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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

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



The world of Florida education got busy this past week, with movement on most of the hot button issues -- choice, performance pay and high school sports among them. A Duval teacher ended her career, declaring the joy had been sucked from her profession. Martin Luther King III rallied for school tax credit scholarships in the streets of Tallahassee. Manatee parents worked to keep their under-enrolled school from closing. Find highlights below, and visit the Gradebook for regular updates on the latest in Florida education news. Send your comments and questions to [email protected].

Top of the Times

Key Senate committee keeps Florida's 'Best and Brightest' teacher bonus alive, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Despite heavy skepticism, the Florida Senate Education Committee has kept alive an effort to extend a controversial program that gives hefty bonuses to teachers based on the ACT and SAT tests they took in high school."
RELATED: A few more thoughts on Florida's Best and Brightest

Pinellas officials weigh options for revitalizing Melrose Elementary, Colleen Wright
"When it comes to the future of Melrose Elementary, the Pinellas County School Board is leaning toward renovating the school rather than moving it to a new location. Board members at their Tuesday workshop discussed a few ideas for Melrose, one of the oldest and most troubled schools in the county. They brainstormed the possibility of renovating onsite or looking at other properties nearby."

State could OK charter schools under constitutional amendment, Kristen Clark
"A proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that would give a state board the power to authorize and control charter schools statewide gained its first approval in a House committee Wednesday."
RELATED: Pro-charter school constitutional amendment targets Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra

District leaders cringe when online donation requests make their schools look too needy, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"[Pasco superintendent Kurt] Browning, like most everyone in public education, was quick to acknowledge that tax revenue can't come close to covering everything teachers want in their classrooms. His concern is with how they ask for extras."

Florida lawmakers seek choice in high school athletics, Kristen Clark
"Republicans in the Florida Legislature, driven by a philosophy of "school choice," are once again trying to expand options for more than 285,000 student-athletes, while overhauling the authority of the nonprofit organization designated by the state to oversee high school athletics."

Around the State

Teacher pleads for more flexibility, creativity in Duval classrooms, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"After 37 years of teaching at the same school, Carol Inmon decided to retire six months earlier than planned because, she said, her joy was gone. At the end of November, a woman who says she was born teach left her first grade class at Gregory Drive Elementary because, she said, she felt micromanaged, forced to teach lessons in ways that seemed inappropriate and sometimes boring for young learners."

Martin Luther King III makes case for tax-credit scholarships, Politico Florida, Jessica Bakeman
Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported tax-credit funded scholarships that allow needy children to attend private schools. At least, his son thinks so. ‘I would assume my father would support anything that lifted up and created opportunities for ‘the least of these,'' Martin Luther King III told POLITICO Florida during a recent phone interview, quoting the Bible. ‘I don't think he would get caught up in the politics of it.' The younger King, though, has waded into the complicated racial, religious and partisan politics of the controversial voucher-like program. On Tuesday, a day after the national holiday honoring his father, King will headline a Tallahassee rally promoting the program, putting himself at odds with Florida's statewide teachers' union as well as the state's chapter of the NAACP."

District follows state lead on Florida Standard Assessment not counting toward school grades, Citrus County Chronicle, Andrew Caplan
"On Tuesday the Citrus County School Board adopted a resolution regarding the 2015-16 assessment and accountability system, which coincides with the one set forth by the Florida School Boards Associations. The motion, which passed unanimously, re-enforces to the district's stance to not have the Spring administrated Florida Standard Assessment count toward school grades and teacher evaluations."

Polk County School District staff explains end-of-year tests, The Ledger, Sara Drumm
"It's only the middle of the school year, but Polk County's end-of-year exams are causing headaches for everyone from students to School Board members. Starting this year, the district decided, the exams will count as a test grade in elementary school classes, as 20 percent of the final course grade for middle school classes and as 30 percent of the grade for high school classes. They also will be used for the student achievement part of teacher evaluations."

Wakeland Elementary parents worried Manatee County school will be closed, Bradenton Herald, Meghin Delaney
"Roughly 60 Wakeland Elementary School parents met Wednesday night with Manatee County School District leaders to discuss the potential ramifications of closing the school. As the Manatee County School Board mulls closing the school -- which is considered structurally safe but needs at least $3.6 million in upkeep -- parents are concerned about what will happen to the district's only international baccalaureate elementary school. School enrollment is about 550."

Lee schools to measure progress with their own scorecard, Naples Daily News, Melhor Leonor
"Florida's school accountability system is changing too quickly and delivering results too slowly, at least by the measure of Lee County Public Schools Superintendent Greg Adkins. ... Adkins convened local parents at South Fort Myers High to present a plan developed by district officials to measure the progress of Lee County public schools, independent of the measures issued by the Florida Department of Education."

Reports of Note

Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Charter School Laws, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Florida Overview: Ninth of 43 states, down from eighth a year ago - "Florida's law does not have a cap on charter public school growth, provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability, and provides a robust appellate process for charter school applicants; however, it still provides inequitable funding to charter public schools."

Tracking Transfer: New Measures of Institutional and State Effectiveness in Helping Community College Students Attain Bachelor's Degrees, Community College Research Center
"Signs indicate that transfer students are gaining attention among state policymakers. While some states, such as Florida and Washington, have long been recognized for their forward-thinking transfer policies, others have made changes in this area more recently."

Discretion and Disproportionality: Explaining the Underrepresentation of High-Achieving Students of Color in Gifted Programs, Jason A. Grissom and Christopher Redding, Vanderbilt University
"In particular, we uncover evidence that Black students in classrooms with non-Black teachers are systematically less likely to receive gifted services in subsequent years, particularly in reading. The lower likelihood of assignment for high-achieving Black students in classrooms with nonBlack teachers diverts gifted services from the very students who may benefit the most from such programs."

Other Views

Thanks to Florida teachers, former Florida senator Paula Dockery, syndicated columnist
"Thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your professionalism. Thank you for your long days of teaching and your long nights of grading papers and preparing for the next day's lessons. We don't appreciate our teachers as we once did. Over the last 20 years teachers have been demonized, demoralized and blamed for what some politicians want to brand a failing public education system. With a steady stream of mandates and micromanaging coming from the state capital, teachers had to constantly adjust to the policies pushed by the politically well-connected education-for-profit folks."

In Florida schools, some still fight to fulfill MLK's dream, Victor T. Curry, Miami Herald opinion piece
"The check that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to cash during his historic ‘I Have A Dream' speech was for the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And yet, more than a half-century later on this day of hallowed commemoration, we in Florida find ourselves engaged against those who would deny our children their basic right to education. We fight this time to keep our children in schools that provide them hope."

Florida charter school application illegally denied by hostile school board, Pacific Legal Foundation Liberty Blog
"This week, PLF filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the School Board of Palm Beach County illegally denied an application to start a new charter school. Charter schools are privately run public schools that operate under a performance contract (charter) with a public sponsor (usually a school district)."

Computer coding a necessary foreign language in a 21st century education, state Sen. Jeremy Ring, The Hill Congress Blog
"To keep up with these changing norms in every profession, I believe legislators on Capitol Hill should consider providing high school students with the option to learn computer coding under their foreign language requirements as Congress continually recalibrates the nation's approach to educations."

Private schools get state taxes no questions asked. Public schools? Not so much, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano
"Basically, when it comes to poor people, the state is saying it wants to make danged sure folks are being responsible before any taxpayer money is handed over. And yet private schools essentially get a free ride?"

Bills on the Move

School Choice:
HB 7029, by Education Appropriations Subcommittee -- Referred favorably out of its final committee
HB 4013, by Choice and Innovation Subcommittee -- Referred favorably out of its final committee
SB 886, by Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto -- Passed first of three committee stops
HB 669, by Rep. Chris Sprowls -- Passed first of three committee stops

HB 887, by Rep. Janet Adkins -- Passed first of three committee stops (Companion SB 468 has passed two committees)
HB 693, by Rep. Erik Fresen -- Passed first of three committee stops

Class Size:
SB 1634, by Sen. John Legg -- Passed first of three committee stops

Teacher bonuses:
SB 978, by Sen. John Legg -- Passed first of three committee stops

Coming Up

Monday: Senate Education Appropriations,
Tuesday: Senate Education Appropriations, House K-12, House Choice and Innovation
Wednesday: Senate Education, House Education
Thursday: Senate Education Appropriations, House Education Appropriations

[Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2016 3:10pm]


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