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Florida schools roundup: School security plans, budget blues and more

School security: The Sarasota County School Board approves a plan to create an internal school security department over the next two years. The plan, which would cost the district $3.1 million, calls for hiring 30 officers and placing them in elementary schools for the 2018-2019 school year, and adding 26 more the following year and putting them in middle and high schools. Superintendent Todd Bowden proposes negotiating with local law enforcement agencies to provide coverage in middle and high schools for 2018-2019, which could cost as much as another $2.5 million. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Both the Duval and Pasco school districts are considering plans to place safety “assistants” in elementary schools as a less-costly alternative to using sworn school resource officers. These assistants would receive less training and be paid less than SROs, and work only when schools are in session. Florida Times-UnionWJCT. WJXT. Gradebook. The Volusia County School Board is asking the county council for $2 million to help put a resource officer in every school. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Putnam County School Board members delay a decision on arming school employees until May 1 to wait for a recommendation from a school advisory committee. WJXT. Students are among about 50 people protesting against Brevard County School Board members who want to consider arming school employees. Florida Today. Broward County school officials are hosting the first of several school safety forums tonight. WLRN.

Budget problems: The Duval County School Board is facing a $62 million deficit in its $1.7 billion budget for next year, districts officials say. Last year the district dipped into its reserves to cover a $23 million deficit. Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis says overspending, higher costs for security, transportation, raises and money to charter schools are contributing to the deficit, and she’s asking department heads to look for 5 percent savings in their budgets. Florida Times-Union. Broward County school officials say they’re facing a budget deficit of nearly $15 million for the next school year, and are considering asking voters for an additional half-mill in property taxes so teachers can get raises. If approved by the school board, the tax measure would go on the November ballot. Officials estimate it would raise $93 million a year over its four-year life. Sun-Sentinel. Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay is proposing to trim $2.1 million from the district’s budget by eliminating non-teaching positions in administration and support services. Daily Commercial.

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How this Gainesville charter school does standards-based grading

An “A” rated charter school in Alachua Fla does not employ a traditional A-F grading system. Indeed, when Boulware Springs Charter School opened in 2014, the school’s principal, Kay Abbitt, implemented a standards-based report card.

Students may bring home report cards that are 11 pages long, as opposed to a traditional one-page grade sheet. Parents can see which specific learning goals their children mastered and which need more work.

Boulware grades students on scale of 1-4, with 4 meaning mastery, on each standard. The score of 1 means the student is a novice, 2 means they are developing the standard, and 3 is approaching mastery.

As a result, students receive more than one grade in each subject area. For example, in kindergarten reading, a report card breaks down how a student mastered standards such as using frequently occurring nouns and verbs and printing upper- and lowercase letters.   Once students leave the K-5 school, it must convert their grades back to an A-F system.

Elementary schools elsewhere in Florida have employed standards-based grading for years. But a bill’s death in the waning days of Florida’s legislative session may hamper efforts to create similar grading systems for middle- and high-school students.

RedefinED spoke with Abbitt about standards-based grading. See a sample report card from the charter school embedded below.

How effective is this grading method? Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Education amendment, funding request and more

Education amendment: A proposed constitutional amendment that bundles three education issues will appear on the November ballot. The Constitution Revision Commission, in a 27-10 vote, approves Proposal 6003, which calls for eight-year term limits on school board members, gives the authority to approve charter schools to an entity other than local school boards, and requires civics to be taught in public schools. It was one of eight amendments approved on Monday. Another education proposal, which would have allowed “high-performing” public school districts to apply for an exemption from following some state laws and regulations, as charter schools can now, was rejected by the CRC. There will be 13 amendment proposals on the ballot. Each must be approved by 60 percent of voters to take effect. Miami Herald. News Service of FloridaGradebook. redefinED. Orlando SentinelAssociated Press. Politico Florida.

Education funding: The state’s school superintendents say that if legislators are going to be called for a special session on gambling, they should also reconsider funding for education. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents wants the Legislature to increase the base allocation by $152 per student, which would cost the state about $300 million. It also wants to be able to use money from the program that calls for arming school employees to instead hire school resource officers. A previous request by the group for a special session to take another look at education funding was denied. Gradebook. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: School removing teachers, amendments and more

All teachers to be removed: Every teacher at a struggling Hernando County elementary school will be removed at the end of the school year, school officials said at a meeting Friday. Administrators decided to give Moton Elementary School a “fresh start” after it has received D grades from the state the past two years. District spokesperson Karen Jordan says without the move, the state would have taken over the school. Veteran teachers will be transferred, while newer teachers will have to apply for other open jobs in the district. Tampa Bay Times.

Education amendments: The Constitution Revision Commission will consider 12 ballot proposals this week. Two of them address K-12 education. Proposal 6003 would place an eight-year term limit on school board members, allow an alternative process for approving public and charter schools, and require civics education in public schools. Proposal 6008 would allow “high-performing” school districts exemptions from following some laws that apply to districts. The commission must send its ballot proposals to the secretary of state by May 10. News Service of Florida. redefinED. The proposal to bundle three education proposals into a single amendment for voters to consider in November is drawing criticism from education leaders around the state. Gradebook.

Charter schools’ troubles: Even as the Eagle Arts Academy charter school missed making a payroll for its teachers, it continued to pay another company owned by school founder Gregory Blount for the use of the school name, logo, website and data-processing system, according to school records. The company has been paid at least $42,000 since last June by the Wellington school. Palm Beach Post. Eagle Arts Academy teachers got a full paycheck Friday, though they remain concerned about the checks they’re due at the end of the month. District officials say they’ll close the school within the next 90 days unless it can balance its budget and pay more than $700,000 in back rent. Palm Beach Post. The Brevard County School Board will decide Tuesday whether to close the Legacy Academy Charter School in Port St. John. District officials say the 200-student K-6 school is in a financial emergency, employs noncertified teachers and operates without basic instructional materials. Florida Today. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Board wants to arm school staff, forgotten gun and more

School security: While the Brevard County school superintendent and sheriff now agree that the school district should reject the state’s guardian program, a majority of school board members say they want to move forward with the program to arm select employees. The district needs $5 million it doesn’t have to put a resource officer in every school, and board members say the guardian program can help bridge the gap. Florida Today. Clay County school officials say meeting the state mandates on school security will cost the district at least $15 million, and the district won’t get nearly that much from the state. Florida Times-Union. Clay Today. Collier County school officials say they’ll improve school security by locking school doors, adding access control systems and requiring photo IDs from every visitor. “We didn’t get any additional (state) funds for hardening schools or for safety equipment,” says Superintendent Kamela Patton. “We think this new layer of security across the district is a really good value for what we’re doing.” Naples Daily NewsWGCU. Manatee County commissioners want the school district to foot the bill for putting a resource officer in every school. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Leon County School District begins negotiations with law enforcement officials to determine how to put a resource officer into 21 elementary schools that don’t have one. Tallahassee Democrat. Monroe County School Board members agree to ask voters in August to increase their taxes to raise money for school security. Key West Citizen. Lee County school officials say Bonita Springs High School, which opens in August, has special security measures built in and will be a model of safety for future schools. Fort Myers News-Press.

School shooting developments: A Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher who says he’d be willing to carry a gun in school to protect students is arrested and charged with failing to safely store a firearm. Broward sheriff’s deputies say Sean Simpson forgot his handgun in the public bathroom at the Deerfield Beach Pier. A drunken homeless man found it and fired a bullet into a wall before Simpson was able to disarm him. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. WPLG. Confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz wants to donate whatever inheritance he’s due to a charity that will help his victims, his lawyer says. Sun-Sentinel.

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Florida schools roundup: Security measures, nation’s report card and more

School security: The Broward County School Board accepts Superintendent Robert Runcie’s recommendation and votes unanimously against participating in the state’s guardian program to arm specified school employees. The district will ask the state if it can redirect money from the guardian program to hire resource officers. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. The state will send Duval County $4 million for school safety, but interim superintendent Patricia Willis says the district needs $14 million to place a resource officer in every school. Florida Times-Union. Palm Beach County School Superintendent Donald Fennoy is planning to restructure the district’s police force, which includes choosing a new chief and adding 75 officers to the 150 it has now. Palm Beach Post. Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey, who had strongly pushed the school board to participate in the guardian program, is now recommending against it, and Superintendent Desmond Blackburn says he agrees. Ivey says he’s worried the debate about arming school employees is overshadowing the more important need for resource officers in every school. Florida Today. Polk County school officials are considering hiring armed security guards for their schools. “Basically, what we’re doing is creating our own police force,” says Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. Lakeland Ledger. To meet state mandates on school security, many Florida districts are shifting money from other projects, including instructional, dipping into reserves or contemplating borrowing. Reuters.

More on report card: While most of the nation had so-so results on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and mathematics assessments, also known as the nation’s report card, Florida students outperformed their peers in grades 4 and 8 reading and grade 4 math, and was the only state to show improvements in three of the four categories. Three large Florida districts — Miami-Dade, Duval and Hillsborough — also ranked among the leaders of the 27 that participated in a trial urban district assessment. Here’s the full NAEP report and highlights. Florida Times-Union. WJCT. WJXTredefinED. Miami HeraldThe 74Florida Governor’s Office. What’s Florida doing that other states could emulate? Education Week. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos praises Florida as a “bright spot” in NAEP testing, but pointing to the stagnant scores and a widening achievement gap, says “we can and we must do better for America’s students.” Education Week. Politico Florida. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Florida aces nation’s report card, security and more

Nation’s report card: Florida is the only state that improved in the National Assessment of Educational Progress math exam, according the annual report from the National Center for Education Statistics. Florida is also just one of nine states showing improvement in the reading exam. Among the nation’s larger districts, Hillsborough County was first in 4th-grade reading and math, and 8th-graders tied for first in reading and were tied for second in math. NAEP exam results are called the “nation’s report card” because they are a common test that can compare student academic performance across the country. “Something very good is happening in Florida, obviously,” says Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of assessment at the NCES. “Florida needs to be commended.” Nationally, test results showed little or no gains. Orlando SentinelTampa Bay Times. Chalkbeat. Hechinger Report. U.S. News & World Report. For the first time, a majority of U.S. students took the tests on computer tablets. Some educators are concerned that the change makes year-to-year score comparisons unreliable. Chalkbeat.

School security: The Jefferson County School Board votes against allowing school employees to carry concealed weapons in schools. School Superintendent Marianne Arbulu and Sheriff Mac McNeill agree that only deputies and resource officers should be armed on campus. WTXL. Manatee County School Superintendent Diana Greene says the district will need to find $1.8 million to put a resource officer in every school in August. The state is contributing $3.4 million to the district for the officers, but the total cost will be $5.2 million, Greene says. She also provided details of how the district will spend money from the voter-approved increase in property taxes for schools. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Citrus County commissioners are considering using  law enforcement impact fees and the other drug seizure funds to pay for school resource officers. Citrus County Chronicle. Student leaders from Lake County high schools collaborate to create a survey on school safety for students. Daily Commercial. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Teacher protests, texting troubles and more

Teacher protests: The proliferation of teacher protests across the United States is a sign of a deepening dissatisfaction with the conditions of the educational system, such as low teacher pay, a sense of not being valued, violence in schools, budget cuts and funding inequalities, says Darleen Opfer, an education analyst at the Rand Corporation. “We’ve been seeing conditions in schools deteriorate, stagnate or increase school violence,” she says. “The conditions are widespread enough we’d consider schools being in crisis.” National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia agrees, saying, “We’ve never seen a brushfire like this.” Agence France-Presse.

Texting troubles: A series of text messages between Sarasota County School Board member Eric Robinson and Sheriff Tom Knight show a collaborative effort to force the school district to pay the full costs for having a school resource officer in every school. The often-profane messages from Robinson also deride Superintendent Todd Bowden and board member Shirley Brown. Robinson acknowledged the messages were “inappropriate” and reflected his frustration with the board’s unwillingness to consider cutting costs. Knight said the text messages were “bad judgment” and blamed Robinson for using him to criticize Bowden. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School security: Palm Beach County school officials say they are concerned that as the trauma of the school shooting in Parkland fades, so will the resolve of political leaders to protect schools. Palm Beach Post. Town hall meetings on gun violence and school safety are held Saturday around the state. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach PostTampa Bay Times. WJXT. Citrus County sheriff’s officials are urging the school district to reject hiring private security guards to provide school security. The school board meets Tuesday to discuss how to meet the state mandate of having a qualified armed person at every school. Citrus County Chronicle. The Monroe County School Board meets Tuesday to discuss the ballot language of a plan to increase property taxes to pay for having a resource officer in every school. Key West Citizen. Continue Reading →