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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 17, 2016



With classes set to resume in less than a month, the Florida Board of Education reviewed dozens of turnaround plans for the state's lowest performing schools during a meeting this past week. School districts dealt with dress code concerns, surprise charter school closures, and President Obama's recent guidance on transgender students. Some parents meanwhile took steps to challenge the state's third-grade reading retention law. That's just the beginning. Get the latest Florida education news daily on the Gradebook. Send comments to

Top of the Times

Florida Board of Education approves improvement plans for struggling Pinellas schools, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Three of Pinellas County's most struggling schools -- Campbell Park, Fairmount Park and Melrose elementary schools -- as well as two others with low performance on state standards -- High Point Elementary and Azalea Middle -- won state approval Wednesday for their latest improvement plans. With the approvals came superintendent Mike Grego's assurances that the schools, particularly Fairmount Park and Melrose, would dramatically increase their state grades within two years."
RELATED: State Board of Education okays turnaround efforts for Pasco, Hillsborough schools

Hillsborough schools to have universal restrooms for students this fall, Marlene Sokol
"Seeking to accommodate transgender students and comply with a federal order, the Hillsborough County School District is arranging to have a universal restroom in each of its public schools starting this fall."
RELATED: Gender identity 101

Pants for all proposed at Pasco school, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Leaders at Pasco County's Ridgewood High School want to get tough on students' clothing choices in hope of improving their behavior and academic performance. On the way out would be button-down shirts, athletic and knit shorts, dresses and skirts. Students instead would wear collared polo-style shirts and khaki, black or navy blue pants. ‘It's all about a dress-for-success mentality,' principal Angie Murphy said."
RELATED: Ridgewood High skirts dress code controversy; Pasco School Board backs new apparel standards at two schools

Pinellas School District moves to take over failed University Preparatory Academy, Cara Fitzpatrick
"With just three weeks before school starts, the Pinellas County School District will attempt to open a new school on the campus of an embattled charter school in St. Petersburg. Superintendent Mike Grego pitched the idea to School Board members Tuesday, after University Preparatory Academy's governing board took a last-minute vote to close, leaving more than 400 students without a school."
RELATED: University Prep, soon-to-be Midtown Academy, has a new principal

Around the State

Parents readying lawsuit against Education Department over testing, Herald-Tribune, Shelby Webb
"A Sarasota mom is among 14 parents who could soon be part of a lawsuit filed against the Florida Department of Education over the retention of third grade students who refused to take state standardized tests."

Schools held back far fewer 3rd-graders in 2015, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
"Fewer Florida third graders were held back last year than in any year since the state's retention law came into effect in 2003. The 2015 decrease resulted from a one-year blip in the state's school accountability system that gave local school administrators more say in whether students moved onto fourth grade or had to repeat third grade."

Collier County School District has requested to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit, Naples Daily News, Maria Perez
"Collier County school officials want a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the system of denying some immigrant students enrollment, arguing all students are treated equally."

Choices don't resolve most racial, economic isolation in Duval schools, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"Duval County teems with educational choices - numerous private and public schools, a growing bevy of charter schools, and specialty magnet schools taking the place of some neighborhood schools. Yet for all the choices, most of Jacksonville's poor, African-American students are overwhelmingly isolated at school."

Could longer days be coming for PBC elementary schools?, Palm Beach Post
"The six-hour days at Palm Beach County's elementary schools may need to be longer in order to improve student performance, Superintendent Robert Avossa says. Avossa told school board members Wednesday that his administration is researching the possibility of extending the elementary classes by a half-hour in future years."

Other Views

Look to lunch when grading Florida's public schools, Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino
"When I look at the grades, which are issued by the state in an Excel spreadsheet, the most revealing numbers to me are the ones nearly to the right edge of the page, and under the heading ‘Percent of Economically Disadvantaged Students.' If you're a gambler, you could make some money wagering on the academic success of a school just by knowing the poverty rate of its students."

The New Christian Black Leadership,, Star Parker
"All eyes should be on Florida to see the seeds of change in black America. The issue is school choice and the nation's largest private school choice scholarship program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, enacted in Florida in 2001 under Gov. Jeb Bush."

Embracing classical education in schools, Fort Myers News-Press guest column, Collier School Board candidate Louise Penta
"With a Common Core curriculum, parents have little voice about their children's education. The federal government is in control of our children's education, funded by our tax dollars.  What happen to ‘by the people, for the people and of the people?' ‘Classical education,' a principle I embrace as I campaign for the Collier school board, is simple. It's teaching the three R's: reading, writing and 'rithmatic. Classical education is rooted in reality."

Discretion on college-level classes, Bradenton Herald editorial
"One of the consequences of the opt-out movement - where students refuse to take Florida's battery of standardized tests, seen by many parents as a state-mandated oppressive overreach on education - could backfire on accomplished students wishing to advance into college-level course work in high school."

Mary McLeod Cookman Bethune fitting Florida pick to grace U.S. Capitol, Orlando Sentinel guest column, Ron Matus of Step Up For Students
"How fitting: The most pioneering of school-choice states may soon be represented in the U.S. Capitol by the statue of a school-choice pioneer."

Reports of Note

Early Learning in Florida, Center for American Progress
"The current child care system is failing Florida families. On average, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, or CCDBG, serves only 13 percent of federally eligible children in Florida. This results in only 90,000 Florida children served through CCDBG funds. Of those served, 93 percent attend licensed or regulated center-based care."

50-State Comparison: K-3 Quality, Education Commission of the States
Includes a Florida state profile

Students Fare Worse in Virtual Algebra Classrooms, Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy
"Online classes promise a less expensive way to level the academic playing field, but there's a cost to virtual instruction, new Northwestern University research suggests. In a study of high-achieving eighth-graders, the students who took Algebra 1 online performed worse than similar students taking Algebra 1 in a traditional classroom, according to research published in the journal Economics of Education Review."

[Last modified: Friday, July 22, 2016 3:25pm]


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