ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 15. 2018

Hillsborough County schools superintendent Jeff Eakins explains the district's stance on its turnaround plan implementation to the Florida Board of Education on Jan. 17, 2018. [The Florida Channel]
Hillsborough County schools superintendent Jeff Eakins explains the district's stance on its turnaround plan implementation to the Florida Board of Education on Jan. 17, 2018. [The Florida Channel]
Published January 20 2018

The nation's eighth largest school district (Hillsborough County) hits the headlines again, this time for failing to come through on its turnaround plans for four struggling elementary schools. Plus, school board term limits, voucher school oversight and more. Don't miss our weekly highlights of the news, views, reports and more. You can keep up daily with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to [email protected].

Top of the Times

Four Hillsborough County schools must lose their principals, Florida Board of Education says, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“The Hillsborough County school system has failed hundreds of students at four low-performing elementary schools by moving too slowly to make changes, state officials said Wednesday in stern warnings to superintendent Jeff Eakins.”

In major shift, House bill would turn three USF universities into one, Claire McNeill
“Separate accreditation has long been a point of pride and a stamp of independence for the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee branches of the University of South Florida. Graduates of those schools frame diplomas bearing the name of their own universities, which all fall under the umbrella of the Tampa-based USF System. But under proposed changes to a bill moving through the Florida House of Representatives, the USF System as it stands today could be no more.”

Schools of Hope moves forward to allow charters near struggling district schools, Emily Mahoney
“The Florida Board of Education unanimously approved a rule on Wednesday opening the door for private nonprofits to apply to receive millions in state funding to operate charter schools near low-performing public schools, called ‘Schools of Hope.’”

Florida House advances proposal to limit school board member terms, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Several committee members said they were ‘conflicted’ with the proposal. They liked the idea of term limits, to ensure people don’t make a career of elected office. “When there is no limit, you become insensitive to the process and you think, ‘I’m supposed to be here,'” said Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park. “I see it in certain districts.” But they also had their doubts, after seeing how term limits have affected the Legislature.”

Around the State

A REPUTATION FOR EXCELLENCE: Why the teacher shortage has yet to hit the St. Johns County School District, St. Augustine Record, Colleen Michele Jones
“Being the No. 1 public school district in the state certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to recruiting and retaining teachers. But St. Johns County school administrators say they think what matters even more in selling the district to top-notch educators is culture.”

Secret talks among CRC members ‘just part of the process,’ says commissioner, Politico Florida, Daniel Ducassi
“After a coalition of more than a dozen advocacy groups called foul on procedural shenanigans and secret talks among members of the education panel at the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, its chairperson told POLITICO that private policy discussions among members are ‘just part of the process.’”

National Charter School Chain Favored by House Speaker Heads For Miami, Amid Performance Concerns, WLRN, Jessica Bakeman
“A national charter school chain that focuses on preparing disadvantaged kids for college is poised to open a new location in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood this fall. But before plans for the new school could move forward, the San Francisco-based KIPP Foundation first had to overcome local leaders’ concerns about the network’s lackluster performance in Jacksonville,  the only other place in Florida where it has established a presence.”

Analysis: 11 States Struggle to Meet Federal Education Requirements for Foster Youth, Chronicle for Social Change, Daniel Heimpel
“A little more than a year after federal law mandated school districts across the country ensure foster youth are transported to school, at least 11 states are outright failing – or are clearly struggling – to make this happen, according to new reporting by The Chronicle of Social Change.”

House panel suggests some school voucher changes, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
“Florida private schools that take state vouchers would face new rules — but remain free to hire teachers without college degrees — under draft legislation discussed briefly Thursday by the Florida House education committee.”

Other Views

Cooking the books, Teacher Voice blog, Hillsborough County teacher Ryan Haczynski
“One week ago yesterday, Hillsborough County Public Schools announced that its graduation rate had jumped 3.8 points to reach its highest total yet, 82.9%. And in the midst of what should be encouraging news, I cannot help but feel unavoidably ambivalent. While I am glad that so many students earned their high school diploma here and across the state of Florida, I wonder how many of them—especially the bottom quartile of graduating classes—are truly prepared for college or career, let alone life.”

Good and bad changes proposed to Florida Constitution, Sun-Sentinel editorial
“If it isn’t broken, break it. No, that’s not how the sage advice goes, but it describes a victims’ rights proposal that will be heard Friday by one of the Constitution Revision Commission’s committees.The same goes for a sheaf of other proposed changes to the Florida Constitution, including those that would repeal the state’s prudent ban on state aid to religious institutions and dismantle the guarantee of a uniform system of public schools.”

Study on national vs. state exams in high school asked wrong question, Orlando Sentinel guest column, FSU professor Paul Cottle
“What the Legislature should have asked is whether it would be feasible to replace the existing high-school-level FSA exams in math and English language arts with the SAT or ACT. The key issue in such a study would have been whether the U.S. Department of Education would allow Florida to replace the high-school FSA exams with the SAT or ACT under the new federal K-12 education law, called the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

A bad reflection, Ocala Star-Banner editorial
“[W]e cannot help but wonder what would have happened if the community and parents had enthusiastically embraced Evergreen, had befuddling state laws not driven the best teachers away from the school, had attendance lines been drawn with community in mind and the School Board had been more attentive to what was undeniably a failing school. Former School Board member Cheryl Appelquist frequently reminded her brethren that our schools are a mirror reflection of our community. In this case she is proven right. Evergreen failed because the community failed Evergreen.”

Reports of Note

Quality Counts 2018, Education Week
From the Florida report: “This year, Florida finishes 30th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 72.5 out of 100 points and a grade of C. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C. Diving into the findings for the three graded indices, Florida earns a C in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks 36th. The average state earns a C-plus. In School Finance, Florida receives a D-plus and ranks 39th. For the K-12 Achievement Index, last updated in the 2016 report, it finishes 11th with a grade of C. The average state earns grades of C and C-minus in School Finance and K-12 Achievement, respectively.”

Teacher Value-Added in Charter Schools and Traditional Public Schools, National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research
“[W]e find no significant difference in teacher quality distribution between lower-poverty charter schools and TPS [traditional public schools]. In contrast, we find that teachers working in above-average poverty charter schools have significantly higher value-added scores compared to TPS teachers working in similar settings.”

Coming Up

Jan. 22: Senate Education, 3:30 p.m.  • Florida Association of School Administrators Legislative Days (two days)

Jan. 23: House PreK-12 Innovation, 8 a.m. • House Higher Education Appropriations, noon • House PreK-12 Quality, noon • House PreK-12 Appropriations, 3:30 p.m. • House Post-Secondary Education, 3:30 p.m.

Jan 24: Senate PreK-12 Appropriations, 9 a.m. • Senate Higher Education Appropriations, 11:30 a.m. • Florida Board of Governors, Tallahassee (two days)

Jan. 25: House Education, 9 a.m. • U.S. Senate Education Committee, confirmation hearing for former Florida Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan as assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, 2:30 p.m.

Jan. 26: American Enterprise Institute online presentation on education savings accounts, featuring Jeb Bush and several other Florida school choice officials, 2 p.m.

Feb. 1: Deadline for school districts to submit class size compliance plans, if they failed to meet the guidelines for 2017-18

Feb. 1-2: Education Practices Commission, Altamonte Springs

*NOTE: All legislative meetings appear on the chamber calendars, but might not take place. Several committees have canceled meetings already this session.

On File

The bills are moving in the Florida Legislature. Among those passing at least one committee:

SB 118, School visits by lawmakers (headed to Senate floor)
SB 192, Public meetings (on 2nd reading in Senate)
SB 496, Out-of-school suspensions
HJR 1031, School board term limits
SB 1056, Computer science instruction
HB 1175, Early Learning coalitions

Gradebook: The Podcast

We’re podcasting, with newsmaker interviews and chats about the latest issues to crop up. Please take a listen, and send any thoughts, tips and ideas to [email protected].

The latest: Behind the state’s searing appraisal of Hillsborough schools

Find our past episodes on SoundCloud.