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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 31, 2016



This week, we got a front row seat as Florida's superintendents sparred with powerful lawmakers over school construction funding. So far, the superintendents look to have the weaker hand. We met a teacher who got so fed up with "education by legislation" that she quit her job. And we braced ourselves for 2015 school grades, just less than year after students took their 2015 state tests. Out in the districts, school boards debated blue jeans, cell phones and recess, among so many other issues. Who says public education is boring? Keep up with it all on the Gradebook. And please keep your tips, questions and comments coming to

Top of the Times

Another teacher quits, blaming state mandates, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"For many veteran teachers, life in the classroom has become a far cry from the profession they entered years ago. Climate surveys indicate steep declines in morale, with much of the blame placed on increased state testing, heightened time demands and a perceived decline in respect. The atmosphere has compelled some to walk away and publicly declare their frustration - which is exactly what [Tracey] Suits did last month when she told the Pasco County School Board: ‘I can do it no longer. I am resigning.'"
WATCH Suits speak to the Pasco School Board

After a year of hurdles, Florida's 2015 school grades are coming. Will anyone care?, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"The 2015 grades are coming. And it hasn't gone unnoticed that they'll arrive a month into the second semester of the new school year, just weeks before students begin testing again. That limits their usefulness to many in the schools."

Senator: Teacher bonus program needs to be vetted before funding assured, Kristen M. Clark
"The chairman of the Florida Senate's education budget committee said Wednesday there's a very good reason the chamber didn't include funding toward continuing the new ‘Best & Brightest' teacher bonus program in its proposed budget for 2016-17: The program hasn't been vetted by the chamber yet."

Florida school superintendents fight back against charges they misspent on construction, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Florida school superintendents are irate over lawmaker allegations that their districts have misspent millions of dollars on construction projects over the past decade."
PRESENTATION: School District Fixed Capital Outlay Spending (begins on page 158)
REACTION: Rep. Fresen unconvinced by Florida superintendents on school construction costs

Flush with technology, new Pinellas magnet program caters to young 'digital natives', Colleen Wright
"Eighty-eight sixth-graders are enrolled in the inaugural class of Tyrone's Center for Innovation and Digital Learning, where every student has a Microsoft Surface Pro, a 10-inch tablet used for classroom work, assessments and homework."

Florida teacher evaluations remains strong, even with rule changes, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"A newly released summary of 2014-15 teacher evaluations shows 37.5 percent of all rated Florida teachers earned a ‘highly effective' mark, while 60.9 percent received an ‘effective' mark. Just 0.2 percent were seen as ‘unsatisfactory,' a score that threatens a teacher's future employment status."
REPORT: 2014-15 Personnel Evaluations

Around the State

Parent criticizes state policy on disabled student testing, Herald-Tribune, Shelby Webb
"Maddy did not say a word during her public speaking time at Tuesday night's Sarasota County School Board meeting. She coughed and hacked, and her mother came up to rub her back. She can't speak. Madison Drew has cerebral palsy. She is nonverbal. She can point and use basic sign language with one hand. Still, the state requires her to take a standardized test to  measure her educational achievement."

This Florida Mom Wants Legislators to Pass a Law Mandating School Recess, Education Week, Marva Hinton
"Angela Browning is not a politician. She's a paralegal and the mom of three boys in elementary school in Florida's Orange County school district. When I asked her for her title, she told me to call her a ‘recess mom.' Browning is a leader in a movement made up of moms who want their kids to have 20 minutes of unstructured time to play during the school day. Now there are groups of recess moms in a little over a third of Florida's 67 counties."

Can schools confiscate, search cell phones?, Pensacola News-Journal, Thomas St. Myer
"His phone revealed no evidence of wrongdoing, but his mother, Karen Broughton, complained that Payne seized and searched the device without notifying her or telling her son he was considered a suspect. Karen Broughton questioned the legality of the search. Assistant State Attorney John Molchan said the law sides with the principal."

Volusia School Board reconsidering blue jeans, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Dustin Wyatt
"A week after voting 4-1 to add blue jeans to a proposed school uniform policy, Volusia County School Board members are having second thoughts."

Reports of Note

State Report Card 2016, Network for Public Education
Rates Florida no better than C in any category.

The State of Education in Black America, 2015, Black Alliance for Educational Options
"Black low-income and working-class families support tax-credit scholarships because they improve academic outcomes for their children. According to an evaluation of the Florida program conducted by Dr. Figlio (2014), participating students "come from less-advantaged families than other students receiving free or reduced-price lunch"; tend to be among the lower performing students in an already low-performing public school; and many are Black and Hispanic. After reviewing of nationally normed tests (i.e., Stanford Achievement Test, Iowa Test of Basic Skills and TerraNova), Dr. Figlio concluded that students gained one year's worth of learning in one year's time."

Does the Match Matter? Exploring Whether Student Teaching Experiences Affect Teacher Effectiveness and Attrition, CALDER Center
"We find evidence that candidates assigned to cooperating teachers with an advanced degree are less effective once they enter the workforce, while teachers who student taught in schools with less teacher turnover are less likely to leave the state's teaching workforce. We also find that teachers are more effective when the student demographics of their current school are similar to the student demographics of the school in which they did their student teaching."

Other Views

Computer coding important but not a foreign language, Tallahassee Democrat editorial
"In a diverse state like Florida, where many residents speak English as a second language, we should encourage students to take more foreign language, not less."

Florida Legislature should leave school districts as they are, TCPalm editorial
"Would the new configuration improve educational opportunities and outcomes for students? Would the county school districts, suddenly confronted with a reduced tax base, have to raise taxes to maintain current levels of service? These and other questions illustrate the complexities of tinkering with Florida's school districts. Which is why the state Legislature should abandon the idea."

School grades just one part of whole education picture, Florida Politics guest column, Hillsborough superintendent Jeff Eakins
"The way the state is calculating school grades for the 2014-2015 school year only, is very different than it has been in years past, or will be in future years. The state has always touted its accountability system as a system with integrity that has kept a balance between student proficiency and student growth. However, that is not the case for the 2014-2015 grading system."

Will the Florida Legislature do anything to improve K-12 math and science education this year? No., Bridge to Tomorrow blog, FSU professor Paul Cottle
"At the halfway mark, it appears that this year's Florida Legislature will not do anything to improve math and science education in the state."

School-choice scholarships help parents like me, Florida Today guest columnist, Olivia Huron-Schaeffer
"Believe me, I know how much my children's scholarships are worth - $5,677 each - because I couldn't afford their school without it. I also know that's a fraction of what it costs public schools to educate my children. So how does that add up to money being taken from public schools? It doesn't. Every single study that has looked at this issue has come to the same conclusion."

Don't let high school athletes become free agents, Fort Myers News-Press columnist David Moulton
"I don't want to say this is a bad bill but ... Texas doesn't even do this.  Texas! They do things under the umbrella of high school sports in Texas that would make the Southeastern Conference blush. Yet they have even drawn a line with school choice about going this far!"

Bills on the Move

Computer Coding
SB 468, by Sen. Jeremy Ring -- On Second Reading

Competency-based Education
HB 1365, by Rep. Ray Rodrigues -- Passed second of three committees

Elected Education Commissioner
SJR 942, by Sen. Rene Garcia -- Passed first of three committees

Contracts for Returning Retired Teachers
HB 1003, by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan -- On Second Reading

Performance Funding
HB 7043, by Rep. Erik Fresen -- On Second Reading

Charter School Authorization
SB 808, by Sen. Jeff Brandes -- Passed first of four committees
SB 830, by Sen. Kelli Stargel -- Passed first of three committees
HJR 759, by Rep. Manny Diaz -- Passed second of three committees

On the Agenda

Tuesday: House Education Appropriations, 9 a.m.; House Education, 12:30 p.m.; Senate Education, 1:30 p.m.

Thursday: Senate Education Appropriations, 10 a.m.

Friday: Florida DOE rule making workshop on gifted education (6A-6.03019), 10 a.m.

[Last modified: Friday, February 5, 2016 3:24pm]


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