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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 8, 2017

Times file photo



The Florida Legislature offered some early glimpses at some of the education fireworks we can expect in the coming months. Senators took aim at the state's testing and accountability model first devised under then-Gov. Jeb Bush, suggesting it had grown too burdensome. Chances for change? Likely, according to various lobbyists in close. The Senate also introduced legislation to improve higher education, focusing on affordability and on-time graduation. It's a shared priority of the Senate president and the governor, so this, too, appears to have legs. House members, meanwhile, took aim at spending, calling for major cuts in all budget areas including education. State economists say a shortfall is looming so, again, watch for this discussion to move. There was plenty of action at the district and school level, too. Keep up with all the latest Florida education news daily at the Gradebook.

Top of the Times

Proposals to cut Florida testing get positive reception in state Senate, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Suggesting Florida's student testing program had grown too "extreme," state senators on Wednesday welcomed several ideas aimed at bringing the system back under control. ‘Maybe we've taken a good thing too far, and now it is time to bring some common sense to it,' said Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican and former Senate president."
FROM THE MEETING: Meeting packet, Video

Senate higher ed plan zeroes in on affordability, accountability, on-time graduation, Claire McNeill
"Florida Sen. Bill Galvano filed two major components of the Senate's higher education plan on Wednesday, highlighting college affordability, accountability and on-time graduation, among a litany of other goals. The bills, which come a day after Gov. Rick Scott outlined his higher education priorities for the coming Legislative session, share in Scott's push for a more affordable path to graduation, but diverge in some of the details."

More Florida teachers qualify for smaller Best and Brightest bonus, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"A growing number of Florida teachers has qualified for the controversial Best and Brightest bonus that's based, in part, on their college entry exam scores. Districts deemed 7,188 educators as eligible for the state-funded award, which boosts the pay of teachers who earned a ‘highly effective' evaluation rating and also scored in the top 20 percent of SAT or ACT scores in the year they took the test. That's 1,854 more teachers than received the money in the program's first year."

Florida again debates guns on college campuses, sees Texas as real-time example, Kristen M. Clark
"As Florida lawmakers prepare to grapple again - for the third year in a row - with whether to allow concealed guns on public college and university campuses, another state has recent experience with this polarizing debate. Conservative lawmakers in Texas also took several years before ultimately approving guns on their state's campuses two years ago. They, too, faced resistance from many university presidents and attracted both praise and outrage from residents, as Florida lawmakers are starting to experience again this year."

Florida House budget leaders look to cut spending, including in education, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Florida's public education system could see millions of dollars of funding reduced in the coming year, under scenarios put forth Tuesday by the state House Appropriations Committee."
FROM THE MEETING: Committee packet

Jamerson Elementary teacher's big surprise: $25,000, Colleen Wright
"[Lukas] Hefty, the school's engineering program coordinator, is one of 35 educators recognized nationwide - and the sole Florida recipient - as a rising star in the field of education in the 2016-17 school year. He can spend the $25,000 however he chooses."

Around the State

Controversial short story gets Sarasota substitute teacher banned, Herald-Tribune, Yadira Lopez
"‘The lesson was really about controversy,' [substitute teacher Lisa] del Rosso said. ‘I asked the class, Do you find this piece controversial? Why do you think The New Yorker picked this piece to publish? Do you find anything in it offensive? Do you think the author did this for shock value or is it authentic to the piece?' Within hours, Venice High Vice Principal Rosemary Schmidt reportedly received a call from a parent of a student in the class. Schmidt and Vice Principal Melanie Ritter told del Rosso to stop teaching the story. It's inappropriate, said administrators."

Board, Vitti debate whether to expand teacher pay incentives to other schools, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"Duval County School Board members Tuesday expressed skepticism and some disappointment about ‘mixed' results from a local public-private strategy to pay teachers and principals thousands of dollars more to work in some of Duval County's most difficult schools. Duval leaders are considering expanding the program to include more schools."

State to Manatee County: ‘Evaluate your teachers.' Manatee to state: ‘We are!', Bradenton Herald, Ryan McKinnon
"The Florida Department of Education says the Manatee County School District is among the worst in the state at evaluating its teachers, but Manatee officials strongly disagree."

Student sit-in prompts new look at African-American studies course, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"A group of students Monday held a sit-in protest at Terry Parker High, asking that an African-American studies course they just completed be reworked so it would produce as much high credit and school time as many social studies courses offered at Duval schools."

Faculty union grows as professors fear conservative policies, Politico Florida, Jessica Bakeman
"Florida's statewide union representing college and university faculty experienced explosive growth last year, which leaders say is a reaction to the increasing politicization of higher education administration."

Reports of Note

Florida Kids Count County Data Book, 2016
"Ranked 30th among the 50 states Florida has been making strides in education and improved its graduation rate and fourth graders' reading proficiency between 2007 and 2015 (AECF, 2016). However, we still have much to do to reduce absenteeism that affects 1 in 10 of Florida's students. There are both school-wide and individually focused strategies that will increase student engagement and not only improve attendance, but increase academic performance and reduce disciplinary problems."

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY: Crash Data Trends and Federal and State Requirements, U.S. Government Accountability Office
"Based on GAO's analysis of data for 2000 to 2014, 115 fatal crashes involved a school bus on average each year-which is 0.3 percent of the 34,835 total fatal motor-vehicle crashes on average each year. The school-bus driver and schoolbus vehicle (e.g., a defect) were cited as contributing factors in 27 percent and less than 1 percent of fatal school-bus crashes, respectively. Seventy-two percent of fatal crashes occurred during home-to-school and school-to-home travel times."

Other Views

Florida teachers deserve a raise, Gainesville Sun editorial
"Florida's boneheaded bonus program for teachers should be scrapped in favor of a plan that gives educators the raises that they deserve."

Radical change on Manatee County school board elections coming?, Bradenton Herald editorial
"The advantages of electing members of the School Board of Manatee County by individual districts rather than countywide make the possible change appealing. On Tuesday the board will open the debate on this significant shift, one that guarantees a different political landscape."

Charter schools benefit children, community, Florida Today guest column, charter school principal Shannon Shupe
"We appreciate that some people only want traditional public schools and that funding should be restricted to them, but we believe that we offer more and can craft a unique educational experience for each of our children; one they may not be able to get where they currently are."

Tax credit scholarship warrants a court challenge, Florida Times-Union guest column, Julie Delegal
"While our public schools are subjected to constant evaluation, testing and criticism, the Legislature has exempted voucher schools from the same treatment. Voucher students don't take the same high-stakes, standards-based tests. Indeed, the Department of Education's 2016 report finding that voucher school children scored tiny ‘negative gains' in both reading and math over the course of a school year, tells us nothing about how their performance compares to their Florida public school peers."

Whoa, did Florida just take a turn toward sanity on education?, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano
"The following is a brief, and rare, burst of exuberance. It is probably naive and, based on the history of political foolishness in this state, is almost certainly premature.Yet here it goes: Hallelujah! Something happened in Tallahassee on Wednesday that was sensible, constructive and a little bit courageous. In other words, something completely out of the ordinary. A panel of school superintendents spoke their minds, in some cases forcefully, about Florida's glut of standardized tests. Even more remarkably, senators seemed to listen."

Coming Up

The Florida Board of Education is scheduled to have its first work session of 2017 on Jan. 17 in Stuart, while the university system Board of Governors is on tap for Jan. 25-26 in Lakeland. The Florida Senate and House reconvene their committees the week of Jan. 23.

On File

Florida lawmakers continue to file bills related to education as the 2017 session approaches. Some of the latest ones include:

HB 233, Restraint and Seclusion

SB 360, Middle School Improvement Study

HB 7015, High School Graduation Requirements (Personal Fitness)

[Last modified: Friday, January 13, 2017 5:23pm]


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