Stating it was "not irrational" for Florida or its school districts to use a value-added model for teacher evaluations, a federal appeals court has ruled against a Florida Education Association lawsuit challenging the 2011 system created in SB 736.
"Because the state and district defendants could have rationally believed that the challenged evaluations policies would improve students' academic achievement, we affirm the district court's entry of summary judgment in the defendants' favor," the court wrote. (See the full ruling here.)
The court did not agree with arguments that the plaintiffs lacked standing, or that the case specifics had changed too much as to render the issue moot. Teachers brought the suit when they first were told they might be evaluated based on the performance of students they never had in class, or on subjects they did not teach — situations lawmakers later amended.
The FEA leadership expressed dismay with the decision.
We're disappointed that the court did not agree that Florida's flawed evaluation system violated these teachers' constitutional rights," FEA president Andy Ford said in a statement. …Full Story
As the Florida Department of Education continued to release state test results in late June, several irate parents complained that the reports should not have come unless an independent review found the exams valid.
That validity study is now entering its second month, with several key points yet to be determined.
Alpine Testing Solutions, the firm selected to conduct the review, stated in a report submitted to the FLDOE that at the end of June, it had received only about half of the documents it had requested from the department and its testing vendors. The group and its partner, edCount, also planned meetings with department and American Institutes for Research staffers over the next two weeks discuss a variety of factors, such as test item content, field testing, equating and scoring, and test administration — all items that will be considered when determining the reliability and validity of the spring tests.
The group further noted its efforts to receive information from school districts' testing coordinators, including face-to-face meetings next week in Miami, Orlando and Tallahassee, as well as a survey that remains open through mid-July. …Full Story
FULL SERVICE: An Escambia elementary school takes steps toward becoming a community school, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.
CHARTER SCHOOLS: A judge rules that Florida charter schools are not required to provide student transportation, the News Service of Florida reports.
AILING: Manatee School Board member Mary Cantrell shows small signs of improvement while in hospice, the Bradenton Herald reports.
EARLY RELEASE: Brevard parents raise concerns as the school district prepares to release students early each Wednesday, Florida Today reports.
TEACHER TURNOVER: Duval parents worry about teacher departures, but district officials say the rate is slowed, the Florida Times-Union reports.
'STRATEGIC SHEDDING': Palm Beach's new superintendent hints at a spending revamp, the Palm Beach Post reports.
INCENTIVES: The Lee school district offers bonuses up to lure highly effective teachers to hard-to-staff schools, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.Full Story
The Hillsborough district announced an increase in students with International Baccalaureate diplomas this year.
The Robinson High School program turned out 99 percent with the diploma, up from 88 percent in 2014.
At King, the percent rose from 96 to 97; at Hillsborough, 92 to 96; and at Strawberry Crest, 91 to 94.
To receive an IB diploma, a student must pass oral and written exams at the end of their senior year, complete community service hours, and write a college level essay.
"Our students have set themselves up for success," said Superintendent Jeff Eakins. "The IB diploma allows our students to develop critical thinking skills and a global understanding of issues. These results are unprecedented in Hillsborough County."
Some of the students will enter college as either sophomores or juniors.Full Story
ONE MORE TRY: About 1,800 Palm Beach children attend summer classes hoping to rise from third into fourth grade, the Palm Beach Post reports.
EXTRA HELP: Schools with high populations of military children gain added state money, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.
BRANDING: The former Newpoint charter schools in Bay County try a new name and hope for better successes, the Panama City News Herald reports.
PARTNERS? The Bay school district sets a deadline for Panama City to decide whether to participate in rebuilding a high school stadium, the Panama City News Herald reports.
FUNDING: Florida's student funding system should be more fair, the Daily Commerical editorializes.Full Story
HIGH TECH: Santa Rosa schools win a grant to help them improve classroom technology, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.
TESTING: The National Education Association considers several resolutions on testing as it conducts its annual meeting in Orlando, Education Week reports.
BEST AND BRIGHTEST: The Florida Legislature misses the boat in spending $44 million on teacher bonuses tied to SAT scores, the Times editorializes.
VETOES: Gov. Rick Scott's budget cuts take their toll on education programs in northeast Florida, the Florida Times-Union reports.Full Story
PERFORMANCE PAY: SAT and ACT makers say they haven't considered whether their tests could be used to predict who will be good teachers as Florida proposes in its Best and Brightest program, the Miami Herald reports.
STAY SAFE: The Duval school system opens school gyms over the summer to give kids more things to to do, the Florida Times-Union reports.
INPUT: The Okaloosa school district seeks higher response on its annual parent survey, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.
GROWTH: The Brevard school district projects its largest enrollment influx in years, Florida Today reports.
FINAL DAYS: Manatee School Board member Mary Cantrell enters hospice and will not return to her post, the Herald-Tribune reports.Full Story
The end result of Florida's legislative budget debates has not dimmed Pasco school superintendent Kurt Browning's plan to offer 3 percent raises to all district employees for the coming year.
"It is my priority to have a 3 percent pay increase," Browning said, adding that if cuts must be made, they will come from other parts of the budget.
Browning presented summary documents to School Board members this week, in preparation for a workshop on spending next Tuesday. In it, the largest single increase to the general fund is $11.2 million for raises. The proposal also includes $2.7 million for added positions, including staff for three reopened schools and 31 new in-school technology technicians.
All together, the district expects $23.7 million in new revenue, including $4.1 million in nonrecurring funds. Of that amount, $8.3 million is slated for fixed costs such as retirement contributions, with the rest going to raises, benefits, programs and a small discretionary fund of $319.774.
Board members expressed satisfaction with the recommendations. …Full Story
TEACHER EVALUATIONS: The Pasco teachers union says it would prefer to have student test scores count as half a teacher's evaluation rather than a third.
LEARNING LOSS: Pasco Fox Hollow Elementary opens its media center on Tuesdays for students to get added reading time and instruction. • Hillsborough Valrico Elementary offers children a Summer Literacy Club.
IMPROVED INSTRUCTION: Hernando school leaders attribute improved student state test results to added instructional coaching of teachers.
DISCRIMINATION: A Guatemalan-born teen has sued the Palm Beach school district, alleging it forced him out of classes once he turned 18, the Palm Beach Post reports.
TEST STRESS: Marion teachers say high stakes testing keeps them on edge, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.
BEST AND BRIGHTEST? The National Council on Teacher Quality criticizes Florida's new teacher bonus program based on teacher SAT scores, the Sun-Sentinel reports.Full Story
In an unexpected twist Thursday, the United School Employees of Pasco rejected a district offer to reduce the amount that student test scores count on teacher evaluations.
Taking advantage of new state law, the district had offered to cut the weight of the data from 50 percent to 35 percent, giving added heft to classroom observations. Union representatives said the idea seemed "fantastic" on its face, but after crunching numbers it appeared less so.
In a nutshell, lead negotiator Val Smith said, a teacher with exceptional student performance results over multiple years could be hurt by an administrator's low rating of a handful of activities in class.
"We're going to continue to advocate for the 50-50 split," Smith said. See our story here.
District officials were surprised, to say the least, by the move. Lawmakers offered the flexibility for a reason, negotiator Kathy Scalise observed, and the district and union would be wise to take advantage.
For the time being, though, the sides did not see eye to eye. And it wasn't just over the use of test data. …Full Story
Randy Toler might have competition as he goes after the countywide Hillsborough County School Board seat now held by Carol Kurdell. Or he might not.
Stanley Gray, a 59-year-old retiree, filed his papers this week to run.
When contacted by Gradebook, he said, "I'm considering running."
He filed, he said, because he thought he was up against a deadline to do so. But it turns out that deadline is not until almost a year from now, in June 2016.
Gray said he has varied business experience and has volunteered at Lanier Elementary School in a program that encourages children to read. "I believe that even though I am strong willed, I can compromise and I can seek compromise," he said.
Then he cut the conversation short, saying he'd rather meet in person and "I don't even know who you are." Gradebook asked him to get back in touch if he decides to run.
Other newcomers to the school board races include Alix Christopher Toulme Jr., who criticized incumbent Susan Valdes, his opponent, for firing MaryEllen Elia. Touleme said he would have waited for Elia's contract to run out, not realizing that probably would never happen, as she had a self-perpetuating contract. …Full Story
A former Pinellas County teacher, who now works at a local charter school, has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against his former bosses.
Kirby Hart, a science and math teacher at Academie da Vinci, claims he was threatened with termination because of his activity with the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.
In documents filed with the Public Employees Relations Commission, Hart explains that he joined the union after his school at the time, Pinellas Gulf Coast Academy, was taken over by the school district. He volunteered to serve as the building representative, and began asking pointed questions of the principal after teachers complained they were working more hours than the contract required.
As he continued to press the issue, Kirby wrote, the principal became increasingly angry. "I began being treated more and more in a negative and unprofessional manner," he stated in the document.
Soon after taking a sick day for a doctor's appointment, he stated, he was called in for a meeting where he was told to resign or be terminated. "Any questions we attempted to ask were either met with no reply, being cut off, or inaccurate responses." …Full Story
Barring any unforeseen additional changes, the Pasco school district has filled its last remaining principal vacancy with another familiar face.
Jeffrey Wolff, assistant principal at the Dade City school since 2010, will move into the top job upon School Board approval. Wolff, who was an assistant principal at Wesley Chapel High before moving to Pasco Middle, has worked for the school district since 1996.
He's the second person in his family to become a principal within the system: His wife, Christine Wolff, leads John Long Middle School in Wesley Chapel.
Wolff replaces Kim Anderson, who was transferred to San Antonio Elementary School. One of his primary responsibilities will be to continue the school's transition into the Cambridge advanced academic program, which feeds into Pasco High.Full Story
PRIORITIES: On his first official day, Hillsborough superintendent Jeff Eakins talks about his goals for the school district.
COMMUNICATION: Pasco Pine View Middle leaders scale back their aggressive scheduling and curriculum plans after listening to parent concerns.
TESTING: Ohio follows Florida's lead in dropping PARCC and moving to AIR for its state testing, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
SOFTWARE DISPUTE: The Brevard school district has yet to receive much of the computer software it bought for $5.5 million, Florida Today reports.
CHARTER SCHOOLS: Bankruptcy proceedings give an inside look into a failed Duval charter school's financial woes, the Florida Times-Union reports. • An embattled Sarasota charter school plans to start from scratch on its reorganization, the Herald-Tribune reports.
PARTNERSHIP: The Bay school district joins forces with a developer and the local convention and visitors bureau to create a new sports complex and public school, the Panama City News Herald reports.
MAINTENANCE: A Broward high school will continue to wait for long-needed and promised repairs, the Sun-Sentinel reports.Full Story
Andrea Messina, the Florida School Boards Association's director of professional development since 2012, has taken over the organization's top spot as executive director. Her first day on the job was Wednesday.
Messina, a former three-term Charlotte School Board member, replaced longtime FSBA leader Wayne Blanton, who retired in the spring after four decades advocating for school boards. The FSBA board selected her during a recent meeting in Tampa.
"We were fortunate to consider several excellent candidates for this position," FSBA president Caroline Zucker said in a news release. "Andrea presented the best combination of experience and leadership to take the helm as Executive Director."
Messina is a former English teacher who worked in Charlotte and Orange counties, and a past member of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council.
"I look forward to this new opportunity to work with school board members and school districts to build on FSBA's legacy of advocating for students and public education," Messina said in a release.Full Story