Archive | Teacher quality

Florida schools roundup: Solar eclipse, sales taxes, school names and more

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. Palm Beach Post. Fort Myers News-PressNorthwest Florida Daily News. St. Augustine RecordGradebook. WFTX. WJAXJackson County Floridan. WCJB. WPECGradebook. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton HeraldWashington PostU.S. News & World ReportFox News. Education Week.

Sales tax revenue: The half-cent sales tax voters approved in 2014 for the Brevard County School is bringing it almost 30 percent more money than projected. The district expected to collect about $78 million from the tax by now. Instead, it has collected $101 million. The money is used for building repairs, security upgrades and technology purchases. Florida Today.

Confederate school names: Duval County School Board members say they have no plans to rename any of the district schools bearing the names of Confederate leaders. A couple of years ago, the board changed the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School to Westside High School. Forrest was a Confederate lieutenant general. WJAX. A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center says there are at least 109 schools in the United States named after prominent members of the Confederacy, and many of the schools have a significant number of black students. Cox Media Group.

Back to school: More from districts around Florida that have returned to school or will soon. Naples Daily News. Panama City News Herald. Miami Herald. The kindergarten and 1st-grade wing at Osceola Magnet School reopen today. It had been closed since Monday for mold contamination. Air quality tests on other parts of the Vero Beach school are due Friday. TCPalm.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher bonuses, H.B. 7069, eclipse and more

Teacher bonuses: Each Florida school district will be responsible for determining the eligibility of teachers for state bonuses under the “Best & Brightest” teacher bonuses program, the Department of Education says. The program was redefined as part of the new education bill, H.B. 7069, which also calls for $1,200 payments to teachers rated “highly effective,” up to $800 for those rated “effective,” plus bonuses for those teachers who scored in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT test. Teachers are expected to receive the bonuses April 1. Principals are also eligible for bonuses for the first time, but the state has yet to say how that program will work. Miami Herald.

H.B. 7069: Orange County School Board members informally say they are likely to join the lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. All eight members support the suit, saying the law infringes on the authority of school boards and could hurt students. The board expects to take an official, binding vote next week. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has removed state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, from his assignment as chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee for pre-K-12 education. Replacing him is first-term Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. Simmons angered many Republican leaders by voting against the House’s top priority, H.B. 7069. Negron denies the change was made as punishment. Gradebook. Naples Daily News. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Simmons says he plans to remain involved in education issues. Gradebook.

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. Sun-SentinelGradebook. WPLG. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton HeraldOcala Star-Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WFTV. Florida Today. WQAM. Panama City News Herald. Lakeland Ledger. WJAX. WFLA. WTSP.

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Florida schools roundup: Charters, funding, back to school and more

Charter school support: Support for the charter school movement is declining in America, according to a recent survey by Education Next, a journal published by Harvard’s Kennedy School and Stanford University. Only 39 percent of of those polled favor opening more “charters – schools that are funded by public money, but usually operated independently of school districts.” That’s down from 51 percent last year. Associated Press.

Back to school: More from districts around Florida that have returned to school or will soon. Florida Times-UnionPalm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. Orlando SentinelSarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. About a quarter of Osceola Magnet School’s students stayed home on the first day of the new school year after the disclosure of a mold problem at the school. School officials are still waiting for the results of air quality tests. TCPalm. WPTV. Ten tips for young teachers from a veteran educator. Palm Beach Post.

School funding protest: The Lake County School Board approves a resolution urging the state to “halt the transfer of education funding from poorer school districts to wealthier school districts.” That district cost differential portion of the school funding formula has shortchanged the district by $57 million since 2004, board members say. “You have 14 counties in the state benefiting from this. The 53 other counties are paying for it,” says board member Bill Mathias. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart,  recently approved a legislative study of the differential. Daily Commercial.

Help for gifted students: Students at 16 high schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco who are struggling in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs will get help from a program developed by two academics to support students who they think are often “taken for granted.” The Advancing Coping and Engagement program will provide students with weekly lessons on developing time management skills and connecting with teachers. Tampa Bay Times.

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Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, ESSA, school safety, recess and more

H.B. 7069: According to recently revealed text messages, state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, worked behind the scenes to try to kill H.B. 7069, the education bill that provides money for a major expansion of charter schools in Florida. The messages show that Latvala worked with Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, on a plan to derail the bill. Details of the plan were not discussed in the texts, and neither Latvala not Farmer responded to questions about it. Latvala, chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, is considering running for governor in 2018. Politico Florida.

ESSA proposal: A coalition of civil rights group is asking the Florida Department of Education to give due consideration to the needs of poor, at-risk children when it submits its federal education accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In a letter, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights says it’s critical that the plan uphold the spirit of the law, which pledges to provide “all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and close educational achievement gaps.” The state has to submit its plan by Sept. 18. Gradebook.

School safety: Pasco County students are now being told to fight back against violent threats at their schools, instead of simply hiding. One of the key messages of the new approach is: “It is okay to do whatever you have to do to get away from Stranger Danger.” Superintendent Kurt Browning says “the decision to defend one’s self or others is a personal decision and will never be required.” But the district wants to give students options, he says, and to empower them “not to be victims.” Gradebook.

Recess rules: After hearing complaints from parents, Pinellas County school officials say they are reconsidering their idea to count student time in math and engineering centers toward the required 20 minutes a day for recess. Shana Rafalski, the county’s executive director for elementary education, acknowledged that “doesn’t necessarily reflect the spirit of (the law). … This probably is out of context in the teaching and learning handbook, and I’ll revisit this,” she says. Gradebook.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, funding formula, tax holiday and more

Teacher pay: Teachers at Memorial Middle School in Orlando will be paid $20,000 more this year as the Orange County School District tries to entice top teachers to turn around the persistently low-performing school. If a state grant can’t be obtained, the district will cover the extra costs. Officials say teachers at five other struggling schools also would get the extra pay if the district gets the grant. Only teachers rated effective or highly effective are eligible for the extra pay, and they’ll have to work an extra 30 minutes a day. Orlando Sentinel. Florida ranks 43rd among states and U.S. territories in average teacher pay at $47,256, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2016. The only states with lower pay than Florida are Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Alaska is No. 1 at $74,122. Tallahassee Democrat.

Funding formula fight: Volusia County School Board chairwoman Melody Johnson makes a personal appeal to the Pasco County School Board to join the fight against the state’s district cost differential (DCD) portion of the school funding formula. She says 55 of the state’s 67 counties have lost money to the DCD, which gives urban districts more money to cover the higher costs of living. Johnson says Pasco has lost $53 million since 2003. Pasco board members asked Superintendent Kurt Browning to investigate and make a recommendation. Gradebook.

Back to school: The back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The National Retail Federation says the average family with children in K-12 schools spends $687 on clothes and school supplies. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State NewsLakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Keynoter. WFLA. WTSP. Florida schools open soon, and some new laws focused on school traffic are in effect. Palm Beach Post. Do school dress codes discriminate against girls? WFSU.

School branding: In an era of school choice, school branding is becoming increasingly important, say some school officials. Education Dive.

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Florida schools roundup: Tax holiday, budgets, recess, court order and more

School tax holiday: The state’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Computers and other technology equipment are back on the tax-free list after being off it last year. Sun Sentinel. Pensacola News Journal. Fort Myers News-Press. Palm Beach Post. Specifics on what is – and what isn’t – tax-free. WFLA. Florida Department of Revenue.

School budgets: The Clay County School District is considering a $386 million budget, which is about 1.8 percent higher than last year’s. The board’s final vote is Sept. 7. Florida Times-Union. School boards in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties will hold their first public hearings today on their proposed budgets. Tampa Bay Times. Brevard County might be able to pay for teacher raises with some tweaks in its $963 million budget. Meanwhile, Superintendent Desmond Blackburn says having a centralized banking account and hiring armored cars to deliver money to the bank are a “dire necessity” to fighting theft from schools. Florida Today. The Lake County School Board gives tentative approval to a $573.4 million budget, which is almost $24.5 million higher than last year’s. Daily Commercial.

School recess: So-called “recess moms” worry that the state law requiring 20 minutes of recess a day in elementary schools will be watered down by school administrators whom have been entrusted to implement the law. Specifically, they are concerned that principals will allow students to take recess indoors, and that students will continue to sit at their desks instead of playing outdoors. Gradebook.

Desegregation order: The Indian River County School District is asking a federal court to release it from parts of a 1967 desegregation order that set up plans for racially balanced schools taught by diverse staffs to create an equitable education system for minority students. The district thinks it’s made enough progress for the order to be partially lifted. But the local NAACP branch, which has criticized the board’s push to lift the order, did not join the request to the court. TCPalm.

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A virtual solution to a rural teacher shortage?

Florida’s third-smallest school district has a math problem, in the words of its local newspaper. Two of its three math teachers have settled in larger cities. The third is leaving for a nearby rural community.

The Apalachicola Times reports the Franklin County school district is scrambling to recruit replacements. A $2,000 signing bonus has not been sufficient. Collective bargaining rules prevent the school board from offering more. And a housing shortage makes it harder to attract young educators.

The district might turn to an option more Florida schools are using to expand their course offerings. Virtual learning labs, operated by the statewide public virtual school, allow students to access remote teachers and online curricula. Teachers assistants can provide in-person help.

The Times reports: Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charter suits, budgets, funding for schools and more

Charter lawsuits: An administrative law judge rules that the Florida Department of Education can withhold money from charter schools for construction and maintenance if they receive an F grade or two straight grades below C from the state. Charter school officials challenged the state’s rules, claiming DOE officials had overstepped their legal authority. News Service of Florida. For the Palm Beach County School Board, fighting the education bill in court is progression in the district’s ongoing battle against charter schools. The district has lost several cases to charters recently, but is likely to have other districts on its side this time. Several have announced a plan to sue the state over H.B. 7069, which they believe is too charter-friendly – at the expense if traditional public schools. Palm Beach Post. The Indian River County School Board is still trying to decide whether to appeal a judge’s ruling that the district unlawfully withheld money from five charter schools. TCPalm.

Proposed budgets: The Polk County School will consider a proposed $1.4 billion budget that has a slightly lower tax rate. The budget calls for repairs to some schools, technology improvements at 30 schools and the purchase of 50 school buses. Lakeland Ledger. The Leon County School Board will vote this week on a $305 million budget that includes an $8 million boost in spending with a slightly lower tax rate. The district will trim capital spending from $105 million last year to $103 million this year, but also sets aside $250,000 for buying additional school supplies. Tallahassee Democrat. The Volusia County School District plans to shift $2 million from its savings to help balance its proposed $869.8 million budget. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School funding: School officials in Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties complain that the state’s funding formula for schools is discriminatory against their districts and 52 others in the state. Florida’s “district cost differential” takes money from 55 districts and sends it to a dozen school districts with higher costs of living. Orlando Sentinel. Volusia County School Board chairwoman Melody Johnson will visit schools around the state to gather support against the state’s district cost differential formula it uses in determining how much money each district receives. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Activists in Florida join those across the country Saturday to rally behind public education. While many across the nation were protesting what they call Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ drive to privatize schools, those in Florida are largely angry with what they see as inequities in school funding and money being moved to charter schools from traditional public schools. Miami Herald. The Pinellas County School Board and Superintendent Michael Grego ask the county’s legislative delegation for help in correcting what they’re calling an “unjust” movement of money from districts for charter school construction and maintenance. Gradebook. Continue Reading →