Archive | Testing and Accountability

Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069 lawsuit, evaluations, charters and more

H.B. 7069 suit: The Miami-Dade and Palm Beach school boards vote unanimously to join other districts in suing the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. Broward, Lee, Bay, St. Lucie and Volusia counties also have agreed to join a common lawsuit, and another 10-12 are reportedly considering joining. The districts are unhappy that they have to share local property taxes with charter schools, but have limited authority over those schools. Some board members and board attorneys also say the law violates the state constitution’s rule limiting bills to a single subject. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. WLRN.

District ends use of VAM: The Citrus County School Board eliminates the use of the state’s value-added measure (VAM) in evaluating teachers. VAM is a complicated formula that takes into consideration students’ expected test scores vs. actual scores. Citrus is one of the first districts in the state to end the use of VAM. The district’s method will use student improvement, but also allows consideration of students who are doing well academically even if their test scores aren’t as high as the state expects. Gradebook.

Charters to Florida: The recent $33 million sale of two Florida charter schools to buyers from Oregon was the second part of a seven-school, $100 million deal, says an official from the Colliers International Education Services Group. Achikam Yogev, senior vice president of the company, says he expects more deals to follow. He says the new education law that provides money for charter schools to move into areas with persistently low-performing schools is an indication that state leaders strongly support the charter school industry, making it a solid investment. Bisnow.

Back to school: In calls and text to parents, Hillsborough County school officials are warnings that buses could be up to two and a half hours late today, the first day of the school for the district, and maybe even into next week. Gradebook. Many districts around Florida start school today or Monday. Orlando Sentinel. Fort Myers News-Press. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Ocala Star-Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Port St. Joe Star. WTVTWFLA. WTSP. Tampa Bay Times.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher shortages, spending, recess and more

Teachers needed: Just days before the school year begins, school districts in west-central Florida still need hundreds of teachers. Hillsborough County has the most openings, 205. Pasco needs 128, Polk more than 110 and Sarasota, Hernando and Citrus counties are also hiring. Pinellas County has just seven jobs left to fill. “You have 67 public school districts in Florida, so we’re all competing for that same small group of students that are graduating from Florida universities and colleges,” says Teddra Porteous, assistant superintendent in Polk County. WFTS. WTSP. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Spending analysis: The Duval County School Board delays an outside audit of the district’s spending, opting first to have the board auditor and district staff do an analysis of how the district spent $21 million more than it was budgeted to last year. Two state representatives had asked for an audit, which board members rejected. Now those members are saying they will likely have an outside audit done after the spending analysis. Board chairwoman Paula Wright says the first analysis should be able to narrow the focus of the second, which should lower its cost. Florida Times-Union.

School recess: Elementary students in Pasco will get their 20 minutes of free, unstructured recess every day. The district’s new student progression plan calls for “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day,” according to the plan. Decisions on how to make that happen will be made by each school’s principal. Gradebook.

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Florida schools roundup: Funding study, retention motion, charters and more

School funding: Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, approves a study of the school funding formula’s district cost differential (DCD). The request for the study came from Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, who contend that the DCD has cost school systems in their districts and around the state millions of dollars since it was adopted in 2004. The DCD directs extra money to districts with a higher cost of living. The study will be conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability and the Office of Economic & Demographic Research. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Retention suit motion: The Florida Department of Education is asking a circuit court to dismiss a lawsuit that challenged the state’s third-grade retention law and how it was implemented by several school districts. The Florida Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case, saying the plaintiffs would have to file suits at the county level. Now the DOE says the plaintiffs didn’t exhaust their administrative options before filing the suit in Leon County, and that students who refuse to take the state’s standardized tests have no right to an option of a portfolio review. Gradebook.

Charter schools: A new state law requires local school districts to share local property taxes collected for capital improvements with charter schools. But there’s an exception that will leave a handful of charter schools without any public funds. The amount to be shared hinges on how much debt a district has. Charters in districts with a lot of debt may get no money at all, while charters in districts with little debt will. So districts with little debt and charters in districts with heavy debt are both asking for relief. Tampa Bay Times.

Cities buy their way in: Affluent cities in Miami-Dade County increasingly are starting their own charter school systems or buying seats for local students in magnet programs at other public schools. The practice can increase public school options, but some critics worry it will lead to racial and economic segregation. Steve Gallon, a member of the school board, says such proposals “could result in the creation of systems and structures that could impede such access to poor children and those of color to a world-class education based on their ZIP codes.” Miami Herald.

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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: H.B. 7069, evaluations, charters, budgets and more

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: The Sarasota County School Board votes against joining other districts in a proposed lawsuit against the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. Board member Bridget Ziegler proposed a motion to “suspend all consideration or further allocation of resources toward the support of any potential litigation challenging House Bill 7069,” which was adopted. She said the vote gave the district an “opportunity to send a message that we are above the political theater” of wasting “time, money, and intellectual capital” on legal fees. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sunshine State News. Duval County School Board chairwoman Paula Wright says a proposed audit is unlikely to explain how the district overspent its budget by $21 million last year, and criticizes state Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, for requesting it. Fischer also condemned the board for considering joining a lawsuit against the new state education law. Wright’s reply: “We are not going to be pushed or bullied … to do things quickly for the benefit of others.” Florida Times-Union. A review of text messages details the last-minute fighting in the Legislature over H.B. 7069. Politico Florida.

Teacher evaluations: Florida school districts haven’t lived up to the “spirit” of the state’s 2011 teacher evaluation law, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. In most places, the report says, teachers can still get a larger pay bump for having a master’s degree than for receiving a “highly effective” evaluation. National Council on Teacher Quality.

Charter funding: The Broward County School Board agrees to share some of the property tax money it collects with the five-school charter system owned and operated by the city of Pembroke Pines. The city has been asking for money from the district since 2005. The board said its decision to share applies only to the Pembroke Pines schools and not schools owned and operated by charter companies. A new state law calls for districts to share local property taxes collected with charter schools, but Broward and several other districts say they will be filing a suit challenging the constitutionality of it. Sun Sentinel.

School budgets: The Hillsborough County School Board gives tentative approval to a $2.9 billion budget. Tampa Bay Times. The Bay County School Board tentatively approves a $376 million budget, an increase of $18 million over last year despite a slightly lower proposed millage rate. Panama City News Herald.

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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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Florida schools roundup: Audit call, budgets, schools of hope and more

District audit request: State Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, is calling on the state to audit the Duval County School District to find out how it spent $21 million more than it budgeted to last year. Fischer acknowledges that the call for an audit is motivated, at least in part, by the school board’s consideration of joining a lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. “I’m deeply concerned that the school district is taking their eye off the ball by considering frivolous lawsuits against the state rather than getting their financial house in order,” Fischer wrote to Sen. Debbie Mayfield, chairman of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. The Lee County School Board will consider this week whether to join the lawsuit against H.B. 7069. Several districts say they will join Broward and St. Lucie school districts in bringing a suit, or are considering it. Fort Myers News-Press.

School budgets: The Marion County School Board votes today on a proposed $534.7 million budget that hikes spending by $12.7 million over last year. About $7.8 million of that comes from state and federal spending, and the rest will be taken from reserves to help offset increased health-insurance premiums for employees. Ocala Star Banner. Brevard school officials say the tight state budget for education has put raises for teachers in jeopardy. Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, says the state budget includes raises for teachers rated highly effective or effective, which are on top of potential payouts from the teachers bonuses program. “So teachers will make more money because of the budget that we passed,” Fine says. “Brevard Public Schools doesn’t need to give them a raise to make that happen.” Meanwhile, Superintendent Desmond Blackburn gets a raise of $10,500. Florida Today.

Schools of hope: Three schools in north Florida could be home to the first “schools of hope” under the new education law, but 37 other schools that have struggled for three or more years also could qualify in the 2018-2019 school year. Under the plan, the state can offer financial incentives to recruit charter school companies into areas that have persistently low-performing schools. redefinED. The Sarasota County School District is taking a closer look at the Suncoast School for Innovative Studies, the only Title I charter school in the county. It received a D grade from the state. “… Why did (Title 1 elementary school) Emma E. Booker get a B and you got a D when you’ve got the same demographics?” asks board member Eric Robinson. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Continue Reading →

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Schools of Hope — coming to a community near you?

Last week, the state Board of Education set plans in motion that could bring new charter schools to as many as three high-poverty rural areas in North Florida.

It was one of the first tangible effects of the state’s new Schools of Hope legislation.

But a memo distributed by the state Department of Education shows the impact won’t end there.

Another 37 schools across the state are in basically the same position as the three schools that brought plans before the state Board. They’ve struggled for three or more years with D or F performance ratings, and are nearing the end of a state-mandated turnaround process.

If these schools don’t raise their letter grades to C’s, they will have three options for the 2018-19 school year. Continue Reading →

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