students succeed.”
The consistently strong showing is at odds with public perception and with steady criticism from those opposed to a series of far-reaching education changes spurred by former Gov. Jeb Bush. To be sure, it’s tough to determine which factors – including a heady expansion of parental school choice – have had the most impact. But the EdWeek reports are another credible sign that Florida students and teachers are no longer cramping at the back of the pack.
They’re also another sign that nobody should be satisfied. Florida earned a B- overall in the latest report. And in the category that matters the most – student achievement – it managed a C-.
Quality Counts looks at policy and performance in six broad categories with multiple indicators. Each year, the researchers behind the report update three of them. This year, they updated the school finance and “transitions and alignment” categories, and something called the Chance-for-Success Index.
Florida’s rank on the index is unchanged from 2011, coming in at No. 34. On transitions, it climbed from No. 14 to No. 4. On finance, it fell from No. 31 to 39 (and from C- to a D+). The reason for the latter: historic cuts in education spending that had yet to be tempered by 2010, which is the data year EdWeek uses for the new report.
As a group, low-income students struggle more than their wealthier peers. But in Florida, poor kids in some districts do a lot better than poor kids in others.
In Seminole County, for example, 56 percent of third graders eligible for free- and reduced-price scored at grade level or above on this year’s FCAT reading test, according to new state Department of Education data. In Duval County, meanwhile, 39 percent did. Among the state’s biggest districts, Seminole has one of the lowest rates of low-income kids. But so does Duval. And the low-income kids in Miami-Dade, which has the highest rate (nearly 20 percentage points higher than Duval), easily outpaced their counterparts in Duval. They did so in every tested grade, by an average of nine percentage points.
So what gives?
I’m not sure. But I think it’s worth a closer look.
We compare schools to each other so we can learn from those that make more progress. Ditto for states. Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report puts states side by side. It’s thoughtful and useful. It’s time for a similar spotlight on Florida school districts, which include some of the nation’s largest urban districts and an average enrollment among the top 10 of 165,000 students. Anybody could take the lead in setting that up – the press, parent groups, researchers, lawmakers, state education officials, maybe even the districts themselves.
Even with state mandates, districts have considerable leeway. Taking a closer look at achievement data district by district would spark more discussion about which ones are employing policies and programs that make the biggest difference for kids. The variation is endless. Some districts put more disability labels on minority students. Some put a premium on career academies. Some focus on principal development. Some have stronger superintendents. Some face more competition from charter schools and tax credit scholarships. How do things like that factor into district-to-district gaps? I’m sure it’s difficult to sort one from another, and impossible to draw definitive conclusions. But we won’t develop better hunches without looking at the data and talking about it.
A deeper dive into FCAT scores is one place to start. Most of the data I’m referring to is posted every year by the DOE, a few months after FCAT scores are released in late spring and early summer. It’s fascinating stuff – a breakdown of scores by district, subject, grade, FCAT level – and by all kinds of subgroups. I’ve talked to enough bona fide researchers about these numbers to know they raise fascinating questions.
Take Duval again.