ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 1, 2017
Happy 2017. We picked up right where we left off in Florida education news. The state's newest university held its first graduation for 18 students. Lawmakers filed bills to change education policy. School districts explored new ideas to improve student discipline and achieve better academic success. Catch up with all the latest daily at the Gradebook. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top of the Times
Florida Polytechnic celebrates an early milestone as first grads turn their tassels, Claire McNeill
"The last few years haven't been entirely smooth for the fledgling, STEM-centered institution, which rushed to open its doors after a contentious splintering from the University of South Florida in 2012. It still faces the hurdle of achieving accreditation. But Poly's first class of students had seen past the drama of its creation, some drawn by free tuition, others by the chance to shape a new school. They'd taken the gamble."
Freshman Florida House member, still a college student, files bills on tuition, scholarships, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Following through on a campaign pledge, newly elected Florida Rep. Amber Mariano filed bills Wednesday aimed at making a state university education a bit more affordable for Florida residents. Mariano, a Pasco County Republican who attends the University of Central Florida, submitted HB 153 to increase the number of credit hours an in-state student can take before facing a 100 percent tuition surcharge. The state limits credits a student may complete before losing in-state tuition."
Courtesy busing cuts raise safety questions in Lithia, D'Ann Lawrence White
"FishHawk Ranch parents say the Hillsborough County School District's plan to save money by cutting bus service for middle and high school students living within two miles of their schools will endanger students and clog traffic on FishHawk Boulevard."
Around the State
More PBC parents choosing traditional public schools over charters, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"Palm Beach County's traditional public schools saw their biggest influx of new students in more than a decade this school year, as parents reversed a years-long trend by overwhelmingly choosing district-operated schools over charter schools."
Orange tries to limit out-of-school suspensions, Orlando Sentinel, Annie Martin
"Orange County principals are now required to consult with a supervisor before handing down out-of-school suspensions for everything but the most serious offenses."
Early Learning Centers are new schools for Duval's youngest learners, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"Ultimately, 9.8 percent ended repeating third grade reading either during summer school or the following school year, according to Duval estimates. That's still too many, district officials said. To combat that, Duval this year converted three of its elementary schools into early learning centers, which are primary schools serving only preschool through second-grade youngsters."
Seminole school district expands gifted programs, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
"Ahmonti's class represents a successful push by the Seminole County school district to expand its gifted programs, particularly in elementary schools such as Wicklow that serve mostly minority students from low-income families."
School districts need exercise flexibility, Panama City News Herald editorial
"Ask most teachers - especially teachers of very young children - about the importance of recess. They'll likely give you an earful. Unstructured time on the playground helps socialize children, and lets them blow off steam. It encourages physical activity, and exercises their imaginations as well. But ... (There's always a but.)"
Don't roll back in-state tuition law for unauthorized immigrants, Orlando Sentinel editorial
"Rescinding the discount for unauthorized immigrants who graduate from Florida high schools would be cruel as well as counterproductive. Most were brought to this country as children by their parents. As [Jeb] Bush said in 2014, ‘Punishing these children for their parents' acts by creating obstacles to a college degree isn't in their interests, or ours.'"
Seeking world-class education in an odd year, Naples Daily News editorial
"This is going to be an odd year for education in Florida. Odd meaning it's an odd-numbered year, so there are no state or countywide elections. How does that affect those politicians who during even-numbered (election) years advocate for such popular goals as reducing testing or improving Florida's relatively low ranking nationally in per student funding? Odd meaning we keep hearing how great Florida is doing economically -- from jobs to tourism to escalating property values -- yet we're seeing conflicting predictions of K-12 education spending remaining flat or even being reduced this year."
Reports of Note
Quality Counts 2017, Education Week
From the Florida highlights: "This year, Florida finishes 29th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 72.5 out of 100 points and a grade of C. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C."
The Florida Legislature resumes its business with committee meetings ahead of the spring session. On the House side, the overarching Education Committee meets at 3:30 p.m. Monday to talk about closing the opportunity gap in education. The PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee convenes at 1 p.m. Wednesday to discuss school choice, while the PreK-12 Quality subcommittee gathers at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to look at ways to recruit and retain teachers at turnaround schools. In the Senate, the PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee meets at 11 a.m. Wednesday to explore ways to review state testing policy and funding.
The Florida Board of Education is scheduled to have its first work session of 2017 on Jan. 17 in Stuart, while the university system Board of Governors is on tap for Jan. 25-26 in Lakeland.
How are the state's children faring in education and other key measures? Florida Kids Count will release its County Data Book on Jan. 9 with the latest data.