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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of April 10, 2016



Gov. Rick Scott finally signed into law a controversial education omnibus bill this week in Florida education, changing the rules on school choice, athletics eligibility, charter school construction funding and more. Across the state, school districts took closer looks at student discipline, administrative reorganization, report cards and dress codes. Florida's computerized testing, troublesome a year ago, went smoothly this round (so far). But teachers are still waiting for their A-Plus bonuses from last year's results. Visit the Gradebook daily for the latest Florida education news. Send your comments and concerns to [email protected]

Top of the Times

Parents, others help out after a Pinellas charter school management company disappears, Colleen Wright
"A management company responsible for running four Pinellas County charter schools has disappeared from the scene after recently being challenged about financial and operational problems. The sudden absence of Newpoint Education Partners has forced parents and members of the two volunteer boards overseeing the schools to pick up the pieces."

Pinellas moves to keep suspended students from sliding academically, Colleen Wright
"Amid public backlash for disproportionately disciplining minority students, Pinellas County school officials say they have created an alternative to out-of-school suspensions."

Hillsborough schools chief Jeff Eakins fleshes out his reorganization plan, Marlene Sokol
"Stressing leadership over management, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Tuesday talked his School Board through the details of his reorganization plan. ‘Each of our positions must exist for the purpose of providing a great experience for our students,' Eakins told members."

In some places, Common Core means a new kind of report card, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Her effort landed her on a Pasco school district committee looking into doing away with the familiar A to F grades on report cards and replacing them with more detailed cards that say how a student did or did not meet state standards. If the idea moves ahead, Pasco would join a growing trend looking to make grades more about student academic abilities and less about meeting expectations like turning in homework on time."

Now in their teens and entering college, these children of Hillsborough immigrants rise together, Marlene Sokol
"One by one, the five families found their way to the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which operates two charter schools in Wimauma. As with district-run schools, RCMA enrolls the children without probing into immigration matters. The K-5 school opened in 2000. Fernanda's group was in the inaugural class of the middle school, which opened in 2012. Launched in the infancy of the charter movement, RCMA sought to meet the specific needs of rural families who often travel for work and speak little English at home, and to prepare their children to participate fully in the U.S. economy. The school's anything-is-possible message took root with Fernanda and her friends."

Florida schools keep waiting for state recognition funds, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Many Florida schools rushed to meet a Feb. 1 deadline to detail how they might spend their share of $135 million in school recognition funds for 2014-15. The school grades the funding is based upon came out nearly two months ago. But schools have yet to see any money, which usually goes toward employee bonuses."

Around the State

Leon County Schools reports success in 'recruiting back' students, Tallahassee Democrat, Amanda Claire Curcio
"Administrators heralded success ‘recruiting back' students to district schools during Tuesday's board meeting. At least 500 students have returned to the district since it created ‘Charter Choice' in 2012, said Assistant Superintendent Michelle Gayle. The funding followed these students, too, Gayle said - ‘restoring' almost $2 million to Leon County Schools."

Orange teacher giving away 'dumb' bonus money to political candidates, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
"Josh Katz, the local teacher who gained a following with his ‘toxic culture of education' talk two years ago, announced this week he is giving away his winnings from Florida's new and controversial teacher bonus program. The money he won from the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program will go to political candidates he believes can help ‘fix education and stop stupid policies,' Katz said on a Facebook post."
RELATED: Most bonus-winning teachers work at schools in more affluent areas, Sun-Sentinel, Leslie Postal

Indian River County School Board won't pursue Confederate flag ban, TC Palm, Andrew Atterbury
"Barring the flag from campuses received insufficient support to move forward at a School Board workshop meeting Tuesday. ‘We can't legislate morality,' Superintendent Mark Rendell said. ‘Our job is to try to teach these kids how to be good, young citizens.'"

Seven Collier elementary schools just say no to uniforms, Naples Daily News, Melhor Leonor
"Seven Collier County elementary schools have voted down proposals to bring uniforms to their schools, disqualifying the district from cash proffered by state lawmakers in exchange for standard student attire. The votes were cast by the school advisory councils at district elementary schools not currently calling for students to wear collared shirts and solid-colored clothing to school."

Senate president aims to restore Bright Futures scholarships, Herald-Tribune, Lloyd Dunkelberger
"A more robust Bright Futures program may become a reality if [Sen. Joe] Negron, R-Stuart, is successful as he makes lifting the academic quality and reputation of the Florida's state universities a priority of his two-year term, which begins after the November general election."

Other Views

Better adult outcomes (not test scores) for charter school students, Florida research shows, The Hechinger Report, columnist Jill Barshay
"Five years ago, one group of researchers found that charter school students across Chicago and the whole state of Florida scored slightly worse on math tests than their public high school counterparts. Their reading scores were about the same. But last week, the same group of researchers produced a follow-up study on the Florida students, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, and it showed something startling: the charter students might not have produced higher test scores when they were in school, but years later, when they were in their mid-twenties, the charter school students earned more money, and were more likely to have attended at least two years of college (although still only half of them did so)."

"Curiously, our local public school tried to steer him away from this FLVS course and toward the same course offered by the Leon County Virtual School. We didn't understand why switching the course provider was so important. The online courses were identical. Why did our local school district want so badly for our son to take his online course in a computer lab at his brick-and-mortar school rather than benefiting from all of the flexibility of FLVS? Because the school district got more money that way. It was ‘all about the money,' we came to learn."

Why suspensions aren't the answer, Tampa Bay Times op-ed, Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Amir Whitaker
"As a former teacher, I understand the impact that unruly students can have on a classroom. Teaching is difficult even when students aren't disruptive. When they are, it can be nearly impossible. But that doesn't mean we should simply throw them out of school or, as happens all too often, lock them up."

Math and science improvement begins with school district, Tallahassee Democrat op-ed, FSU professor Paul Cottle
"If Florida's students are to have better opportunities to prepare for lucrative careers in science, engineering and technology fields, it will be because the school districts themselves - and not the state - make improving achievement in math and science a priority. In fact, as several of Florida's best school districts for math and science demonstrate, teachers are the best source of leadership for improvement in these subjects."

Aiming higher for education, Herald-Tribune editorial
"The Legislature and [Gov. Rick] Scott should consider whether it's possible to raise additional revenue through taxes to make Florida's universities and colleges both more accessible and the elite, economic-development engines that [Senate President Joe] Negron envisions.

Reports of Note

Does pre-K work? The research on ten early childhood programs-and what it tells us, American Enterprise Institute

"In Pinellas County, the research team tracked a group of students from kindergarten through eighth grade. They found physical health, mental health, and substance abuse played the largest roles in how often a student was absent."

Case Studies of Schools Receiving School Improvement Grants, U.S. Department of Education
"Sustainability of any improvements may prove fragile. Core subsample schools that had higher levels of organizational capacity by Year 3 of SIG (2012-13) also had higher scores on the teacher survey scale measuring perceived sustainability."

Latest Laws

Gov. Rick Scott this week signed the final five education-related bills from the 2016 session into law. They are:

HB 7029, education omnibus, addresses school choice, charter schools, athletics eligibility and a host of other issues
HB 7053, early education and school readiness
HB 585, hospitalized and homebound student instruction
HB 287, principal autonomy pilot project
HB 7019, college and university affordability


[Last modified: Friday, April 15, 2016 4:07pm]


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