ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 24, 2016
It's hard to believe the Florida 2016 legislative session is almost half over, but it is, and several hot button issues continue to dominate debate. A push by parents to mandate daily elementary school recess has received strong support in the Florida House, but tepid reaction so far in the Senate. Meanwhile, several measures to expand school choice are surging forward in the chambers. Budget proposals came out this past week, with some significant differences between the versions. Local school districts stayed busy, as well, dealing with matters as diverse as religion, start times, improvement plans and charitable contributions. Keep up with the latest Florida education news on the Gradebook. Send your tips and thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top of the Times
School recess proposal moves ahead in Florida House, Kristen M. Clark
"Elementary schoolchildren across Florida would have 20 minutes every school day guaranteed to run around outside and play, under a parent-driven proposal that advanced out of its first state House committee on Tuesday."
LEGISLATION: HB 833
RELATED: All Pinellas elementary schools to provide recess this fall, Colleen Wright
NEXT STEPS: Will Florida Senate hear popular recess bill?, Jeffrey S. Solochek
Florida Senate panel endorses alternatives to controversial statewide assessment test, Kristen M. Clark
"A plan to let Florida school districts and parents choose alternative tests in lieu of the controversial statewide assessments cleared its first Senate committee on Wednesday with strong bipartisan support. But the state's top education official has voiced resistance to the idea, its chances appear bleak at getting heard in the Florida House and critics who oppose Common Core standards and high-stakes testing said the proposal doesn't go far enough to fix Florida's flawed education accountability system."
LEGISLATION: SB 1360
Eakins: Hillsborough school district reviewing relationships with faith-based partners, Marlene Sokol
"Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins and School Board Chairwoman April Griffin said Tuesday that the district is re-evaluating its relationships with faith-based organizations in light of recent criticism from civil rights organizations."
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. ... While the needs exist, the question becomes, how does a teacher convey that message in a way that persuades potential donors without making the school or district appear derelict?"
Around the State
School Board to vote on later start times, Tallahassee Democrat, Amanda Curcio
"Leon County high-schoolers are one step closer to having the choice to go to school at a later time."
Immigrants and allies speak out against Florida bill, WMNF, Sean Kinane
"They're opposed to House Bill 675 which would require ‘state & local governmental agencies to comply with & support enforcement of federal immigration law.' The bill prohibits what it says are ‘sanctuary policies' by some municipalities."
Martin County School Board rethinking technology initiative, Stuart News, Andrew Atterbury
"Some Martin County School Board members are backing away from a $1 million computer initiative they approved just three months ago. They now are rethinking whether to furnish laptops to all incoming freshmen."
Improvement plans unrealistic, School Board said, Daily Commercial, Livi Stanford
"The problem, [Lake] School Board Chairman Bill Mathias said, is many schools wrote their improvement plans in the summer without the benefit of having Florida Standard Assessments test score data available. ‘These schools are doing busywork just because it is required,' Mathias said."
New model increases student access to mental-health services, Florida Times-Union, Tessa Duvall
"Duval County Public Schools, alongside several of Jacksonville's nonprofits, is piloting a nearly $1.2 million program called Full Service Schools Plus that embeds a therapist in each of the 12 schools within the Ribault High School feeder pattern in northwest Jacksonville. The new approach aims to increase students' access to mental-health services by reducing the barriers, such as transportation and demands on parental time, that sometimes prevent them from receiving help. And so far, it's working."
Funding for new schools in Manatee County may be jeopardized by state referendum bill, Bradenton Herald, Meghin Delaney
"A proposed state bill requiring at least 60 percent approval on local referendums could have serious repercussions on Manatee County's plans to raise money to build new schools."
Reports of Note
Proficient vs. Prepared 2016: State Test Results are Getting Closer to Student Achievement on NAEP, Achieve.org
"With states taking action to transition to new, more rigorous tests over the past couple of years and also setting new levels of proficiency or cut scores, states deserve a lot of credit for reducing or even eliminating the ‘honesty gap' that existed."
Opt-Outs: What is Lost When Students Do Not Test?, ACT Research and Policy Issue Brief
School Choice Survey, American Federation for Children
ESEA Reauthorization: Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act / Toward a Coherent, Aligned Assessment System, Center for American Progress
School choice key for Hispanic families, Las Vegas Review-Journal op-ed, Rachel Campos-Duffy
"Hispanic families understand how school choice helps their children - an overwhelming 73 percent of Hispanics favor Education Savings Accounts, and similar levels of support exist for other educational options as well. We know that a better education leads to better opportunities for our children. And we need those opportunities now. Forty percent of Nevada students are Hispanic, and Hispanic public-schoolers underperform their white, non-Hispanic peers by 21 points in math and 22 points in reading. By contrast, in Florida, where school choice has been embraced, Hispanic students outscored or tied the statewide reading average of all students in 21 states and the District of Columbia in 2010."
Florida finds yet another way to waste millions of dollars, Washington Post Answer Sheet, Valerie Strauss
"The Florida legislature has an uncanny ability to find useless programs to fund and then waste millions of dollars on them."
Vouchers fail students in numerous ways, Florida Today guest columnist Richard Smith, Brevard Federation of Teachers president
"Why are vouchers bad for Florida's students? Note that I didn't say public-school students. All students. Recently, representatives of private schools (I believe to be well-intentioned but misled) asked the Florida Education Association to drop its lawsuit against the most recent attempt to get around separation of church and state. FEA has not and will not drop this lawsuit because FEA is committed to the education of all students. Here are six reasons."
Indian River schools AP data impressive, but more work must be done, TCPalm columnist Laurence Reisman
"The news release from the Indian River County School District sounded impressive. Indian River was one of only three Florida districts and 425 nationwide on the College Board's sixth annual Advanced Placement exam honor roll. But what exactly did that mean? Sadly, I've developed a ‘cry wolf' attitude to positive news releases short on facts. Hospitals, schools, governments and companies often tout awards that mean little."
Bills on the Move
HB 7043, by Education Committee and Rep. Erik Fresen (includes Best and Brightest) -- Headed to House floor
HB 835, by Rep. Eric Eisnaugle -- Approved by first of two committees
HB 1155, by K-12 Subcommittee and Rep. Eric Eisnaugle -- Approved by first of three committees
SB 1426, by Community Affairs Committee and Sen. Kelli Stargel -- Approved by first of three committees
On the Agenda
Monday: House K-12 will consider bills relating to the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, life skills instruction
Tuesday: Senate Education will consider bills relating to charter schools, dual enrollment and school choice, as well as the appointment of Tom Grady to the State Board of Education; also meeting are House Choice and Innovation, House Education Appropriations
Thursday: House Education