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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Feb. 21, 2016



Florida's spring testing season approached this past week, with opt-out families scrambling to figure out exactly what procedures their schools will follow. Lawmakers scrambled, too, to push education bills closer to the finish line as the end of their 2016 session neared. Out in the districts, school boards fought among themselves, with their constituents and about their records. Visit the Gradebook daily for the latest Florida education news.

Top of the Times

Parents, school officials tussle over kids opting out of Florida tests, Jeffrey S. Solochek
[Pasco superintendent Kurt] "Browning and many other Florida superintendents consistently reject such overtures by parents. And their anti opt-out policies are pushing families, already upset with the state's beleaguered assessment system, to go beyond "minimal participation" as their children decline the tests that begin Monday."

Attempt to revive recess bill withdrawn from Florida Senate committee, Kristen M. Clark
"Sen. Alan Hays' effort to bring back to life a proposal that would mandate elementary-school recess was short-lived today."

District speaks frankly about 'unconscious bias' in Pinellas school system, Cara Fitzpatrick
"Speaking to a room of parents, teachers and community members, deputy superintendent Bill Corbett said what school district officials often say about the yawning achievement gap between black and white students in Pinellas County: ‘There's no silver bullet.' But Corbett didn't sugarcoat the truth either."

Florida Senate endorses making computer coding a foreign language, Kristen M. Clark
"Florida senators overwhelmingly approved a proposal Wednesday to allow high school students to count computer coding as a foreign language course, although questions linger about whether the two subjects should be considered one and the same."
RELATED: Should Computer Coding Count As a Foreign Language?, EWA Educated Reporter blog

With suspensions on the decline, Hillsborough schools declare discipline victory, Marlene Sokol
"Both teenagers could have helped fuel some dismal statistics about African-Americans in the public schools. Instead, they sat Tuesday at a Hillsborough County School Board workshop, with their principals by their sides, to describe the success they are now enjoying."

Around the State

Some Manatee schools will close, merge as early as next year, Herald-Tribune, Christi Womack
"Hoping to address overcrowding in east Manatee and crumbling schools in the west while driving curriculum changes countywide, the school superintendent outlined plans Monday to close old schools and shift students beginning next year. The most immediate changes will be closing two aging central Bradenton schools, Orange Ridge-Bullock and Wakeland elementaries, and continuing to find ways to turn around failing schools that are losing students who choose to go elsewhere."

Plan could break 'transportation barrier' for high-schoolers, Tallahassee Democrat, Amanda Claire Curcio
"High-schoolers will be able to ride StarMetro buses for free if a proposal pushed by City Commissioner Scott Maddox is ultimately approved."

Volusia's school uniform debate sparks more controversy, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Dustin Wyatt
"Sparks flew at an otherwise quiet Volusia County School Board meeting with a mother calling out one board member as a liar and another board member accusing the most outspoken parents of being political tools trying to take down a Republican majority on the officially nonpartisan body."

Manatee County School District to veil identity of expulsions, reveal reasons, Bradenton Herald, Meghin Delaney
"A new document will be created to let the public know why the Manatee County School Board is expelling a student but will also keep the student's identity private."

ORCO School District spends thousands on teachers on relief of duty, WFTV
"9 Investigates learned the Orange County School District is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for teachers to sit at home."

Reports of Note

AP Cohort Data Report, College Board
From Florida DOE press release: "Florida continued its hold on second in the nation for the percentage of 2015 Florida high school graduates taking an Advanced Placement (AP) exam while in high school, according to the AP Cohort Data Report issued today by the College Board. In addition, the Sunshine State also maintained its third place ranking for the percentage of 2015 high school graduates potentially earning college credit by scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam."

Communicating the Value of Competencies, American Council on Education
"CBE programs are inherently valuable in their explicit articulation of competencies and how they are embedded in the curriculum. CBE programs also have a vested interest in making sure stakeholders understand the value of these competencies. But it is not necessary to revamp other academic programs to make them time-independent or time-flexible in order to reap the benefits of clear articulation of competencies."

Building student momentum from high school into college, Jobs for the Future
"All students need to leave high school ready for postsecondary education, whether or not they plan to attend college immediately following graduation. Preparing students for college success involves more than just completion of academic coursework; it requires providing them with momentum that will allow them to succeed during their college years. "One-off" experiences and attainments are not sufficient."

What Shortages? The Real Evidence About the STEM Workforce, Issues in Science and Technology
"Today, most policymakers and industry leaders are united in their belief that the United States faces a high-tech talent crisis. The belief has become a central theme in discussions in Congress and the Executive Branch on immigration bills (and attending policies on bringing in high-skill guest workers), on education and the causes of economic stagnation domestically, and on the nation's competitive position globally. This enduring perception of a crisis of supply might logically lead to some obvious questions. Why is the market not producing graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-the STEM fields-who would be sufficient in quantity and quality to meet demand? Why does this particular labor market fail to operate as it should? But there are better questions to ask. Why is the widely accepted view of shortage at odds with study after study that has found the U.S. science and engineering supply to be strong and improving? And why are policymakers and industry leaders offering proposals that go against this solid body of evidence?"

Other Views

‘Education Shmedumacation' - a poem by two high school juniors (who got an A+), Washington Post Answer Sheet
"Huong Le and Lilly Penick are both 17-year-old juniors who attend Gulf High School in New Port Richey, Florida, and participate in their school's International Baccalaureate program. They worked together on a writing assignment, composing a telling slam poem that expresses their view - and that of many other students - about the testing culture inside schools today."

Parents lose if lawsuit against school choice wins, Miami-Dade teacher Madeline Desdunes, South Florida Times letter to the editor
"Parents all over South Florida should know that because of a lawsuit going through the court system right now, they could lose something extremely precious - the right to choose where their children go to school."

Fight over school choice is about freedom and justice, Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin, Florida Courier guest column
"We are afraid 78,000 students on scholarship, including 23,000 Black students, will be evicted from schools where they are thriving. We are afraid for our communities, which have already endured too much pain. We are afraid the vicious cycles of generational poverty will rev back up again. Truly, we are afraid for our children."

Charter schools prosper at expense of public schools, Marion County teacher Diane Schrier, Ocala Star-Banner guest column
"The Florida Legislature is considering several bills that will reduce control of the School Board to the benefit of privately managed charter schools. Individually they may sound reasonable, but together one sees another story."

Florida's public schools in legislative crosshairs again in favor of charters, Bradenton Herald editorial
"The Manatee County school board and administration could be facing stiffer head winds in financing new schools. Getting voters to approve an extension of the half-penny sales tax for capital projects -- regrettably linked to a decrease in impact fees charged for new construction -- will be a challenge on its own. The Legislature could erect a higher barrier by approving a bill that would require 60 percent approval votes on local referendums. Plus, House Republicans claim school districts are wasting money on construction projects, but the methodology is questionable. Critics of this allegation also assert this is the opening gambit to justify a shift of local tax money for school construction from traditional public schools to privately operated public charter schools -- an objectionable idea that some lawmakers have been suggesting for years."

Board and superintendent need to write new ending to old movie, Florida Times-Union columnist Mark Woods
"Angry School Board members. Private back-stabbing and gossip. Public statements that throw fuel on the fire. As I watch what is playing out with the Duval County Public School Board and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, I feel like I've seen this movie before. And I don't like how it ends."

Bills on the Move

Omnibus bills:
SB 1166, by Senate Appropriations -- Sent to full Senate
SB 524, by Senate Appropriations -- Sent to full Senate
See also What's included in those Florida Senate education train bills?

Bright Futures:
HB 793, by Rep. Marlene O'Toole -- Passed the House

Character Education:
HB 1147, by Rep. Chris Latvala -- Passed the House

HB 719, by Rep. Ross Spano -- Placed on 3rd reading in the Senate
HB 7107, by Rep. Matt Caldwell -- Passed the House

Local Tax Referenda:
HB 791, by Rep. Blaise Ingoglia -- Passed the House

On the Agenda

The Florida Senate Appropriations Committee takes up several education initiatives when it meets Tuesday. Among those are alternative assessments, character education and supplemental academic instruction -- chamber priorities that have less interest in the House. The House, meanwhile, is all but done with committee meetings. It has several education measures ready for Second Reading on the floor when members return to deliberate Tuesday.

[Last modified: Friday, February 26, 2016 11:04pm]


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