Archive | Teacher empowerment

Florida schools roundup: Bright Futures, Schools of Hope rules, statue and more

Bright Futures: The Florida Senate unanimously approves a higher education bill that includes the permanent expansion of the Bright Futures scholarships program. S.B. 4, which was sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, would provide full funding of tuition and fees for the 41,000 students who qualify for the Academic Scholar award. Those students must have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and a score of at least 1,290 on the SAT or 29 on the ACT. Another 50,000-plus students who qualify for the Medallion Scholar award would receive 75 percent of tuition and fees. The bill also expands the Benacquisto Scholarship awards, which are full scholarships for out-of-state National Merit Scholar award winners. Sunshine State News. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaTampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. WFSU.

Schools of Hope: The Florida Board of Education is expected to start working next week on the rules that will determine how charter school networks can qualify to be “hope operators” under the state’s new “Schools of Hope” law. The draft rules would designate charter school organizations as a hope operator in any three ways: They have received a federal grant for the expansion of high-quality charters; received financial backing from the Charter School Growth Fund; or been chosen by a local school board to turn around a struggling district public school. Hope operators can apply to open charter schools within 5 miles of persistently struggling public schools. If the rules are approved, the process could be opened to charter school companies in February. redefinED.

Bethune statue: A Senate committee approves a bill that would place a statue of famed educator Mary McLeod Bethune in the U.S. Capitol. Her statue would replace the one of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. The bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote. Associated Press. Florida Politics.

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Florida schools roundup: School oversight, merit pay, testing and more

Private school oversight: A bill is filed for the legislative session beginning today that would tighten some standards for private schools receiving state scholarships. Under the bill, filed by state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, private schools would be required to hire only teachers with at least a bachelor’s degree. The proposal would also tighten financial accountability, ban school owners with recent bankruptcies from receiving scholarship money, increase school inspections by the state and make it more difficult for schools to submit falsified fire or health inspection reports. Simmons says his bill is an attempt to strike a balance between too much regulation and not enough. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship and Gardiner scholarship programs. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher merit pay: Two Republican legislators want to delete the requirement in state law that student test scores be used to evaluate teachers. The bills, filed by Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, and Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, would give schools boards the option of using student test scores in evaluations. “We don’t think student test scores should be tied to our evaluations,” says Plasencia. “It’s frustrated many teachers, and it’s driven some really good teachers out of the profession, a lot of them early.” Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher test-taking: The rising numbers of teachers failing the state’s newly revised Florida Teacher Certification Exam prompts state Rep. Robert Asencio, D-Miami, to file a bill that would require the Florida Department of Education to appoint a task force to study whether the test is appropriately measuring teacher competency and other issues. “Whenever we have such a high failure rate we have to figure out what’s going on,” says Asencio. WPTV.

Legislative session: Gov. Rick Scott delivers his final state of the state speech today at the opening of the legislative session. It’s expected to contrast his first one in 2011, when he called for sharp cuts in education spending. News Service of Florida. Associated PressTampa Bay Times. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WCTV. Politico Florida. The Senate is expected to pass a higher education bill Thursday that would permanently expand Bright Futures scholarships, and will consider a bill that would require high school students to complete a financial literacy course in order to graduate. News Service of Florida.

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Florida schools roundup: Schools of Hope applicants, term limits and more

Schools of Hope: Thirty-three struggling Florida schools have applied for extra money through the state’s Schools of Hope program. This is the second round of applications. In the first round, 50 schools applied for the extra $2,000 per student, but only 11 were accepted. The state is limiting the number of schools in the program to 25. The state Board of Education is expected to announce the winners next month. Gradebook.

Proposed amendments: A committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission approves two proposed constitutional amendments – one that would set term limits for local school board members at eight consecutive years, retroactive to 2016, and another that would require school district superintendents to be appointed rather than elected. The proposals still have to be approved by 22 of the 37 commissioners before they can be placed on the November 2018 ballot. Then, 60 percent of voters would have to approve to put the amendments into effect. GradebookPolitico Florida. The move to require school superintendents to be appointed riles some superintendents from rural areas. Politico Florida. The panel also will consider a proposal that would allow entities other than local school districts to oversee charter schools. The proposal was made by Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board and CRC member. redefinED.

State responds to suits: Lawyers for the state are asking a a Leon County circuit court judge to dismiss a lawsuit against six provisions in the new education bill, H.B. 7069. They argued that the 13 districts bringing the suit don’t have the standing to challenge five of those provisions. They also say claims that the law will harm local schools is “speculative.” The sixth provision in the law requires districts to share more local tax revenues with charter schools. It is being challenged by the Palm Beach County School Board. State lawyers point out that districts are already required to share some local tax money with charters. redefinED.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher evaluations, graduation rates and more

Teacher evaluations: Local school boards would be given the power to set evaluation standards for teachers, if a bill filed in the House gets through the Legislature next year. H.B. 427, filed by Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, would allow school districts to opt out of the state teacher evaluation and merit pay plan and give them the option of creating their own standards for evaluating teachers. “It would return the authority back to the local school board, which I think is very important,” says Orange County School Board member Linda Kobert. Florida Politics.

Graduation rates: The U.S. high school graduation rate hit an all-time high at 84.1 percent in 2016, according to data from the National Center for Education. In 2015 it was 83.2 percent. Florida’s graduation rate was 80.7 percent. White students graduated at an 85.1 percent rate, blacks at 72.3 percent and Hispanics at 75.6 percent. Education Week.

Contract negotiations: The Hillsborough County teachers union calls the latest pay offer from the school district disappointing. The district is offering $1.8 million for bonuses to spread among the 20,000 employees represented by the union. The union has asked for the raises school officials promised years ago, which the district says could cost it as much as $17 million and which it says it cannot afford. “This is a pay cut,” says Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, the union’s executive director, who says the offer is $92 per person before taxes and won’t cover the increase in health insurance premiums. “I can’t see that satisfying people.” Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. Negotiations between Brevard teachers and the school district resume, but little progress over raises is made. The district is offering $876 to the highest-rated teachers and $600 to effective ones. Union officials countered with a $1,075 raise for highly effective teachers and $800 for effective ones. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily.

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Florida schools roundup: Bonuses suit, amendments, suspensions and more

Teacher bonuses suit: A legal challenge to the state’s teacher bonuses program will be allowed to proceed, a federal judge has ruled. The Florida Department of Education had asked the judge to dismiss a suit, filed by the Florida Education Association, which alleges the state discriminates against older teachers and minorities because it uses teacher scores on ACT and SAT college-entrance exams to help determine eligibility for the bonuses. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle wrote, “These allegations may or may not be true, but they are not implausible, and the truth of the allegations cannot properly be resolved on a motion to dismiss.” News Service of Florida.

Constitutional amendments: The education committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission approves two of three proposals, and postponed consideration of a third. The committee approved proposals to impose term limits on school board members and end the elections of school superintendents. They advance to the commission’s local government committee. Tabled was a proposal to end salaries for school board members. Commission member Erika Donalds, who proposed all three measures, says she’s not sure if she’ll revise the tabled measure. News Service of FloridaGradebookWJXT. WFSU. Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow schools to comply with class-size limits based on average numbers of students wouldn’t help his district or any others that already allow school choice. WUWF.

District’s suspensions: The number of suspensions in Duval County schools is down for the seventh straight year, but the number of students who got at least one out-of-school suspension rose 7 percent. And the heaviest punishments fell predominantly on black students. Jacksonville’s NAACP wants the district to make cultural sensitivity training mandatory for teachers and school staff. Florida Times-Union.

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Florida schools roundup: Hearing on scholarships, teacher pay and more

Scholarship hearing: Florida House leaders say they are planning a hearing into the state’s K-12 scholarship programs that provide money for students to attend private schools. According to a recent Orlando Sentinel investigation, private schools where students use the scholarships go largely unregulated by the state. Some hire uncertified teachers and administrators, and in some cases even continued collecting payments after being evicted. About 140,000 students receive money from the state’s three scholarship programs, and a fourth is being proposed that would allow bullied students to get money to attend private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarships for low-income students and the Gardiner scholarships for students with special needs. Orlando Sentinel.

Working the contract: Teachers in Hillsborough County will protest their contract dispute with the district by “working to the contract” for the week after Thanksgiving. They say that means no late meetings, no phone calls from parents, and no grading papers after school. “It’s to make a point that this is what things would be like if teachers really did that all the time,” says Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, director of the teachers union. Teachers are angry that the district says it can’t give them a pay raise promised in 2013. For about a third of the district’s 14,000 teachers, the district’s decision will cost them $4,000. Tampa Bay Times.

Redirecting pay: Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay is proposing to use money that had been providing bonuses for teachers to work in high-poverty schools for bonuses to all teachers in lieu of a pay raise. The district now sets aside $1.6 million to pay teachers bonuses of $1,000 to $3,000 to work in the poorest schools. Kornegay’s plan is to use that money to give all teachers bonuses of $350 or $500. “The initial response was total disbelief,” says union president Stuart Klatte. “A lot of these schools recognize this as a pay cut.” School board member Bill Mathias says the problem is caused by going “into this year with basically flat funding.” Orlando Sentinel.

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Florida schools roundup: Charters, regulations, recycling success and more

Creating charters: Erika Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board and the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, has already proposed constitutional amendments that would eliminate pay for school board members and impose term limits on them, end the election of school superintendents and allow legislators to “make provision” for educational services in addition to the free public schools. Now she’s proposing an amendment that would allow legislators to create “alternative processes to authorize the establishment of charter schools within the state.” If the amendment is approved by the 37-member commission, it would need the support of 60 percent of voters to go into effect. Gradebook. Donalds may have gotten some inspiration on the proposal of no salaries for school board members from Eric Robinson, who is on the Sarasota school board and thinks taking a salary is a conflict of interest. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Regulatory relief: State Rep. Mike Bileca, R-Miami, says he is interested in finding more state regulations that can be removed from top-performing public schools through the Schools of Excellence program. The program, which was authorized through the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069, provides greater flexibility and autonomy to the principals of the highest-performing 20 percent of schools at each level. redefinED.

Recycling success: Two years ago, 2nd-graders at Old Kings Elementary School in Flagler Beach began a recycling campaign for plastic and later boycotted disposable plastic lunch trays. That interest in the environment blossomed, and led to every school in the district using trays made of recycled paperboard, which will remove 1.4 million plastic trays from county landfills and save the district $14,000 a year. Flagler Live. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Displaced teachers: Florida education officials say they’d like to hire teachers who were displaced when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in late September. The state is waiving the application fee for a teaching certificate and will accept unofficial transcripts. But there are still several hurdles Puerto Rican teachers must clear before getting a job in a Florida classroom. Many will have to pass expensive tests. And others are finding that their certifications don’t align with the Florida requirements. In Puerto Rico, elementary teachers are certified in K-3rd and 4th-6th grades. In Florida, it’s either pre-K through 3rd or all elementary grades. State officials say they have no plans to adjust certification requirements or waive test fees. Governing.

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Florida schools roundup: Proposed bills, scholarships, a gifted school and more

Legislative proposals: A Florida Senate committee approves two bills that would, if passed, have an impact on local school officials. S.B. 272 would require 60 percent approval for any tax initiative placed on a special election ballot. It would take effect July 1. Many school districts favor special elections when putting tax increases before voters. S.B. 192 would redefine when two public officials may meet privately to discuss public business. Under the state’s Sunshine Law, any meeting between public officials must be open to the public. Gradebook.

School loses scholarships: A private school in Melbourne is kicked out of the state’s three scholarships programs by the Florida Department of Education. Yakol Christian School, which had an enrollment of fewer than 20 students, was evicted for changing principals without notifying the state and for having no students on campus during a visit by a Step Up For Students representative. Step Up, which hosts this blog, administers two of the three state scholarship programs. Earlier this year, a pastor affiliated with the school was charged with lewd or lascivious molestation of a 15-year-old student. Orlando Sentinel.

Gifted school proposed: The Broward County School District is proposing the creation of a school exclusively for gifted students in grades 3-12. The school would be called the “Center for Intellectually Talented Youth,” and be located at Parkway Middle School in Fort Lauderdale. Supporters like the concept, but opponents argue that the proposal promotes segregation. Sun-Sentinel.

School appeals ruling: Cambridge Christian School of Tampa is appealing a court ruling that the state of Florida had the right to deny the school from broadcasting a prayer over the public address system before a 2015 state championship football game. Then-Florida High School Athletic Association director Roger Dearing told the schools that because the game was in a public facility, the prayer was “off-limits” under federal guidelines and court precedent. Cambridge Christian sued the FHSAA after the denial and lost at the district court level. Last week the school, with the help of the First Liberty Institute, filed an appeal of that decision with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Christian Post.

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