Archive | Teacher quality

Florida schools roundup: Education bill, autonomy for schools and more

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 HeraldNaples Daily News. South Florida Business Journal. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Charter schools bills, reading, religion and more

Charter schools plan: State Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, says the House proposal to turn over failing schools to charter schools “creates a separate but unequal system” that violates the Florida and U.S. Constitutions. The so-called “schools of hope” bill calls for traditional schools with D or F grades for three years to become charter schools. “These schools have failed these kids long enough,” said Rep. Manuel Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah. “These are kids trapped in generational poverty, and for us to create this illusion it [schools of hope] is a separate system? It’s not.” The House Appropriations Committee passed the bill, which now goes to the full House for a vote. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. redefinED.

Charter facilities funds: The House Appropriations Committee passes a bill that would nearly double the amount of money set aside from local property taxes for charter schools facilities. But a lobbyist for Charter Schools USA, Chris Moya, says the bill may actually reduce the money available for charters because districts can subtract the amount spent on debt service before the rest of the money is divided, and because sharing formula favors charters that enroll low-income students. Moya argues that the Legislature should “stop thinking about funding institutions or districts or even schools, and really think about funding the student.” The bill now moves on to the House vote. redefinED.

Extra reading narrowed: High-level readers at the 300 lowest-performing elementary schools in the state would no longer have to attend the extra hour of required reading under a Florida House bill that has been approved by the appropriations committee. Students who achieve Level 4 or 5 on the state language arts test would have the option of skipping the reading hour. Students who achieve Level 3 or below are required to attend. The bill would also give schools the option of fitting in that hour instead of requiring it to be an extra hour of school. The changes are at odds with the Senate version of the billGradebook.

Class sizes: The House approves a bill that changes the way class sizes are calculated to meet the requirements of a 2002 voter-approved amendment. If approved, schools could use a schoolwide average instead of counting individual classes. A similar bill is moving through the Senate. Associated Press. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Testing bills, naming rights, charters and more

Senate testing bills merged: The Senate Education Committee decides to merge elements from competing school testing bills. The consolidated bill, SB 926, moves testing into a shorter window and toward the end of the school year, kills several end-of-course exams, allows districts the option of using paper and pencils for the tests instead of computers, and will consider allowing national tests such as the ACT and SAT to replace high school assessments. News Service of Florida. Miami HeraldGradebook. Associated Press. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. The committee also approved bills increasing the money students get for tax credit scholarships and widening eligibility for teachers and adding principals to the state’s teacher bonuses program. Politico Florida. Meanwhile, the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee approves a bill that would require the state Department of Education to release third- and 10th-grade math and language arts tests every three years. The DOE estimates the cost of doing so at $4 million. Gradebook. Politico Florida.

Help with testing: Experts say there are a variety of things parents can do to relieve their children’s anxiety about taking statewide assessment tests. They recommend helping children visualize success, maintaining a routine, having children not study so much and getting them to laugh, which gives a child’s brain a shot of neurotransmitter dopamine and can improve test performance. Miami Herald.

Naming rights: The Lee County School District is selling naming rights to stadiums, gymnasiums and theaters at several schools around the district. “This is a new opportunity for companies to reach our students, families and communities,” Superintendent Greg Adkins said. “It is a way we can provide companies the benefits and loyalty that come with this kind of support while helping out students at the same time.” The Orange County School District has been selling naming rights since 2012, and has raised $241,650 for its Athletic Preservation Fund. And Collier County, directly south of Lee, is also looking into the sale of naming rights at its seven high schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Testing, facilities funding, coding and more

Testing bill stalls: The Senate Education Committee temporarily postpones a vote on SB 926, the so-called “Fewer, Better Tests” bill to revise the state’s assessments program. The bill would push all testing to the final three weeks of the school year, require results back in a week, and order the Department of Education to study whether the ACT and SAT tests could be substituted for the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA). Several critics of the bill says it would do nothing to eliminate tests, despite its nickname, and could force the student passing rate down by tying the FSA passing scores to those of the more rigorous National Assessment for Educational Progress test. Miami HeraldOrlando Sentinel. Tallahassee DemocratNews Service of FloridaSunshine State News. WFSUGradebook.

Facilities funding: A bill filed in the Florida House would require school districts to proportionately split local property tax revenues with charter schools after the money districts set aside for construction debts is deducted. An analysis of the bill indicates that the state’s 556 charter schools would receive about $148 million, or nearly double what they now get. To qualify, charter schools would either be required to have 50 percent or more of its students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, or avoid consecutive years with a school grade below a B. redefinED.

Computer coding: The Florida House Pre-K-12 Quality Subcommittee deletes mention of allowing computer coding classes to fulfill foreign language requirements from HB 265. It’s the second straight year the idea has run into opposition in the House. The amended version of the bill emphasizes ways the Department of Education can push computer coding classes in public schools. Miami Herald.

School material challenges: The Senate and House both pass bills (SB 1210, HB 989) that would make it easier for parents and community members to see what materials and books are being used in schools and to challenge them if they find the materials objectionable. Gradebook. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, true costs, safe schools and more

Teacher pay: Prospects for a statewide $200 million raise in pay for teachers have dimmed after proponent Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, says he is no longer pursuing the hike. Instead, Simmons says, he is backing an expansion of the teacher bonuses program, known as the Best and Bright Teacher Scholarship. Both the Senate and House are considering bills that would increase the money for bonuses and widen eligibility. Naples Daily News.

Public education spending: The true cost of educating one public school student in Florida for a year is $10,308, according to a report from Florida TaxWatch. The Florida Education Finance Program funding formula expenditure was $7,178 per student for the 2015-2016 school year. But TaxWatch says other tax dollars spent by districts take the total spending per student to more than $10,000. redefinED.

Protecting undocumented: The Miami-Dade County School Board declares its district a safe zone for undocumented immigrant students, and will review what else it can do to protect those students from U.S. immigration officials. The intent, says board member Lubby Navarro, is “to ensure that our schools are safe havens for all students and that this message resonates throughout entire communities, our neighborhoods, our barrios, so that everyone knows that our schools are safe for our children and our families.” Miami Herald.

Teacher program: The Palm Beach County School District and Nova Southeastern University will partner to create a teacher-training program that promises students jobs in the district after graduation. Students will be paid substitute teachers during their senior year at Nova, and will be offered fulltime teaching positions when they graduate as long as they meet certification and other requirements. Nova is hoping to enter into similar partnerships with Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Weapons, security bill, open enrollment and more

Weapons at schools: Two legislators file bills that would stiffen criminal penalties for people who carry guns and other weapons within 1,000 feet of a public school. Anyone breaking the law would be charged with a second-degree felony and could get up to 15 years in prison or fined $10,000, according to the bill filed by Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation. Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, filed the House companion legislation. Sunshine State News.

Security at Jewish schools: The Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee approves a bill that provides $1.5 million to boost security at all Jewish day schools in Florida. The bill would pay for bulletproof glass. Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, says the bill is a response to the increasing number of bomb threats to Jewish schools in the state. Florida has 35 Jewish day schools in nine counties. redefinED. Florida Politics.

Open enrollment: More than 3,000 students in Osceola and Lake counties want to transfer schools under the state’s new open enrollment law, which allows transfers to any public school that has openings. The Osceola school district has received 2,477 applications, and the Lake district about 900. Orange and Volusia counties are taking transfer applications now, and Seminole begins signups April 16. Officials in all four counties say there are limited spaces available in schools. Orlando Sentinel. The Clay County School Board is expected to vote April 6 on a proposed plan to deal with open enrollment. District officials say 11 schools are under the 85 percent enrollment threshold, and 1,557 spots at those schools will be available for transfers. Florida Times-Union.

That’s our satellite: A satellite built by students at the Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens will be launched into space by NASA sometime in 2018, 2019 or 2020, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. The WeissSat-1 will study bacteria that has thawed after being trapped in ice. The Weiss satellite is one of 34 chosen by NASA, and is only the second built by elementary and middle school students. Palm Beach Post. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Bonuses, science instruction, choice and more

Teacher bonuses: The Florida House education committee approves a revamped teacher bonuses program that would broaden the qualifying requirements and also make principals eligible. Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., R-Hialeah Republican who chairs the House’s education budget committee, says the House could approve spending up to $125 million for the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program. That’s about half of the amount the Senate is proposing. Miami Herald. WFSU. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel.

Teaching science: State Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, says his bill that sets criteria for classroom instruction materials is meant to require “quality instructional material” meeting Florida standards, and to provide a way for the public to challenge classroom materials they deem inappropriate. And, he notes, any curriculum changes would have to be approved by the local school board. Critics say the bill opens a door for climate change and evolution critics to influence how those issues are taught, or if they are taught at all. Naples Daily News.

Call for school choice: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York City is calling for a nationwide school choice bill. Dolan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, urged President Trump to“push Congress to make scholarship tax credits available to working-class families.” Seventeen states have tax credit scholarship programs, including Florida, and Dolan said children in the other states “deserve the same opportunities.” Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Florida program. Crux. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Bright Futures, budget cuts, guns, AP tests and more

Bright Futures: The Senate passes a higher education bill that would allocate $151 million to restore Bright Futures funding to 100 percent and allow recipients to use the scholarships for summer classes. Also in the bill are a scholarship program for migrant workers and their children and an expansion of benefits to National Merit Scholars. Miami Herald. Sunshine State News. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. The bill is a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, but he somehow missed the vote even though he was present in the chamber. He said he intended to vote after the roll call, but it was locked down before he could. Miami Herald.

Education budget cuts: Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., R-Hialeah, says he will release details next week on a pair of House education budget-cutting exercises. One of the plans trims higher education and K-12 spending by $232.7 million, while the other cuts $485 million. Diaz says specific cuts under the plans may or may not be part of the House’s final education budget. Politico Florida.

Guns in schools: Two Republican senators from Miami-Dade can control gun bill votes on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and one of them has publicly stated she opposes the guns in school zones proposal. Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, also opposes several other gun-related bills, but says that doesn’t mean she would oppose any gun bill. Sen. René García, R-Hialeah, says he can’t support any gun bill that doesn’t include a mental health component. Miami Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

AP test improvements: Florida is fourth among U.S. states in the percentage of graduating seniors who passed at least one Advanced Placement exam, and more than half the growth came from low-income students, according to the Florida Department of Education. The percentage of low-income graduating seniors in Florida who passed an AP exam went up 500 percent from 2006 to 2016. redefinED. Continue Reading →