ICYMI: Florida education news, for the week of Nov. 1
This week in Florida education, two lawmakers opened the door for a complete overhaul of the state's 67 countywide school districts. They figured their proposal would generate criticism, and they were right, but they welcomed the opportunity to discuss all the possibilities in the coming few months. Several Florida schools stories gained national attention, including the a video of a frog juggling Tampa teacher and the tale of an Oviedo eighth-grader getting in trouble for hugging a classmate. And Brevard's superintendent fanned the anti-testing flames by axing 192 local exams. Follow these stories and more daily on the Gradebook.
Top of the Times
Proposal aims to alter Florida school districts, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Florida's school districts would face fundamental changes in the way they operate under a newly filed bill by a Pinellas County lawmaker. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has joined Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers, to propose a constitutional amendment ending the requirement that all counties have independent school districts."
Hernando superintendent applies for Osceola job as debate continues over her evaluation, Dan DeWitt
"Hernando school superintendent Lori Romano has made good on her recent pledge to apply for other jobs, submitting an application to be superintendent in Osceola County, a position that would mean a pay raise of at least $65,000."
Video of Tampa teacher juggling dead frogs draws PETA's scorn, Katie Mettler
"Six months ago, a snippet of video showing a Sickles High School science teacher juggling three frogs - three dead frogs, ready to be dissected - was posted online. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is still upset about it."
Following budget problems, Hillsborough School Board members want a full-scale efficiency audit, Marlene Sokol
"Hillsborough County School Board members called Tuesday for a top-of-the-line efficiency study to correct runaway spending that, if unchecked, would threaten the district's credit. Board members made it clear at a workshop that they trust superintendent Jeff Eakins and don't want anyone to think the district is in a crisis. But after years of questions under the leadership of MaryEllen Elia and a July surprise that the reserve fund was being depleted, members want a holistic look at spending."
Around the State
Seminole parents frustrated by new grading system, Orlando Sentinel, Annie Martin
"It used to be easy for Kerriann Ulrich's high-achieving daughter to know where she stood in her classes. A score in the low 90s or high 80s meant the 13-year-old's next test score could mean the difference between an A or a B. Seminole County is using a new formula for grading middle-school students now, and some parents say it's confusing and they don't understand the reason for the change."
Brevard superintendent axes 192 district-level exams, Florida Today, Jessica Saggio
"Superintendent Desmond Blackburn has axed 192 mandatory district-level assessments for students in Brevard Public Schools while he reevaluates the examination system in the county."
Oviedo middle school student gets detention for hug, WKMG News 6, Shaun Chaiyabhat
"A before-school hug between friends ended in detention for one local student, and now her parents are questioning the school's policy."
STEM teaching programs struggling, Fort Myers News-Press, Thyrie Bland
"The future of four teacher training programs at Florida SouthWestern State College is in limbo because students are showing little interest in the majors. The bachelor's degree programs are middle grades mathematics, middle grades science, secondary biology and secondary mathematics. Seven students or less enrolled in each of the programs for the fall semester that started in August, according to preliminary enrollment figures."
Reports of Note
2015 State of the States: Evaluating Teaching, Leading and Learning, NCTQ
"The real power in performance-based evaluations lies in using teacher ratings to recognize and encourage effective instruction as well as prepare and value highly effective teachers. Delaware, Florida and Louisiana lead the nation when it comes to connecting the dots. Each state uses evaluations of teacher effectiveness in policies of consequence for teacher training, professional development, improvement planning, compensation and accountability."
More than half of Florida school districts lack social media policies for teachers, University of Florida
"A majority of Florida's school districts have no policy on the use of social media by teachers and other employees, increasing the potential for misuse and inappropriate teacher-student relationships online, according to an analysis conducted by a University of Florida educational leadership scholar."
Majority Say They Are Willing to Pay Higher Taxes for Better Schools, Both in Florida and Nationally, St. Leo University Polling Institute
OPPAGA report on instructional coaches, Florida House Education Committee
We'll build on gains from Gates grant, Tampa Bay Times guest column, Hillsborough schools superintendent Jeff Eakins
"After seven years with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the funding portion of the Gates grant, as planned, is coming to an end. From the beginning, we understood this work involved continuous assessment for improvement. Our district remains committed to applying the most effective components of the current model and modifying other parts in order to create an even stronger system of support for all instructional staff. This plan will in turn create the strongest classroom for students."
Florida's new student standardized tests should only be baseline, not rating on schools, teachers, Bradenton Herald editorial
"From the Legislature to the state Department of Education, Tallahassee appears tone deaf to the ever mounting opposition to the fundamentally unfair application of the first-year results of student scores from the Florida Standards Assessments."
Early learning helps kids, campaigns and communities, Tallahassee Democrat op-ed, Mayor Andrew Gillum
"Like most parents, I want my 17-month old twins, Jackson and Caroline, to have the best chance at future success. As research shows, the best way to achieve that success is access to quality early learning. In fact, a strong majority of voters in Florida agree on the importance of high-quality early childhood education in a child's life. A recent poll shows wide-ranging support in Florida and across the country for increased investments in early learning."
Raising Florida's academic bar can result in a more productive workforce, Sun-Sentinel op-ed, Associated Industries of Florida CEO Tom Feeney
"Florida students must be held to higher standards, and raising the academic bar will do just that. No matter how great our percentage of "proficient" students in Florida looks nationwide, it will not matter if our students are taking exams and tests with cushioned scores. And, although they may look good on paper, cushioned scores are not beneficial to our students in any form."
Ignoring the Obvious, Sunshine State News, Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution
"A recent, widely publicized incident in which a policeman was called to a school classroom to deal with a disruptive student has provoked all sorts of comments on whether the policeman used ‘excessive force.' What has received far less attention, though it is a far larger question, with more sweeping implications, is the role of disruptive students in schools."
HJR 539 / SJR 734, School Districts, by Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sen. Jeff Brandes
"As provided by general or special law, any contiguous area of the state, whether a county or a municipality, may constitute a school district."
HB 575, Education Funding Tax Reform, by Rep. Fred Costello
"The Legislature intends to stimulate growth, business expansion, and job creation through property tax reform. As a first step toward achieving these goals, the Legislature intends by passage of this act to replace the 38 required local effort education property tax with a 2 percent education sales and use tax levied pursuant to chapter 212, Florida Statutes."
SB 706, Culinary Education Programs, by Sen. Thad Altman
"This special license shall allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises of the culinary education program. The culinary education program shall specify designated areas in the facility where the alcoholic beverages may be consumed at the time of application. ... If the culinary education program provides catering services, this special license shall also allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the premises of a catered event at which the licensee is also providing prepared food."