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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of April 17, 2016



With all lingering education bills dispatched, Florida school leaders turned their attention back to local matters while awaiting guidance on what the newest laws mean. They dealt with taxes and testing, evaluations and pay. A Palm Beach School Board member got arrested on federal bribery charges. The Marion school district barred transgender use of the bathrooms of their preferred identity. Those are just the highlights in another busy week of Florida education news. Get the latest daily at the Gradebook.

Top of the Times

Are older homes and poor schools dampening Tampa Bay's market for luxury real estate?, Susan Taylor Martin
"While gulf-front or oceanfront Florida homes tend to sell for the most, two factors conspire to hold down prices along the southern Pinellas beaches, one Realtor has found. ‘In the south Pinellas market, in particular, we don't have as much new construction, and the luxury buyer loves something completely renovated or brand new,' said Tammy Campbell Plummer, a Coldwell Banker agent. ‘They don't want to come in and remodel or do anything but move in and enjoy it.' More sobering, some high-end buyers express concerns about the quality of public schools in southern Pinellas."

Christian fellowship representative proselytized in Hillsborough schools for years without clearance, Marlene Sokol
"In plain sight, a man with two criminal convictions led prayers and discussed Jesus with athletes at five Hillsborough County public high schools."
RELATED: Details about Hillsborough's campus preacher; Fellowship of Christian Athletes' adults will need training before they can access Hillsborough schools

Florida Department of Education rethinks science test timing, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Florida fifth- and eighth-graders are scheduled to take their annual state science test in late March 2017. That's a full month earlier than this year's students will take the exam. And that schedule, set by the Florida Department of Education to allow all paper-based testing to take place at the same time, has received heavy criticism from science teachers around the state."

Pinellas County School Board, advocates push for third renewal of referendum tax, Colleen Wright
"Blurring the lines between supporting the cause and urging voters to vote their way, Pinellas County school board members echoed activists' approval of renewing a referendum tax that supplements teacher salaries and pays for the arts and education in schools."

Around the State

Deaf community protests lack of proficient ASL teachers at FSDB, St. Augustine Record, Emelia Hichtner
"Protesters crowded the sidewalk in front of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind for the second day in a row Thursday. The demonstration was led by a former school employee Debra Metzger, who said faculty at FSDB lacked the proficient American Sign Language skills necessary to work with deaf students."
[St. Augustine Record photo, Daron Dean]

School board member Mike Murgio indicted in bribery scheme, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"FBI agents arrested Palm Beach County School Board member Mike Murgio Thursday on charges that he participated in a bribery scheme that aided an illegal money-transfer business operated by his son."

School Board set to impose bathroom ban on transgender students, Ocala Star-Banner, Joe Callahan
"The Marion County School Board on Thursday reached a consensus that they want to restrict school bathrooms to students based on birth sex, not gender identity."

School salary errors upset many Manatee County educators, Bradenton Herald, Meghin Delaney
"When Molly Westbrook first brought a pay discrepancy to the Manatee County School Board -- teachers new to the Manatee County School District with the same amount of experience were being paid more than her -- she hoped district officials would bring current teachers up to that level. She didn't expect the district to dock the pay of the newer teachers. That's effectively what the district announced it would do Tuesday."

Lake teacher evaluation system called flawed, Daily Commercial, Livi Stanford
"Lake County School Board members said Monday the teacher evaluation system is flawed and should be fixed. Board members were particularly concerned about the disparity between the high percentage of administrators rated as highly effective and the low percentage of teachers who achieved that status."

How Effective Are ‘Career Academies'?, The Atlantic, Melinda D. Anderson
"The firefighter academy at Pine Forest is the latest addition to the district's roster of career academies, which includes Escambia County's longest-running program at West Florida High School that partners with Gulf Power, the region's utility company. For 15 years, Gulf Power Academy has prepared hundreds of high-school students for entry-level employment and careers in engineering and electronics. What sets these two career academies apart, though, is more than just their specialized classes-it's the population of students each school serves. ... For some, it's noteworthy that a very different career path is offered at the school with a higher concentration of disadvantaged students of color, raising questions about equity and opportunity."

Other Views

Florida law making it easier for athletes to transfer no reason to panic, Bradenton Herald columnist Alan Dell
"Shortly after the governor signed the bill last week that would give more freedom for athletes to transfer the alarmists were screaming from the top of their illusionary mountain top. The ranting had been ongoing ever since the state legislature took away the autonomy that the FHSAA enjoyed for too long a few years back. But this was not the state legislature vs. the FHSAA, which governs high school sports in Florida. The bill emanated from parents of children who were denied justice when they transferred schools and some disgruntled coach screamed foul play."

School choice bill not about choice at all, Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab
"It's about undermining the authority of local school districts. And this is part of a disturbing trend. School boards have watched lawmakers send down orders from Tallahassee in recent years on everything from how school dollars can be spent to new testing mandates. Now the Legislature and Scott want school districts to drop their borders and accept students from other counties, too."

New Florida state law tilts toward charter schools once again, Bradenton Herald editorial
"The monetization and privatization of public education across America by the profit-driven corporate education industry undermines traditional school districts by championing charter schools with government subsidies. This free marketplace favoritism toward private enterprise over public obligations became evident once again in Florida over the past week."

Advanced Placement: Florida's risky tradeoff, Orlando Sentinel guest column, Nat Malkus of the American Enterprise Institute
"Florida's efforts to expand the quantity of AP participation have certainly been successful. ... But while Florida has led the nation in expanding the quantity of AP participation, the quality of those programs, as measured by the percentage of AP participants that succeed on AP exams, is among the lowest in the nation."

Dress code is true deterrent to learning, Gainesville Sun guest column, high school student Brittany Fletcher
"We are all just students trying our hardest. We are all just students trying to understand it all. And as we seek to comprehend our world and our society, we must acknowledge its injustices. Women around the world deserve education, regardless of their amount of clothing. Women around the world deserve respect, as human beings trying to expose their minds to the wonders of our world."

Reports of Note

Can scores on an interim high school reading assessment accurately predict low performance on college readiness exams?, Florida State University, Sharon Coon and Yaacov Petscher
"This study provides preliminary evidence that scores on an interim reading assessment in grade 9, the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading-Florida Standards, can be used to identify students who may score below the college readiness benchmark on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test or ACT Plan in grade 10."

Comparing the Effects of Online and Face-to-Face Credit Recovery in Algebra I, AIR
"In absence of immediately effective early interventions, it is clear that schools and districts need to continue to find ways to offer credit recovery opportunities to students who fail courses. Online courses provide flexibility and convenience for schools (although they may actually be more expensive to run than face-to-face classes, as in this study). In many schools, it is difficult to find qualified mathematics teachers to cover courses and to estimate in advance how many sections of any given class to offer. Online courses may also provide more rigorous content and interactive instruction to students. In some schools, online courses may be seen as the better or the only viable option for credit recovery. Continued improvement of online courses, particularly for highly at-risk students, is essential for fulfilling the great need for flexible alternatives for students whose futures depend on opportunities to get back on track in school."

Redesigning School Accountability and Support: Progress in Pioneering States,  Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education
"Overall, federal policy now includes clear provisions that support many of the approaches to accountability redesign that the 51st State Working Group has been committed to advancing-that is, the work they are doing to improve educational systems that are more equitable, engaging, relevant, and connected to life outside of and beyond school. Lessons from these states can support others in building systems of support and accountability for meaningful learning."

[Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2016 3:20pm]


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