ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of April 8, 2018

Graduation enhancement teacher Judy Scavino, left, discusses grades with Sunlake High School junior Norman Fizi, 16, center, and senior Gabriel Blume, 18, during her Personal Career and School Development elective course at the school in Land O'Lakes, Fla., on April 2. Scavino works with dozens of seniors and juniors to make up credits they need to finish high school. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times
Graduation enhancement teacher Judy Scavino, left, discusses grades with Sunlake High School junior Norman Fizi, 16, center, and senior Gabriel Blume, 18, during her Personal Career and School Development elective course at the school in Land O'Lakes, Fla., on April 2. Scavino works with dozens of seniors and juniors to make up credits they need to finish high school. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times
Published April 14
Updated April 14

Graduation is weeks away, and some seniors are still seeking credits for courses they failed as freshmen. Political candidates, meanwhile, are gearing up for an election season that will also include the possibility of amending the education section of Florida's constitution. And then there's NAEP, where Florida showed surprisingly well.  • 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 who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to [email protected].

Top of the Times

Personal relationships key in getting seniors to graduation goal, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Two months before graduation, Kayla Peña had yet to earn the ninth-grade English course credit required for her diploma…. She's far from alone. This year, 1,893 Pasco County juniors and seniors enrolled in 4,031 credit recovery courses (and counting), earning more than 1,900 credits on their way back toward an on-time commencement."

Pinellas School Board votes 6-1 to approve later school start times, Colleen Wright
“Hillsborough County’s recent decision to start high schools an hour later, at 8:30 a.m., next year inspired 6,300 people in Pinellas County to sign an online petition. Citing student sleep deprivation and related health issues, they wanted their district to do the same. But at least for the 2018-19 school year, they’ll have to settle for a more modest change.”

Three education ideas in one proposed Florida constitutional amendment earns negative reviews, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“The proposal, which appears on the commission’s April 16 calendar for consideration, would ask voters to approve school board member term limits, a state charter school authorizer, and a civics education requirement in schools. If placed on the ballot, Floridians would have to decide whether they like one idea — term limits is polling very well — enough to also okay another much less popular idea, allowing the state to set up charter schools without school board participation. Some former school district leaders have begun crying foul.”

Veteran Pinellas School Board member Linda Lerner will not seek re-election, Colleen Wright
“Linda Lerner, one of Florida’s longest-serving school board members, announced Thursday that she will not seek re-election for her Pinellas County School Board seat this August. … ‘It’s been a tough decision but I just know that this is the time to give someone else the wonderful opportunity and responsibility to work for our students,’ she told the Tampa Bay Times.” 

Students in Florida, Hillsborough show promising results on national ‘report card’, Marlene Sokol
“Florida students outpaced their peers in math improvement, and Hillsborough County led a group of 27 urban school districts in the latest version of the measurement known as ‘the nation’s report card.’”

Around the State

Education commissioner talks diversity and achievement in education, Herald-Tribune, Elizabeth Djinis
“At a time when school security may be on the minds of every Floridian, nearly two months after 17 students and teachers were shot in Parkland, Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart did not mention the topic and instead praised the state’s education system for ranking in the nation’s top 10 at an Argus Foundation luncheon Thursday, although she did not specify what rating system she was discussing.”

Threat of union-busting law rallies St. Johns teachers to membership, St. Augustine Record, Colleen Jones
“St. Johns County’s teachers union has surpassed the 50 percent membership threshold required by state law to remain viable — but just barely.”

Broward rejects arming of school employees, Sun-Sentinel, Scott Travis
“Broward School Board members took a stand against arming school employees Tuesday, while facing harsh public criticism about how well the district protects and cares for its students.”

Private high schools will get free dual enrollment classes, and state colleges worry about the costs, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
“Florida’s private high schools will no longer have to pay for their students to take dual enrollment courses, thanks to a new state law, but the change could deliver a financial hit to the state colleges that offer teenagers those classes.”

Other Views

What are parents’ real choices with schools?, Gainesville Sun guest column, League of Women Voters-Alachua County president Carole Fernandez
“The differences among different educational systems may be greater than parents might expect. The questions parents must ask themselves are: Who pays, who is in control and what does it matter?”

Rocky Hanna is right, for all the wrong reasons, Tallahassee Democrat guest column, Jennings DePriest
“School choice isn’t about ‘privatizing education,’ it’s about ensuring that every student has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of race, wealth, color or creed. Superintendent Rocky Hanna is right. The system is not equal. Thank God for the charter schools that are fighting the unequal system.”

Erin Grall’s preschool reform bill flew under radar, but should help children, TC Palm columnist Laurence Reisman
“It’s about providing quality education for preschoolers. It’s about ensuring $1.1 billion of state money that helps educate younger at-risk children and older children enrolled in voluntary prekindergarten programs is spent as effectively as possible. It’s a rare issue uniting liberals and conservatives.”

School choice is expanding because it’s working, Gainesville Sun guest column, Ron Matus of Step Up For Students
“In the Alachua County School District, 74 percent of white students read at grade level, while only 29 percent of black students do. No school district in Florida has a bigger gap. I’m not finger pointing. I know it’s complicated. But the sad stats do help explain why parents are clamoring for more educational options.”

Amid scramble to secure schools, money short for teachers, Palm Beach Post editorial
“West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma are much worse off economically than Florida. It makes little sense to see teachers treated so disrespectfully in a state as wealthy as ours. Yet here we are.

Tallahassee pols concoct a sneaky way to take away your power over local schools, Miami Herald guest column, former Miami-Dade School Board chair Janet McAliley
“Voters beware! Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is poised to put before you in November a disguised constitutional amendment to allow Tallahassee politicians to take control of our local public schools. They want to take power away from the elected School Board and give it to an unaccountable group in Tallahassee. And guess who will appoint the members of that group? Those Tallahassee politicians.”

Reports of Note

State of the South 2018, MDC
“Though educational attainment beyond high school has increased, and median income has grown, there are still staggering disparities across racial lines, and children born into low-income households have little chance of doing better than their parents. In MDC’s early years, Jim Crow laws and school segregation were finally being dismantled because of federal action, spurred by local and national activism. This progress was not the result of widespread good will, but rather occurred despite a large constituency in the South that wanted to preserve exclusion.”

2018 Teacher Prep Review, NCTQ
“Key Findings for Florida: Programs’ preparation of elementary teachers is uneven. … High school teacher preparation is mixed. Compared to other states, Florida is better in some ways and worse in others.”

Sustained benefits of delaying school start time on adolescent sleep and well-being, Sleep Research Society
“Benefits to sleep and well-being in adolescent students were observed after the school delayed its start time by 45 min without delaying school end time or compromising curriculum time. These benefits remained 9 months after the change. These findings suggest that even in East Asia, where many students curtail sleep in the pursuit of academic achievement and where students’ life satisfaction is the lowest in the world, delaying school start times is feasible and can lead to sustained improvement in students’ sleep and well-being.”

Are Math Assignments Measuring Up?, The Education Trust
“Alignment with at least a part of a grade- or course-appropriate math content standard was high: roughly three-fourths of assignments. Furthermore, given the high rate at which multiple standards were addressed within a single assignment, it seemed that teachers were grasping the interconnected nature of the math standards, which is promising. • But underneath what seemed to be good news, there was news of a different sort: Most of the assignments were low level.”

Coming Up

April 16: Grade 4-12 state testing begins

Week of April 16: Florida Constitution Revision Commission, final sessions

May 8: Florida Board of Governors conference call

May 10: Deadline for CRC to submit ballot initiatives

May 16: Florida Board of Education, Pinellas County School Board offices, Largo

Week of June 18: Candidate qualifying for state legislative and local school board seats

On File

The session is over, and Gov. Rick Scott has received several bills for his consideration. Recently signed into law:

HB 495, Teacher retirement
HB 577, High school graduation requirements

The Constitution Revision Commission has two education proposals remaining for possible inclusion on the November 2018 ballot:

P 6003, school board term limits / state charter school authorizer / civics education
P 6008, school district flexibility from state education code

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