ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Aug. 7, 2016
This week in Florida education news, a group of parents took a shot across the bow of former Gov. Jeb Bush's oft-replicated education reform model. They sued to have the state's third-grade reading retention law deemed unconstitutional. They acted as children around Florida prepared to return to classes after a shorter-than-usual summer break. Lawmakers changed the rules for when schools could resume, and most took the opportunity to start earlier. Also in the news, student discipline, teacher shortages, recess and more. Get your Florida education news daily at the Gradebook. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Top of the Times
Florida parents sue state over Jeb Bush-era testing rule, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Frustrated by rules they see as harmful to their children, a group of parents filed a lawsuit late Tuesday aiming to take down a pillar of Florida's test-driven education system. They targeted the 13-year-old practice of holding back third graders who score poorly on the state's spring reading test, arguing that more factors should come into play when deciding the children's academic fate. Students should not need a test score at all, the group contended, if they did well enough in class."
DOCUMENT: Complaint in Leon Circuit Court, CA-001794
BLOG POST: Not all Florida school districts require a test score to promote third graders
COLUMN: Once again, education officials fail a commonsense test in Florida, John Romano
EDITORIAL: Reading and testing: Put children first
Some Hillsborough teachers say new discipline policies aren't making schools more orderly, Marlene Sokol
"Teachers say they are discouraged from writing discipline referrals. Students need more time with counselors. And, by some accounts, children are encouraged to take a few days off instead of serving an official suspension. As more than 200,000 Hillsborough County children return to school today, they will experience a well-intended discipline policy that, according to some teachers, still needs work."
As Pinellas schools struggle with discipline disparity, one boy feels the impact, Cara Fitzpatrick
"When Constance Ellis enrolled her son at Bay Point Middle School, she didn't know that administrators took a hard line on discipline or that punishment, when it is handed out, is skewed against black students. She wishes she had. London Hall had never gotten in trouble before he started at Bay Point. But after Ellis complained about one of his teachers, he got his first-ever discipline referral. Then he got a second. And a third. And a fourth. Ellis was determined to find out what was going on."
Around the State
The politics of play time: Moms take to school boards, elections, Miami Herald, Christina Veiga
"They call themselves the recess moms, and they won't stop until every elementary of student in Florida has the right to play in school. Across the state, a loose coalition of moms-turned political activists has come together to demand daily recess for their kids. They're taking the fight to local school boards and state lawmakers - even running for office themselves."
Escambia private schools' enrollment on rise, Pensacola News-Journal, Thomas St. Myer
"Ron Matus, director of policy and public affairs for Step Up, said 78,000 students statewide participated in the [corporate tax credit scholarship] program the past school year, and he expects that number to exceed 90,000 this school year. Escambia County reflects the increased demand for the program. The number of students on the scholarship program in the county exceeds 1,500, an increase of about 300 from the previous school year."
More immigrants say Collier schools blocked enrollment, Naples Daily News, Maria Perez
"Three more families have joined a federal lawsuit that claims the Collier County School District unfairly blocked some immigrant teenagers from enrolling in high school."
A new start for a failed vision at Rogers Garden, Bradenton Herald, Meghin Delaney
"Rogers Garden Elementary School wasn't supposed to be half empty. Rogers should have been a flourishing school, a green-certified school, a school that revived a community. It should have been a school that kept neighborhood kids close to home, a school that attracted parents and families from throughout the county because of small class sizes and added benefits of University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee teaching fellows. It should have been a model school. ... Instead, the school failed to live up to expectations since it opened in August 2009, barely housing more than 50 percent of the students it was built for, and never earning above a D grade from the Florida Department of Education."
How Short is Florida's Teacher Shortage?, League of Women Voters blog
"While Florida is not as in dire straits as other states may be, those children sitting in classrooms without teachers need to be served. The state is expanding online education as one alternative. The other is to provide more access to teaching through alternative certification."
FL: Test Fetish on Trial, Curmudgucation blog
"Meet Chris. Chris was a third grader last year. According to Chris's report card, Chris earned passing grades in every single class. But Chris's parents said that Chris would not be taking the state test. Now Chris must repeat third grade.
Teachers prepared for digital age, Citrus County Chronicle editorial
"There's no question that electronic learning materials come with enormous advantages. In sharp contrast to traditional, long lead-time printed textbooks, electronic texts allow updating as quickly as needed. There are natural tie-ins with enrichment features including interactive illustrations, auxiliary articles and resources, videos and more. The big benefit of electronic learning materials, of course, is that they look like the future facing today's students. However, the digital soup in which we are steeping our children isn't without risks."
Why I'm Leaving Teaching: A Wellington teacher's painful decision, Palm Beach Post guest column, Megan Webb
"For the first time in 10 years, I am not anxiously preparing my classroom, anticipating the arrival of twenty energetic children and a new year full of learning, laughter and excitement. Instead, I am preparing myself for a new career in the business world. And not because I wanted to. I absolutely loved my teaching job at Equestrian Trails Elementary. But sadly, love just isn't enough."
Reports of Note
Education's Experiences with Flexibility Waivers Could Inform Efforts to Assist States with New Requirements, Government Accountability Office
"Since introducing its Flexibility initiative in 2011-inviting states to request a waiver from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) in effect at the time-the Department of Education (Education) has monitored states' efforts and identified challenges to states' ability to fully implement their waivers. According to GAO's analysis of Education letters and monitoring reports, 12 of the 43 states with Flexibility waivers faced multiple challenges that affected their ability to fully implement their waivers."
For the Public Good: Quality Preparation for Every Teacher, Bank Street College of Education
"Too many of the nation's new teachers are not set up for success in our current preparation systems. Although they arrive with many skills and work extremely hard-often heroically-the vast majority are denied the time and resources necessary for the clinical preparation that would give them the strongest possible start as professionals. Fortunately, this is a problem we can address."