In many schools around the country, once the state testing period ends, teachers and students slow down their pace and relax. The homework often ends, and the curriculum — having already been tested — segues into a combination of review and a look ahead to the next year's expectations.
In some places, though, testing continues. Not to evaluate student abilities or teacher performance, but to fine-tune the questions for future exams. Test experts say it's an important part of the process, to avoid misleading, poorly written or just plain dumb items that shouldn't be on high-stakes tests.
In New York City, a growing number of parents are protesting the use of their children as test guinea pigs, and they're getting support from some high profile politicians, the NY Times reports. Parents are boycotting the testing days, and some principals are just sending back the tests unopened.
“We’re seeing the early glimmers of a bigger fight,” Frederick M. Hess, an education scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told the NY Times. “The real question is if states can keep those concerns isolated.” …Full Story
VETO PEN: Gov. Rick Scott is set to sign the FY 2014 budget, but veto a 3 percent tuition rate increase within it.
FEW OPTIONS: Parents of children with severe disabilities have limited school choices when the centers their children attend are rated F, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
TEACHER APPRECIATION: Some Manatee parents plan to rally outside a School Board budget workshop to show their support of teachers facing layoffs, the Bradenton Herald reports.
EARLY EDUCATION: Duval schools plan to add more prekindergarten classes, the Florida Times-Union reports.
BUS SAFETY: Palm Beach officials look for ways to protect children after a string of school bus accidents, the Palm Beach Post reports.
TEACHER TRAINING: Experts take a closer look at schools of education at UCF and other colleges to evaluate their value, the Hechinger Report reports.
LOVE OF ART: A Sarasota principal helps two county elementary schools develop strong dance and drama programs, the Herald-Tribune reports.
REOPENING: A coalition makes plans to open 16 of 24 Duval Head Start sites that were shut down on Friday, the Florida Times-Union reports.Full Story
As Gov. Rick Scott signs a $74.5 billion budget before leaving for a trade mission to Chile Monday, his rejection of a 3-percent tuition increase for state colleges and universities was expected. He has criticized the idea for months, calling it a "tax" on middle-class families.
Scott's veto message says Florida should be proud that its tuition is lower than most states and that students should be able to earn degrees and find jobs without being saddled with "massive debt."
The veto could draw a legal challenge from the Legislature. Tuition is technically not a line item subject to a veto, but is wedged into the budget as proviso language tied to an appropriation that Scott will not veto. Former Gov. Charlie Crist took similar action in 2007, and lawmakers didn't challenge it in court.
Seeking to build a case for a veto, Scott's office asked state university presidents to sign a letter saying they do not want more tuition revenue this year. University leaders collectively decided not to sign the letter, and balked at getting in the middle of a fight between Scott and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who led the charge for a tuition hike. …Full Story
Over recent months, the Pasco County school district has seen its share of bullying incidents. One case that's a few years old led the School Board to adopt an agreement with the federal government to dramatically improve its policies on harassment and discrimination.
Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning says in a column for the Tampa Bay Times that the schools and the community must combat the problem of bullying head on. It will take extra education, training and vigilance on everyone's part, he writes:
"Our desire is to put an end to bullying and harassment in our public schools. The education community cannot do this without the support and involvement of the greater Pasco County community. We must stand together to have any chance of eradicating bullying, harassment and violent behaviors. I promise that we will do our part to create civil and respectful school cultures where bullying is not tolerated and I hope I can count on all of you to do your part."
Read more here.Full Story
FOR THE KIDS? The president of the Seven Springs Elementary PTA is arrested on charges she embezzled thousands of dollars from the group.
MAKING PROGRESS: A Hernando K-8 school holds a literacy cafe for parents to see how their kindergartners have improved in writing through the year.
SCHOOL CLOSING: Manatee will close Central High School, which serves over-age students, as a cost-saving move, the Bradenton Herald reports.
MAKING ROOM: A search for school zone boundary jumpers could open seats for students to get back into their Palm Beach school, the Palm Beach Post reports.
FINANCIAL CONTROLS: The Polk School Board increases the frequency for auditing schools, the Ledger reports.
SO CLOSE: Students from a Monroe high school almost tag a great white shark on a shark tagging field trip, the Keynoter reports.
CLASS SIZE: The Manatee superintendent's claim that the district had very small class sizes as a result of overhiring aren't borne out on closer scrutiny, Herald-Tribune columnist Tom Lyons writes.
CHOICES: Florida's new high school graduation law gives students diploma options, the St. Augustine Record reports.Full Story
JUST SAY NO: Gov. Rick Scott asks Florida's university presidents for their support in his opposition to increased tuition rates.
TENACITY: A Dixie Hollins High senior struggles to make it to graduation before cancer claims her.
BELIEVE, ACHIEVE: A Tampa middle school teaches its low performing readers more about commitment and other things to help them focus on success.
SUE YOU: A woman who was rejected for a provost job at St. Petersburg College sues the school and its president for discrimination.
JOINING FORCES: The Pasco County Council of PTAs revives after years of inactivity.
COSTLY OPTIONS: Florida school districts are considering whether to pay the increased cost of dual enrollment or to scale back advanced high school course offerings, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.
TEACHER DISCIPLINE: A dismissed Clay teacher denies accusations of child abuse against a student, whom he is accused of putting into a choke hold, the Florida Times-Union reports. • A Marion teacher is suspended over allegations that he touched a student on the head with a banana, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. …Full Story
University presidents expect Gov. Rick Scott to veto the tuition increase that lawmakers included in the budget. But they didn't expect to be put in the middle of the debate.Here is an excerpt from a story in Saturday's paper about the governor's request that university presidents sign a letter saying they don't want any additional tuition revenue:
Gov. Rick Scott has all-but-guaranteed a veto of the three-percent tuition increase in the state budget and he recently reached out to an unlikely group to aid his cause.
All 12 state university presidents were asked to sign a letter initiated by the governor's office that says they do not want more tuition revenue. In the process, they would have rejected an automatic 1.7 percent increase to cover the cost of inflation.
"As a result of this (year's) historical support for state universities, we are pleased to report that we will not be seeking any tuition increases for the upcoming school year and intend to maintain tuition at current levels," reads a draft of the letter, which is signed "INSERT PRESIDENT SIGNATURE" and addressed to Scott. …Full Story
Superintendent Mike Grego announced in late April that he was changing staffing levels in special education because Pinellas County Schools spends far more, on average, than other schools districts.
To cut those costs, Grego consolidated the special education centers - repurposing Hamilton Disston - and combined the school-based VE liaison and the district-based CED job. He said the district was staffing some classrooms to the most intensive teacher to student ratios and grouping students by disability rather than severity level.
The result of all these changes is that people's jobs have been cut for the 2013/14 school year.
District officials confirmed Friday that 100 to 115 classroom aide positions have been cut. With the combo job - now called teacher on special assignment - varying exceptionalities specialist - there are 15 fewer jobs for the VEs and CEDs to apply for. (There are about 51 VEs and CEDs and only 36 combined positions.) The district has been advertising the combined job online. It's not clear how many of the displaced employees could find jobs elsewhere in the district. …Full Story
The Hillsborough County school district will conduct focus groups this summer about exceptional student education, the district's new ESE chief told an advisory council on Friday.
Principals and assistant principals, parents, teachers and students will take part in the directed discussions.
"What we're hoping to see is a thread among all the stakeholders of some of the goals and places where we need to go," Maryann Parks, general director of ESE, told the Superintendent's Advisory Council for the Education of Students with Disabilities.
Now on the job a month, Parks said she also is trying to get ideas from other districts about how to get more ESE parents involved at the school level. "We have to look at what our peers are doing and learn from them," she said. She expects to return to the council with more information about both efforts.
In addition to the normal end-of-the-year responsibilities of a department that serves 29,000 students, Parks is implementing safety improvements that come about in the aftermath of two student deaths in 2012.
The Pinellas County School Board is expected to sign off on a slew of principal reappointments at its meeting next week.
The biggest changes already have been announced, with superintendent Mike Grego "walking in" principal changes a week ago for the five schools facing state intervention. The list on the agenda for Tuesday's School Board meeting is below. Note that a couple principals, such as Robyn Witcher from Pinellas Park Middle, have been reappointed but no school is listed. Those people still are in the running for administrative jobs.
A few principals also are missing from the list, but the Gradebook hasn't heard yet whether they are retiring, were let go or are in the running for another job. We'll update with details as we get them. UPDATE: Clint Herbic is returning to Tarpon Springs High as principal. He should be on the June 11 agenda. The district said information is not available about Godfrey Watson at Campbell Park Elementary, Kim Short at Pinellas Park Elementary, Alisa Gatlin at Largo Middle and Barry Brown at John Hopkins Middle.
See the list:
Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego announced in April that he would cut 13 jobs in the administration. Of the 13 jobs he planned to eliminate, five were administrators. Three were "professional/technical/supervisory" and five were support positions.
Most of the "cuts" were made to pay for a few positions he did want, such as deputy superintendent and upgrades to the directors of elementary, middle and high school education. The resulting shake-up is occurring now. Grego named his deputy and an associate superintendent of student and community services. He changed the associate superintendent of teaching and learning. And he's reappointed a bunch of administrators. That leaves a few administrators still looking for a place for the 2013/14 school year.
Here's how the administrative and PTS positions targeted for elimination are playing out so far:
GOBBLE, GOBBLE: Gov. Rick Scott faces pressure over what to leave in the state budget and what to veto. More from State Impact Florida.
WHO KNEW? A family sues the Broward school district claiming that school officials ignored information that a teacher was having sex with one of her 13-year-old students, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
EARN IT: Duval's superintendent proposes ending the district's grade recovery program, suggesting the courses aren't rigorous enough, the Florida Times-Union reports.
LABOR NEWS: For just the second time in half a century, the United Teachers of Dade swears in a new president, the Miami Herald reports. • Escambia considers increasing substitute teacher pay, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.
LAYOFFS: Manatee teachers and staff get a robocall at home alerting them that layoffs are coming soon, the Bradenton Herald reports. More from the Herald-Tribune.
AT ODDS: A majority of the Palm Beach School Board spar with their superintendent and one fellow member over a program they never agreed upon, the Palm Beach Post reports. …Full Story
Gov. Rick Scott has reappointed six members of the Florida Polytechnic University board that the Senate failed the confirm this session.
The remaining members of the board weren't confirmed either, but they must be reappointed by the state Board of Governors that oversees universities.
Scott reppointed the six Polytechnic board members along with 36 other people who were passed over during session, including three agency heads. If the Senate doesn't confirm them next year, they will be required to leave their posts.
Scott also reappointed Glenton Gilzean, the newest member of the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees.
Senate leaders decided against confirming the Polytechnic board, citing ongoing uncertainty about the school's future. They also held off confirming Gilzean, who was appointed right as session was getting underway.
Read more on The Buzz.Full Story
The Florida Education Association isn't taking a judge's dismissal of one of its lawsuits challenging the state's merit pay law sitting down.
Union lawyer Ron Meyer this week filed a motion for rehearing on the suit, which contended that the provisions of SB 736 violated the state's rules on collective bargaining. He wrote: …Full Story
In what has become an annual rite of spring, the Florida Department of Education has scheduled its media briefing on how to translate FCAT results for next week Monday, meaning the actual results won't be far behind. Not Monday, we've been told, because of the 11 a.m. press call, and not Tuesday because the State Board of Education meets. But any time after that is fair game.
First up, as usual, will be third grade reading and math scores -- they're among the few actual gatekeeper tests that the state requires -- and the writing results for fourth, eighth and tenth graders. A year ago almost to the day, as you will recall, the State Board of Education went into crisis mode as it learned that new scoring requirements for the FCAT writing severely reduced passing rates. This year, the passing score has been increased from 3.0 to 3.5.
Without any fanfare, the state on Thursday put out the 12th grade retake results, for seniors who have yet to pass the exit-level test. Statewide, the results were the same year-to-year, 17 percent passing the reading FCAT and 21 percent passing the math FCAT. Locally in the Tampa area, the results were as follows: …Full Story