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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 3, 2016



And we're back. Hope you enjoyed your time off for winter break. Seems like no one wasted any time jumping back into the thick of things. The State Board of Education tackled long-awaited school grading and test score rules, while lawmakers filed bills galore in the days leading to -- can you believe it? -- next week's start of session.We'll be keeping tabs on the activity throughout, but if you think we've missed something, never hesitate to let us know. Send your notes to And keep following the Gradebook for the latest.

Top of the Times

Proposal would give students alternatives to controversial statewide test, Kristen M. Clark
Although Florida lawmakers don't plan to revamp the beleaguered Florida Standards Assessments this session, they're likely to consider a related proposal to let students take other standardized tests - like the ACT or SAT - instead.
LEGISLATION: Senate Bill 1360

Florida Education Board settles on scores, school grades after year of testing troubles, Jeffrey S. Solochek
The state Board of Education, which for years has pushed to toughen standards for Florida students, voted Wednesday to compromise on test scores and school grades while the state continues to wrestle with its newly revised accountability system.
READ THE RULES: School Grading, Cut Scores
RELATED: Florida Department of Education to change student test score reports

Graduation rates are up, but Florida and Tampa Bay area schools still play catchup, Colleen Wright
Graduation rates rose in Florida for the ninth straight year, and most school districts in the Tampa Bay area saw increases as well, according to data released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education. But the state continues to lag nationally, and the area's two largest school districts have some catching up to do. Hillsborough's rate, 76 percent, was the lowest among Florida's seven largest counties. And Hillsborough and Pinellas ranked last and next-to-last, respectively, among those counties for black students' rates.
REPORT: Florida's High School Cohort Graduation Rate 2015

Around the State

Principal responds after parents complain school rules are too harsh, Orlando Sentinel, Annie Martin
"If you're an Evans Elementary student, you'd better remain ‘silent as a mouse' and walk in a single file line ‘straight as a pencil' in the hall. In the stairwell at the Oviedo school, you must use the handrails and ‘go up and down the stairs using alternating feet.' And on the playground, leave mulch, sticks and rocks alone and don't play tag inside the playground equipment area. Some parents complained on social media over the winter break that the school's policies are too exacting, but Principal Carol Ann Darnell said they're merely intended to provide a universal set of expectations for common areas."

Polk school superintendent subject of internal investigation, The Ledger, John Chambliss and Sara Drumm
"Polk County School District Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy is the subject of an internal investigation following a complaint filed by an associate superintendent."

Police: Ex-PBC principal caught selling school district books online, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"Online, Richard Hughes wasn't just an elementary school principal. The longtime head of Hagen Road Elementary was, to all appearances, the prolific author of nearly 400 self-published books and manuals on education. But School District police say the veteran educator's secret side business was a fraud."

Margate charter school shutters with little warning, Sun-Sentinel, Brittany Shammas
"The doors to a Margate charter school did not reopen this week after the holiday break, the latest in a string of such closures across South Florida. Emails and phone messages let parents of the 138 students enrolled at iGeneration Empowerment Academy of Broward County know they'd have to find new schools - fast."

Reports of Note

Quality Counts 2016, Education Week, Florida Report Card
"This year, Florida finishes 30th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 72.4 out of 100 points and a grade of C-minus. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C."

Is kindergarten the new first grade?, AERA
"Our findings suggest a shift toward more challenging (and potentially more engaging) literacy and math content. However, they also highlight a concerning drop in time spent on art, music, science, and child-selected activities, as well as much more frequent use of standardized testing."

Other Views

The False Promise of Standards-Based Educational Reform, Oregonian guest columnist Geoffrey Barrett
"For example, a 2015 Thomas B. Fordham Institute (TFI) analysis of state accountability systems lauded Florida for its strong accountability system. The report states that Florida ‘continually raises the bar for student expectations, so as to avoid plateaus in performance.' Unfortunately, Florida's 2015 NAEP scores do not provide support for TFI's prediction."

Does Godby's strategy benefit students?, Tallahassee Democrat editorial
"Serious new questions have arisen about the use of the Advanced Placement classes at Godby High School, where most students flunked reading and math, and a little more than half scored well in science, but a startling 91 percent earned proficiency marks in social studies."

New tests, new scores, same old problems, Miami Herald editorial
"We still are not completely convinced that the State Board of Education did Florida's public-school students any favors by finally locking in passing scores for the controversial assessment tests that had a rocky rollout last year. The flawed implementation could result in flawed grades, unrepresentative of students' true abilities and unnecessarily damaging a school's overall grade."

The Sunshine Solution solves the wrong problem, Accountabaloney blog
"Using nationally respected tests might also garner some favor, and could be appropriate IF the results of such tests were used appropriately. What is less likely to be discussed is the negative effect that high stakes attached to standardized test scores have on education, as a whole. Replacing one test, that was used inappropriately, with another test, that will also be used inappropriately, will really not solve the existing problems with our accountability system."

Best and Brightest dollars should be aimed towards math and science teachers, Tallahassee Democrat guest column, FSU physics professor Paul Cottle
"To successfully address the math and science challenge, the state's school districts will have to recruit to the teaching profession more students from the state's colleges and universities who are strong in these fields. While there are some remarkable math and science teachers in our schools already, many other talented individuals are deterred from entering the teaching profession by the salary situation: Starting teaching salaries in Florida run $10,000 or more lower than the salaries available to new bachelor's degree grads in engineering, math and physics. That salary differential is enough to keep some students away if they want to start families or pay down their student debt."

Florida allows inept operators and profiteers to run charter school, Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm
"The semester began in Broward last week with another charter school closing, with 138 more kids on the outs, scrambling to find themselves a new school. And that was hardly news in a state that offers such puny oversight of the charter school system. The suddenly defunct iGeneration Empowerment Academy of Margate was the 55th charter school in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach to fail since 2011, according to the Sun-Sentinel. StateImpact Florida reported that going back to 1998, a third of all charter schools in Florida have gone kaput."

Recently Filed

SB 1522, Home Schooling, by Sen. Kelli Stargel
"Home education program students shall be provided access to career and technical courses and programs offered by the school district. ... Home education program students shall be provided an annual textbook reimbursement in the amount of $81.42."

SJR 1516, Teacher Salaries, by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo
"By 2017, the salary for a new full-time teacher in a public school must be at least equal to the national average salary for a new full-time teacher in a public school. By 2017, the average salary for an experienced full-time teacher in a public school must be at least equal to the national average salary for an experienced full-time teacher in a public school."

SB 1320, Education Funding, Sen. Thad Altman
"The Legislature intends to stimulate growth, business expansion, and job creation through property tax reform. As a first step toward achieving these goals, the Legislature intends by passage of this act to replace the required local effort education property tax with a 2 percent education sales and use tax."

HB 1215, School Resource Officers, Rep. Joe Geller
"At least one school resource officer or school safety officer shall be assigned to each public school campus. At least one school resource officer or school safety officer shall be present at each public school campus from one-half hour before the first class is scheduled to begin until one-half hour after the last class ends."

HB 1259, Voluntary Prekindergarten, Rep. Dwight Dudley
"The prekindergarten instructor must annually complete a minimum of 1.5 continuing education units of approved inservice training, or 15 clock hours of equivalent training, as approved by the office."

HB 1135, Education Accountability, Rep. Debbie Mayfield
"To assist in the transition to the new statewide, standardized assessments administered pursuant to s. 1008.22, schools and school districts shall receive an ‘I' or ‘Incomplete' for the 2014-2015 school grades or school improvement ratings issued pursuant to s. 1008.341, as applicable."

Coming Up

The Florida Legislature returns to session next week. Admit it. You missed them. The Senate Education Committee meets twice in the first week (Wednesday and Thursday), while the various House education-related panels meet throughout the week. Check out the Senate and House calendars for details.

[Last modified: Friday, January 8, 2016 3:07pm]


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