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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 10, 2016



The Florida Department of Education issued school grades a week ago. So this week much time was spent poring over the details, and considering ways to improve. School boards continued to review their budgets, too. Other hot topics this week: Student cell phone use in Orlando, minority teacher hiring in Vero Beach, and out of school suspensions in Jacksonville. Plus, Florida crowned a new teacher of the year. Get the latest in Florida education daily at the Gradebook. Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Top of the Times

Pasco superintendent targets changes in Florida spring testing, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Recently reelected without opposition, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning says he's got his eye set on pushing lawmakers to alter Florida's testing system. No, he isn't proposing to do away with it, as some critics would have. But he does want to temper the model. ‘I will pursue a change with the Legislature to give districts flexibility when it comes to the manner in which the FSA is administered,' Browning said. ‘Those districts that want to have pencil-paper need to have the flexibility to do so. I would be one of those districts.'"

40 low-performing elementary schools will cost Hillsborough district $6 million, Marlene Sokol
"Forty of the state's 312 lowest-performing public elementary schools are in Hillsborough County, a fact that will cost the district nearly $6 million in the next school year as it continues to wrestle with budget issues."

Explanations aside, some board members express concern over lower school grades, Dan DeWitt
"The Hernando County School District said after school grades were released last week that the drop in marks at 11 of its schools could be blamed on a change in the rating system. But some School Board members, while accepting that explanation, saw cause for concern. ‘There are too many schools that dropped a grade for my taste,' said board chairman Matt Foreman."

Group seeks support to fight Florida's third-grade retention law, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"A dedicated group of Florida parents who don't like the idea of retaining third graders based on a state reading test are trying to fight back."

Around the State

No more cellphones in class, Orange tells high-schoolers, Orlando Sentinel, Annie Martin
"Sorry, Orange County high school students. U can't use ur phones in class anymore. When school starts in August, phones will be off limits at high schools for most of the day. That's because students won't have any reason to use them in class as they'll all have laptops, Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said."

Indian River County struggles to hire minority teachers as district grows in diversity, TC Palm, Andrew Atterbury
"A federal desegregation order has loomed over Indian River County School District for decades, pressing officials to bolster minority teacher recruitment efforts. But the district continually has failed to meet hiring targets specified by the court order, citing the difficulty of luring minority teachers to the county as one major deterrent."

Duval board approves Code of Conduct changes, stiffens penalty on school bus fights, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"In a unanimous vote Monday night, the Duval County School Board agreed to revise the Student Code of Conduct, including measures that will likely push more students into its Alternatives to Out-of-School Suspension, or ATOSS Centers, instead of having students sent home."

Bright Futures renewals decline, scholarships could drop 20 percent, Florida Politics, Lloyd Dunkelberger
"Fewer than two out of every 10 Florida high school graduates qualify for a Bright Futures scholarship that helps pay their tuition and fees at state universities and colleges. New data, being reviewed by the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research, shows the number may be improving, with an initial projection suggesting it could rise from 13.8 percent of graduates in the most recent school year to 17.5 percent in the 2016-17 academic year. At the same time, while more high school students may qualify for Bright Futures, data from the state Department of Education shows fewer students are renewing their scholarships once they are in a college or university."

Children's advocate leading effort to lower voting age for school board, superintendent elections, Politico Florida, Jessica Bakeman
"A longtime children's advocate is leading a campaign to lower the voting age for school board and superintendent elections from 18 to 16. Jack Levine, founder of the 4Generations Institute and former 25-year president of Voices for Florida's Children, sees youth voting as an emerging civil rights issue."

Lakeland's Jessica Solano named 2017 Florida Teacher of the Year, The Ledger, Madison Fantozzi
"Jessica Solano fought back ‘pregnancy tears' Thursday when she was named Florida's Teacher of the Year for 2017. Solano, a third-grade math teacher at Highlands Grove Elementary School, was picked from five finalists for the award for her use of technology in the classroom. ‘My principal gave me a class set of tablets (iPads) and allowed me to run with it,' Solano said. ‘I am completely honored and thankful - I'm blown away that anyone could see the potential in what I am doing.'"

Other Views

What Do Florida's School Grades REALLY tell you?, Accountabaloney blog
"Here's a News Flash: Florida's A-F School Grading System has NEVER been sufficient, it has ALWAYS provided an inaccurate picture of what is occurring is schools. Why? Because it focuses almost entirely on standardized test scores and they are a poor reflection of real learning. We hope Superintendent Jenkins understands that even with the addition of measured ‘learning gains' calculated from this year's FSA scores, the A-F grading system will still be completely flawed."

Tweak Florida's new school grading system, Bradenton Herald editorial
"Overall, the state applauded the improvements that districts managed to accomplish. The most notable: The number of schools receiving an F fell by half, from 204 to 103. More than 1,100 schools maintained an A or increased their grade. That won't quell the criticism. Some district superintendents are calling this new grading system complicated and confusing and in need of a total overhaul, but DOE is not backing down - unlike in previous years when the agency admitted mistakes and made some adjustments. That should occur again."

Changing the rules, Ocala Star-Banner editorial
"The criticisms don't even take into account valid concerns about an overemphasis on testing and how much a system of accountability helps or hurts low-performing schools. Nevertheless, if the state could stay on a steady path for the next, say, five years and resist the urge to re-invent the wheel, educators would become more comfortable with the standards and Florida would be able to establish a baseline from which to accurately assess results. Otherwise, the constant churning undermines the validity of the system."

Charter schools deserve a pat on the back, and a warning for the future, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano
"School grades are in, and the results are clear: Charter schools across Tampa Bay performed better, on average, than traditional public schools. Of course, those results come with a large asterisk. It seems clear the reason charter schools are performing better is because they are catering to more affluent segments of the community."

Making high school count takes planning, effort, Highlands Today column, Gauri Persad
"[T]his is all advice is coming from things I regret not doing or doing little of. High school is great, but it's important to make it count. After all we are there with one purpose, right?"

Reports of Note

Probability of Success: Evaluation of Florida's Developmental Education Redesign Based on Cohorts of First-Time-In-College Students from 2009-10 to 2014-15, FSU Center for Postsecondary Success
"Historically, many students would have been required, based on their performance on a placement exam, to take and pass DE courses prior to introductory college-level (gateway) courses. With placement tests now optional and as many students can now bypass DE when they meet the criteria as exempt students, we sought to better understand how students make enrollment decisions in an environment of increased choice, and how their choices affect their early educational progress."

Student Self-Assessment of Math and Science Ability in High School, National Center for Education Statistics
"The percentage of male students who considered themselves to be a "math person" decreased from 56.1 percent in 2009 to 47.8 percent in 2012. The percentage of female students who considered themselves to be a "math person" decreased from 48.1 percent in 2009 to 39.3 percent in 2012."

Explaining the News to Our Kids, Common Sense Media
"Shootings, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, end-of-the-world predictions -- even local news reports of missing kids and area shootings all can be upsetting news for adults, not to mention kids. In our 24/7 news world, it's become nearly impossible to shield kids from distressing current events."

Coming Up

With school grades out, the Florida Board of Education meets to review improvement plans for schools with consistently poor performance. The list is so long that the board will need two days. See the agenda for Wednesday and Thursday.

[Last modified: Friday, July 15, 2016 2:45pm]


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