Archive | Teacher quality

Florida schools roundup: Charter district, incentives, recess and more

Charter district: The Florida Board of Education approves a charter schools company taking over a public school district’s operations. Jefferson County, which had been struggling financially and with enrollment, will combine the elementary and middle/high schools on a single campus. The district hopes to have applications from charter schools companies by the first week in March. It’s the first time a Florida school district has ever ceded operations to a charter school company. redefinED. Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press. WFSU. The Polk County School Board is considering closing struggling McLaughin Middle School and reopening it under the Bok Academy, an A-rated charter school. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter recruitment: Representatives from four national charter schools companies tell a Florida House committee that they’d like to expand into Florida. BASIS, IDEA, Achievement First and the SEED Foundation all express interest, if the state can set up equitable funding to public districts. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has suggested such changes are being considered. redefinED.

Teacher incentives: Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, the Senate’s pre-K-12 education budget chairman, wants the Legislature to consider bumping the amount of money available for teacher incentives to at least $200 million. Gov. Rick Scott has recommended $58 million for teacher incentives. “I’m not concerned that we’re talking about $200-250 million,” said Simmons. “It’s an investment; it’s not an expenditure, and I think we can find it in an $83 billion budget.” Miami Herald. The statewide teachers union, the Florida Education Association, says the incentive programs are gimmicks, and that it wants better pay for all teachers. Miami Herald.

Recess doubts: Two members of the Senate PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee want lawmakers to consider the whole picture of education and the financial implications before approving a bill that would require 20 minutes of recess every day in Florida elementary schools. “This is an important issue, recess, but I think we need to look at it in a more holistic way,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. Gradebook. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Testing, charters, student ID cards and more

Testing reform: Three legislators say they will file a bill today that would cut back on state-required assessment testing. The “Fewer, Better Tests” bill’s goals are to cut down on and improve state tests, move the exams to later in the school year, get the test results to teachers sooner, and provide better student score reports. Filing the bill are Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah; and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. Sunshine State NewsGradebook. The Manatee County School Board tables a discussion on a proposal to limit district-required testing. Bradenton Herald.

Charter school takeovers: Members of the House education committee who are discussing district methods of turning around underperforming schools say districts should consider allowing charter school companies to take over operations at those schools. This week, the Florida Board of Education will consider a plan to make the Jefferson County School District a charter district. Politico Florida.

Student ID cards: The Duval County School District will issue new student IDs that are linked to data such as grades, academic progress, attendance and discipline. Students would have to swipe the cards when they get on and off school buses and when they go to classes. The setup cost is $1.1 million, with a $123,500 annual fee. Florida Times-Union.

School recess: The 2016 bill that would have required daily recess at all Florida elementary schools also would have prohibited teachers from withholding recess for misbehaving students. This year that provision has been stripped out of the recess bills, at the insistence of two powerful legislators who say they don’t want to take away teachers’ flexibility. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Merit pay, education funding, club policy and more

Merit pay study: A study nationally and in Orange County concludes that tying teacher pay to students’ performance on standardized testing has not produced the results expected. The study, shared with the Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition, indicates there has been no “significant or stable improvements” in student achievement since Florida adopted a merit pay law in 2006. Orange County School Board members say they will share the study with Florida legislators. Orlando Sentinel.

Education funding: Two influential Democratic state representatives say they are encouraged by House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s weekend pledge to boost education spending for the 2017-2018 school year. State Reps. Larry Lee Jr., D-Port St. Lucie, and Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said in a statement: “Now that the speaker has made this commitment, we are hopeful that our committees will move away from looking at ways to cut education funding and instead begin to focus on giving our hardworking teachers a raise, and increasing per-pupil funding to actually historic levels that take into account inflation.” Sunshine State News. Florida Politics.

Club policy: The Lake County School Board will consider a proposed policy change that would allow a Gay-Straight Alliance at Carver Middle School in Leesburg. The district proposed the change after a federal appeals court ruled that denying the group’s application for the club was a violation of the Equal Access Act. Several school board members say they support the change, as long as students get parental consent. Daily Commercial. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Charter district plan, testing, recess and more

Charter district: The Jefferson County School District could become the state’s first all-charter schools district, if the Florida Board of Education agrees Thursday with the district’s school board vote to make the change. Jefferson has just two schools – elementary and middle/high school – with about 700 students. It’s struggled academically and financially in recent years, and the state board recently ordered it to either close the schools or turn them over to private operators. “(The school board) didn’t feel any other options would be approved by the state board, and I wasn’t willing to take the risk of going to the state board and walking away with it turned down. That just wasn’t what I thought was in our best interest,” says Jefferson Superintendent Marianne Arbulu. redefinEDWFSU.

School testing: State Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, files a bill requiring the state education commissioner to review the ACT and SAT national college entrance tests to see if they cover the content taught in Florida high school language arts and math classes. If the answer is yes, it could lead to the scrapping of the Florida Standards Assessments testing in favor of the national tests. Orlando Sentinel. Manatee County School Board members will vote Tuesday on a proposal to put a moratorium on all testing in county schools that is not required by the state. If it’s approved, Manatee would join Clay and Marion counties in eliminating or severely reducing the amount of district-administered tests. Bradenton Herald.

Recess fight: A mom’s group named Recess for All Florida Students is ratcheting up its lobbying for legislation that requires daily recess for all Florida elementary students. The proposals (S.B. 78 and H.B. 67) have wide support, but a key House member isn’t sure a statewide mandate is the proper way to get it done. Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, the education policy chairman, says he’s reluctant to puts limits on teachers’ flexibility in the classroom. Miami Herald. The moms behind the drive have had success with a couple of districts, but continue to push for the statewide rule. “Of course, we started this because of our kids, but is it fair for those moms who have worked alongside us all these years, and their kids still don’t have recess?” asks Angela Browning of Orlando, whose district has adopted a daily recess policy. Miami Herald.
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Florida schools roundup: Spending, transfers, class size suit and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool spending: Florida schools are still struggling to recover from spending cuts made during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, say superintendents and other school officials. The Florida School Finance Council, which advises the commissioner of education, says the state would have to spend an additional $1.86 billion over the next three years to offset those cutbacks. “School revenue is back to where it was in 2007, (but) does anybody believe costs are the same?” asked Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. “I think where we’re feeling the pinch now is just the operational costs to really support and educate your kids.” Naples Daily News. St. Johns County school officials are “cautiously optimistic” after delving into Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed education budget, which would give them $17.6 million more. “In this day and age, that’s a pretty healthy increase,” said Mike Degutis, the district’s chief financial officer. “If this stands through the process, that’d be great for us.” St. Augustine Record.

Open enrollment: Orange County school officials say only 29 of the district’s 188 schools will be open to transfer students under the state’s new open enrollment law that begins in August. The list includes 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools and a K-8 school. Students who live in Orange County can apply now for one of those seats, while those who live outside the county can apply starting May 15. Orlando Sentinel. The Lake County School District begins accepting applications for transfers under the new law. Only 14 of the district’s 43 schools have openings for transfers. Daily Commercial.

Class size suit dismissed: A judge dismisses a lawsuit accusing the Palm Beach County School District of violating the state’s school class-size limits. A voter-approved amendment in 2002 capped K-3 “core” class sizes at 18 students. Paul Kunz filed the suit after his son was placed in a kindergarten class of 21 students. The judge ruled that an individual can’t sue a local school board over class-size rules since the state is responsible for their implementation. Palm Beach Post.

Charter regulation: Margate city commissioners give tentative approval to a rule that would require new charter schools to adhere to the same property regulations as traditional public schools. City rules require 12 acres for elementary schools, 20 acres for middle schools and 45 acres for high schools. Because there is little vacant land in Margate, Mayor Tommy Ruzzano says the rule would “pretty much” end new charter school applications. Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Online education, PreK, charters and more

florida-roundup-logoMore on budget: An item in Gov. Rick Scott’s budget would eliminate restrictions on students’ eligibility for online classes. Right now, students in grades 2-5 cannot take virtual courses part-time, and students in middle and high schools can take select virtual courses only if they were in a public schools the year before. redefinED. Scott’s budget also includes $50 per student more for Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program, boosting it to an average of $2,487. That’s still below the 2005 total of $2,500, and is far below the national average of $4,520. Orlando Sentinel.

Money for charters: Senate Education Appropriations chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, files a pair of bills that would create a consistent revenue stream to charter schools for construction and maintenance. S.B. 604 would allow districts to boost the property tax rate from a maximum of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.70. And S.B. 376 would funnel some of that money to qualifying charter schools. Gradebook.

Trafficking education: A bill is filed in the Legislature that would include instruction on the dangers of human trafficking in Florida schools’ health education curriculum. Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says he got the idea for the bill, S.B. 286, from a high school student. WFSU.

School leasing: Palm Beach County School Board members express reservations about leasing a high school rather than building one and owning it, and decide to schedule a workshop to discuss the proposal further. Board members are open to the idea of a private-public partnership to get a high school built in Boynton Beach, but would want the district to eventually own it. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Education budget, charters, civics, DeVos and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation budget: Gov. Rick Scott’s $83.5 billion budget includes an expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program to cover summer classes and a program that recruits, retains and rewards teachers. Scott’s $58 million plan would replace the existing teacher bonuses program. The $24 billion education budget would boost PreK-12 per-student spending to $7,421, up about $216 from this year. Sunshine State NewsMiami Herald. Orlando SentinelFlorida Times-Union. Gradebook. Associated PressPolitico FloridaBradenton Herald. Florida Trend. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida.

Charter schools: Florida needs to create more charter schools for low-income students, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, says during a media briefing. He said having only two – the collection of KIPP schools in Jacksonville and a public charter boarding school, SEED Miami – is unacceptable for the state. He has pledged to support funding changes that would encourage more nationally recognized charters to set up in low-income areas. redefinED. A report from a school choice advocacy group alleges that eight Florida school districts are shortchanging poor children in charter schools by spending less of federal Title I funding on them than they do in public schools. The districts are Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Duval, Polk and Osceola. Representatives from several of the districts deny the charge and say the data was manipulated in a way to support a pro-charter view. Politico Florida.

Civics lessons: House Education Committee chairman Michael Bileca, R-Miami, says the House is looking closely at changing the way Florida students learn about American government, history and the democratic system. The state already requires civics classes in middle and high schools, but Bileca says he wants to “inculcate a sense of civic understanding, appreciation for our institutions and what a republic stands for and have a fully informed and fully educated citizenry that’s able to participate in the democratic process.” Miami Herald.

DeVos approved: A Senate committee approves the nomination of Betsy DeVos to become U.S. education secretary on a 12-11, straight party vote. The nomination now goes to the full Senate. Orlando Sentinel. School choice in the United States under the leadership of Betsy DeVos could resemble what Florida has done by using tax credit scholarships to help students pay to go to private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer that program. NPR. In 2014, Betsy DeVos donated $1,000 to a school choice supporter in a Volusia County School Board campaign. Melody Johnson, who raised just $5,000 more than the DeVos donation, won and is now the board chairwoman. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Spending, graduation, leasing a school and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation spending: Gov. Rick Scott releases his proposed budget today, which calls for an increase in the state’s Bright Futures program but doesn’t account for enrollment growth in schools or provide an answer to the House’s plan to trim property taxes, which could cut funding for schools. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida.

Alternate graduation path: Florida Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, files a bill creating alternative paths to high school graduation for students who don’t pass state-required algebra and language arts tests. Unlike the House’s version of this bill, Montford’s does not allow state students to skip the exams and still have options for graduation. Gradebook.

District considering leasing: The Palm Beach County School Board is considering a proposal to have a developer build a high school that the district would then lease. “We can’t build. We don’t have the money,” said school board member Karen Brill. “This would be the answer to the prayers of many young families in west Boynton Beach.” The district will receive $1.6 billion from a sales tax initiative approved in November, but that money is committed to repairing existing schools, upgrading technology and buying school buses. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →

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