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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

The numbers behind Hillsborough's non-graduates

Hillsborough acting superintendent Jeff Eakins pulled these statistics recently while analyzing possible barriers to high school graduation.

Retention (for all students from the cohort enrolled in HCPS in 2001-02)

If in Kindergarten in 2001-02, and entered grade 9 on time in 2010-11, 85% graduated. (N=5,578)

If in 1st Grade in 2001-02, and entered grade 9 one year late in 2010-11, 58% graduated. (N=1,280)

If in 2nd Grade in 2001-02, and entered grade 9 two years late in 2010-11, 33% graduated. (N=30)


1st Grade Stanford Total Reading (for all students in HCPS in 1st Grade in 2002-03)

If Total Reading National Percentile Rank < 40th %ile69% graduated. (N=868)

If Total Reading National Percentile Rank ≥ 40th %ile89% graduated. (N=4,616)


3rd Grade FCAT (for all students in 3rd Grade in HCPS in 2004-05)

Of the 958 3rd grade students who scored a Level 1 on FCAT Reading in 2005, 60% graduated.

Of the 921 3rd grade students who scored a Level 2 on FCAT Reading in 2005, 73% graduated.

Of the 2,517 3rd grade students who scored a Level 3 on FCAT Reading in 2005, 85% graduated.

Of the 2,531 3rd grade students who scored a Level 4 on FCAT Reading in 2005, 94% graduated. …

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Administrative changes planned for Pasco County schools

It's not official yet, but Michael Cloyd is the choice to take the principal's chair at Pasco Sunlake High School.

Superintendent Kurt Browning hasn't made his recommendation formally. But the school district has posted a job advertisement for Sunlake assistant principal, the post that Cloyd has held.

Cloyd was one of two people to apply for the principal position, which became vacant with the promotion of Steve Williams to district director of teaching and learning. He has been acting principal for about a month.

A Fivay High School assistant principal's job, meanwhile, might not go to a former district administrator after all. Browning said he had not approved the recommendation that Erin Galletta, a teacher and former Sunlake assistant principal, get the nod for the opening.

Galletta's possible promotion gained attention in the community, because she had been removed from a similar spot four years ago. School Board chairman Steve Luikart then learned that she was not in the district's assistant principal pool, which area superintendent Todd Cluff explained in an email as a verification oversight caused by changes in computer systems. …

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Former commissioner Bennett: 'The last thing we wanted was FCAT 3.0'

Multiple breakdowns in Florida's computerized testing system have begun to give the new exams a bad rap.

Poor publicity was something that state leaders had sought to avoid as they explored new options to the FCAT.

"The branding of FCAT had gotten so bad we had to make sure whatever we got next ... didn't get labeled like FCAT," former education commissioner Tony Bennett told the Gradebook.

During his short tenure, Bennett had the job of moving Florida from its old education accountability model to one based on the Common Core State Standards. He led a group of Department of Education officials and superintendents in reviewing whether to stick with the multi-state PARCC consortium or to go its own way with a "Plan B."

Complaints had been mounting over the FCAT and the way it was used in school grading. At the same time, PARCC had come under fire as a test associated with "federal intrusion" into states' rights.

Bennett, a strong PARCC supporter, was trying to find a happy medium, an effort cut short by his August 2013 resignation. Watching Florida's latest travails from afar, Bennett said he was hopeful the state hadn't simply jumped from one PR mess to another. …

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Pasco elementary schools to get more leeway on spring field trips

In past years, Pasco County elementary schools have had limited options for end-of-year field trips.

Generally speaking, fifth graders got to take one final outing together, and everyone else stayed in school. Transportation was part of the issue -- too many requests for too few buses -- but also the notion that the trips often had questionable educational value.

This year, the district has decided to loosen up.

Principals recently received a memo from their area superintendents, announcing that school leaders would have more leeway to decide whether classes could take May field trips. It's part of the district effort to support schools rather than dictate from on high.

"We are presently more inclined to give Principals the ability to make decisions locally about May field trips," the area superintendents wrote jointly. "Keep in mind field trips should be planned well in advance and have strong curriculum links, theme parks are not permitted (exception for 5th grade), and trips involving water still need district approval because of liability."

So, kids, where do you want to go today?

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Florida education news: Testing, student uniforms, charter schools and more

TESTING: Florida's testing system faces a confidence crisis that leaders had hoped to avoid when moving away from the FCAT.

GOING TO COLLEGE: Two Miami high schoolers develop a mobile app to help students apply for college, the Miami Herald reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Palm Beach School Board ponders stricter rules to govern local charter schools, the Palm Beach Post reports.

DRESS CODE: Walton school district leaders consider creating more standard uniform policies, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

MENTORS: Students at Sarasota Riverview High get professional insights into the world of architecture and construction, the Herald-Tribune reports.

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Florida education news: Testing, homelessness, vouchers and more

CHOICE: Florida lawmakers are interfering with local control in offering families school choices they aren't even asking for, Times columnist John Romano writes.

TESTING: School districts are trying to make sense of Florida's newest testing laws, often with differing results, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • Florida Gov. Rick Scott should allow school districts to use alternatives to the Florida Standards Assessments until the technology works, the Orlando Sentinel editorializes.

EMPLOYEE RELATIONS: A Manatee school official faces continued scrutiny into statements on his employment application, the Bradenton Herald reports.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Marion schools work with more than 2,000 homeless students, the Ocala Star Banner reports.

VOUCHERS: Expansion of Florida's tax credit scholarship program will be limited as donations lag, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

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Florida education news: Budgets, for-profit colleges, end-of-course exams and more

INFIGHTING: A Republican feud over budget negotiations grinds the Florida legislative session to a halt.

FOR-PROFIT: For-profit DeVry University will shut down its Tampa locations by December. • The Miami Herald investigates how for-profit colleges came to thrive in Florida.

BYOD: The Hillsborough school district is smart to finally allow students to use their personal devices in classes, the Times editorializes.

TESTING: The Broward school district eliminates all its local end-of-course exams for the year, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

SCHOOL CHOICE: The Florida House approves a bill that would create open enrollment across county lines, the AP reports.

SCHEDULING: Manatee officials consider allowing high schools to move to 7-period block schedules, the Bradenton Herald reports.

WHO CAN YOU TRUST? An Orange County high school's security guard is arrested on accusations of fondling an underage boy in the school bathroom, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

OOPS: The Manatee district accidentally sends an unintended phone message to parents all over the county, the Herald-Tribune reports.

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Scholars are named in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County Public Schools announced their National Merit, National Achievement and National Hispanic finalists on Friday. They will be honored at a School Board recognition meeting on May 12.

In all, there were 79 scholars named:

Blake High School: Derek A. Roura (National Hispanic)

Bloomingdale: Tanner K. Chastain, Joseph P. Gallagher, Sean P. Monaghan (National Merit)

Durant: Christopher Springfield (National Merit)

Gaither: Savannah J. Herrera (National Hispanic)

Hillsborough: Devan H. Adhia, Garrett J. Andrews, Katherine M. Jones, Alexandra Lutton, Christina Maldonado, Hayley McAleese, Samantha J. Votzke (National Merit); Louis M. Leon, Christina Maldonado, Elina Rodriguez (National Hispanic).

Jefferson: Alec D. Taylor (National Achievement).

King: Kireet Agrawal, Isha A. Bhutada, Matthew E. Chan, Tianbo Chen, Divya Chopra, Michael Cory, Bindiya Desai, Sudha R. Dhulipala, Enoch Kuo, Tianchen Li, Eric Y. Luo, Alvin G. O’Garro, James J. O’Malley, Sathvik Palakurty, James J. Park, John Qin, Sheela Ranganathan, Jae H. Shim, Daniel Suen (all National Merit, Alvin G. O'Garro also National Achievement). Sarah E. Colarte (National Hispanic). …

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Tampa area school districts pondering next moves on local testing

In the wake of Miami-Dade's decision to eliminate most local end-of-course exams, Tampa area parents have begun asking whether their districts will follow suit.

Short answer: They're exploring the options.

Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego said he does not consider all tests bad, and noted that teachers worked hard to develop the EOCs that the students would start taking soon. He wanted to meet with teachers and other interested parties to assess whether the district has too many exams and what to do next.

"We'll get that done in Pinellas County probably next week," Grego said.

Tanya Arja, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough schools, said Hillsborough does not have many local end-of-course tests for elementary school subjects. The exams in middle and high schools are under review, Arja said, but no decision is has been reached.

Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning announced in early April the elimination of many elementary EOC tests. His staff is discussing whether to cut back secondary-level exams, as well, with consideration to how to evaluate teachers without the results. Spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said she expected any changes to be announced early enough to allow teachers to prepare. …

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Pinellas relief bus driver named Florida's school-related employee of the year

Florida Department of Education

Cheryl A. Thomas, a relief bus driver and training assistant with Pinellas County Schools, was honored Friday in Orlando as Florida’s 2015 School-Related Employee of the Year. Thomas was selected from among five statewide finalists.

“Every school employee is important in creating an environment that encourages student learning,” education commissioner Pam Stewart said. “I am pleased to honor Ms. Thomas for her extraordinary commitment to her students and community. I know she has made a lasting impact on the families of Pinellas County.”  

Superintendent Mike Grego praised Thomas for going beyond her assigned work to serve children, schools and the community.

"Cheryl’s ability to connect with students and her peers distinguishes her and makes her an exemplary employee," Grego said in a released statement. "She represents the high quality of employees we have in Pinellas County Schools and we are proud she has received this recognition."

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One-time Pasco assistant principal recommended for return to administration

Fivay High School graduation enhancement teacher Erin Galletta is being recommended to become an assistant principal at her Pasco County school.

Her proposed promotion is raising hackles in the school and surrounding community, School Board chairman Steve Luikart said, because of Galletta's past. In 2011, Galletta was removed from her post as Sunlake High School assistant principal, and not recommended for a new administrative contract, because she violated district policy in changing a student's grades.

Fivay principal Angie Stone then hired her as a teacher, and the district did not stand in the way.

Now, four years later, Stone is looking to promote Galletta. District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said the superintendent's leadership team "have confidence in her skills."

"We believe in second chances," Cobbe said.

Luikart, a retired long-time assistant principal, has concerns.

"We have a pool of how many people, and we pick a person who has a past with ethical violations?" he said. "I'm going to ask, how did she come to the cream of the crop?" …

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Florida education news: Principals, tests, school choice and more

HOT SEAT: Another Pasco Zephyrhills High principal runs into trouble leading the school. • The longtime principal of Pinellas Curlew Elementary abruptly resigns without explanation.

NEXT STEPS: Students at a high school in Miami's Liberty City community help each other prepare for higher education with their College Club, the Miami Herald reports.

TESTING: The Miami-Dade school district eliminates most local end-of-course exams that were to be used for teacher evaluations, Reuters reports. More from the Miami Herald. • A Marion School Board member asks colleagues to consider seeking an alternative to sketchy state tests, the Ocala Star Banner reports. • State officials need to do something to restore faith in Florida's testing system, the Northwest Florida Daily News editorializes. A Palm Beach School Board member blames commissioner Pam Stewart for all the problems, the Palm Beach Post reports.

OPTIONS: Florida lawmakers move ahead with legislation to expand school choice offerings, the Naples Daily News reports.

WHO'S IN CHARGE? Florida lawmakers aim to defang the private FHSAA in its oversight of high school sports, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. More from the Associated Press. …

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No Opportunity Scholarships for Florida students next year

Florida's Opportunity Scholarship program hasn't been the state's most popular school choice option in recent years.

Shrunk from its original vision, the system allows students attending a public school that has earned an F or three consecutive D's to move to higher performing public schools, with transportation provided. Last year, 3,588 students took advantage.

Next year, no new students will have access to the scholarships. Lawmakers have suspended accountability consequences associated with school grades for 2014-15. (Schools can escape state oversight provisions if they show improvement, though.)

"Since the school grades for the 2014-2015 school year are not intended to trigger program changes, sanctions, or penalties for schools, the Opportunity Scholarship program will not be offered for new participants in the upcoming school year," the Department of Education explains on its website. "Students who have participated in the Opportunity Scholarship during previous school years will continue in the program unaffected." …

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Florida school districts begin slashing local end-of-course exams

Throughout the spring, some Florida school districts started eliminating some of their local end-of-course exams in response to criticisms that children are over-tested.

Newly adopted state law paved the way for additional cuts. And districts are starting to jump on board.

The law removed language stating:

Except for those subjects and grade levels measured under the statewide, standardized assessment program, beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, each school district shall administer for each course offered in the district a local assessment that measures student mastery of course content at the necessary level of rigor for the course.

Charlotte County schools took the plunge Wednesday. Assistant superintendent Steve Dionisio issued a memo alerting principals that all local EOC's would be suspended. The district left it to teachers' discretion whether to use the exams. He wrote: …

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Pasco school district, union near settlement on grievance over board agendas

The United School Employees of Pasco won't be getting a paper copy of School Board agendas for now, just as superintendent Kurt Browning has directed.

The union will, however, get special access to the district's computerized agenda system so its leaders can make notes on the document -- just like they did when they got the paper version.

That's the deal the USEP and district tentatively worked out Wednesday during a one-hour hearing over the union's complaint about losing access to the printed file, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

Union leaders hope that will be the end of their formal grievance against the district, in which they contended that they were contractually entitled to a paper copy of the agendas.

"We did not come to a full resolution. We are looking at the option offered," USEP negotiator Jim Ciadella said. "It may resolve this issue. We hope it does."

Browning has argued that the contract required only a copy, without specifiying whether it must be digital, printed out or otherwise. 

Once they've got a deal, they can move on to other pressing issues.

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