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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 11, 2016



Florida's Legislature returned to the Capitol on Tuesday and wasted no time in expanding school choice opportunities for students with disabilities, a priority of Senate President Andy Gardiner. The bill is already headed to the governor's desk. Lawmakers also struck on other hot issues early, including testing, teacher bonuses and more That was just in Tallahassee. Local school districts kept active in dealing with issues including the role of religion in schools, superintendent contracts and an influx of immigrant students. And this in a year when education is supposedly going to be on the periphery. Keep up with the latest daily at the Gradebook. Any questions? Email

Top of the Times

Senators debate "Best and Brightest" teacher bonus, Kristen Clark
"Mirroring other actions in the early days of the 2016 session to encourage friendly relations between the House and Senate, Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, invited the House's education budget chairman to join senators in a discussion Wednesday about the controversial "Best & Brightest" teacher bonus program."

Eakins says Christian clubs in Hillsborough public schools support district's 'cultural model,' Marlene Sokol
"Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins reaffirmed his support Tuesday for a Christian organization that aims to expand its presence in the public schools."
RELATED: Standards? We have standards, Hillsborough district says about church-school involvement; Board chairwoman calls for guidelines when Hillsborough schools interact with religious groups; No proselytizing in Pasco County schools, superintendent says

Hernando School Board holds tense, unproductive meeting regarding superintendent's contract, Dan DeWitt
"A special meeting called this week to settle the contract of Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano got the School Board no closer to its goal - but did reveal new levels of rancor among members."

After a rough transition year, calls grow louder for Florida to rethink school accountability, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"With two votes Wednesday, the State Board of Education put to bed a lengthy, heated debate over how difficult Florida's student testing and school grading formulas should be. Board members made it harder to get a passing score on the tests, and easier for a school to earn an A, just weeks before students begin another round of Florida Standards Assessments. But to many, they ignored a more fundamental problem: the growing lack of confidence in the 16-year-old education accountability system."
COLUMN: State cooks the books on tests. Why ever trust them again?, John Romano

Around the State

Lesson plan for lawmakers, Tallahassee Democrat, Amanda Claire Curcio
"In the next two months, lawmakers will grapple with hundreds of education issues, ranging from sex education and charter school reform to overhauling state testing requirements and dispatching more dollars to schools Thousands of teachers, parents, students and community leaders - bused in from across the state by the Florida Education Association - rallied at the state Capitol on Thursday at noon, primarily to protest the "over-legislation" of teachers and unfunded mandates."

Facing possible Cuban immigrant influx, Miami-Dade schools ask for federal funding, Miami Herald, Christina Veiga
"The Miami-Dade County school district faces a possible influx of students coming from Cuba and wants the federal government to provide additional money to help educate them."

Duval nurses stretched thin, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"Duval public schools serve some 600 ‘medically fragile' students and 200 students whose Type 1 diabetes requires them to take insulin shots and monitor blood sugar levels daily. Yet Duval's school nurse program has less than a third of the nurses a federal agency says it needs."

Marion County school district has money, is looking for teachers, Ocala Star-Banner, Joe Callahan
"It's halfway through the school year, and the school district is still trying to properly fill 25 educator vacancies."

Orange schools to debate later high school start times, Orlando Sentinel, Annie Martin
"Sleepy teenagers might be able to hit the snooze button if Orange County officials decide that pushing back high school start times is worth the expense."

Reports of Note

Classroom Composition and Measured Teacher Performance: What Do Teacher Observation Scores Really Measure?, Matthew P. Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, and Rachel Garrett, American Institutes for Research
(Note: The study includes Hillsborough County schools)
"In this article, we find that the incoming achievement of a teacher's students significantly and substantively influences observation-based measures of teacher performance. Indeed, teachers working with higher achieving students tend to receive higher performance ratings, above and beyond that which might be attributable to aspects of teacher quality that are fixed over time."

A Different Way of Doing Business: Examples of Pre-K to Third Grade Alignment in Practice, Center for American Progress
"Early childhood is widely recognized as the most flexible developmental period for influencing children's future trajectories, and this critical period of development is not limited to the years before children enter formal schooling. Recognizing this, states and school districts across the country are making an effort to align the policy and practice in early care and education with subsequent K-12 systems. This issue brief provides an overview of some of the key components and challenges of pre-K to third grade, or P-3, alignment initiatives identified by implementers at the state and local levels."

Other Views

Florida shows signs of sanity in high-stake tests, Sun-Sentinel editorial
"There is room for tentative optimism that sanity is gaining a foothold in Florida's education system."

Can schools punish students for off-campus online speech?, University of Florida News
"For at least the past 15 years, schools across the nation have engaged in Orwellian overreaches into the homes and bedrooms of students to punish them for their off-campus, online expression regarding classmates, teachers and administrators. Despite the bevy of cases, the issue of whether schools can punish students for off-campus, online speech remains unresolved."

Do playgrounds really have rules?, Orlando Legal Examiner
"Do you really know if the playgrounds that your children play on at school are safe? Did you even know there are some very clear rules and guides that should be followed by your local school board to minimize and protect your children?"

Florida uses a formula for inequality in school funding, Daytona Beach News-Journal columnist Mark Lane
"Education is a contentious subject with big ideological divides but there is one educational issue on which local Republicans and Democrats agree: The way the state calculates school funding hurts us here. Hurts us bad."

Simplified school testing better for students, Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab
"Seminole County School Superintendent Walt Griffin likes to say that the happiest times of his life were when his children were born and ‘the day they told me they had a real job.' That cuts right to the heart of why the debate about standardized testing and what a high school diploma really means is so important."

Bills on the move

Educational Options:
SB 672 by Sen. Don Gaetz -- Passed the Legislature
Expands Personal Learning Scholarship Account program

High School Sports:
HB 31 by Rep. Ross Spano -- won second and final committee approval
SB 684 by Sens. Don Gaetz and Kelli Stargel -- won approval at first committee stop
SB 1026 by Sen. David Simmons -- won approval at first committee stop

Class Size:
HB 149 by Rep. George Moraitis -- on Second Reading in the House

Teacher Certification:
HB 189 by Rep. Manny Diaz -- on Second Reading in the House

Computer Coding:
SB 468 by Sen. Jeremy Ring -- won second of three committee approvals

Bright Futures Scholarships:
SB 520 by Sen. Tom Lee -- on Second Reading in the Senate

Coming Up

Tuesday -- House Education Appropriations

Wednesday -- Senate Education K-12 (Highlights to include bills on class size, Best and Brightest, competency-based education); House K-12 Subcommittee; House Choice and Innovation

Thursday -- House Education Committee; Senate Education Appropriations

Feb. 9 -- It's not ironclad, but we're expecting final school grades from the state

[Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2016 3:30pm]


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