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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, Week of July 31, 2016



It's that time of year. Teachers across Florida are returning to their schools for planning week, with the kids not far behind. District leaders are honing in rules and procedures on a variety of issues that will matter right away -- how to implement the state-mandated daily extra hour of reading at the Lowest 300 elementary schools, how to guide and monitor turnaround schools and more. Campaigns for school board races continue to surge toward the Aug. 30 election, with controversial candidates and contributions still popping up. Keep up with the latest Florida education news at the Gradebook. Have something to add to the discussion? Email [email protected]

Top of the Times

Parents question extra hour of reading for fourth, fifth graders, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"As news spread that 11 low-performing Pasco County elementary schools will offer an added hour of daily reading instruction, parents started questioning the need. They've suggested that the school day will become too long with the schedule, and wondered whether they can opt out their children -- particularly if they scored well on the Florida Standards Assessment."
UPDATE: A little more information about that extra hour
EXTRA READING: Florida Statute 1011.62, Florida Department of Education guidance

Florida education commissioner chimes in on federal Every Student Succeeds Act, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"In her seven-page letter, Stewart touts Florida's existing system, and reminds the secretary that the federal government cannot force states to adopt new rules beyond the scope of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which intended to give states more control over the matter."
DOCUMENT: Commissioner's letter to U.S. Education Secretary John King

Hillsborough superintendent defends new approach for struggling Elevate schools, Marlene Sokol
"[Superintendent Jeff] Eakins' initial approach was to appoint Owen Young, former principal of east Tampa's Middleton High School, as area superintendent for the selected schools. Young and his small staff researched turnaround programs that were successful in other communities - including Tangelo Park in Orlando, where a wealthy hotelier subsidized both preschool and college tuition. But along the way, Eakins said he realized there are high-needs schools all over the district, and the best way to accelerate the process of improving them was to get all eight area superintendents involved."

Pinellas School Board candidate criticized for tweets on Muslims, black people, Colleen Wright
"On the same day at least 84 people were killed and hundreds more were injured after a man plowed his truck into a crowd in Nice, France, Robert J. Beal had something to share with his six Twitter followers. ‘Death cult at it again in France. 80 dead. When will people wake up to this evil religion ?' wrote @realbeal28 on July 14."

Around the State

Teacher vacancies higher among St. Lucie County low-income schools, TC Palm, Andrew Atterbury
"In early June, St. Lucie County School District reported 179 vacant vacancies, according to school officials. Most of these positions were the result of attrition and retirements, school officials said. Of those openings, 133 were spread among the district's 31 Title 1 schools, including 13 at Port St. Lucie High School, 10 at Fort Pierce Westwood High School and 11 at both Lawnwood Elementary and Oak Hammock K-8."

Charter school industry donations prompt questions; millions flow into PACS, campaigns, Florida TImes-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"For the current election cycle, Florida's biggest charter school companies spread more than $343,000 around so far to mostly conservative candidates for state Senate and House seats and to political action groups. Some of that money now is flowing further down hill, to local school board races. Critics and education bloggers are calling out and criticizing some school board candidates for receiving donations from charter school operators."

Stewart: Books may be ‘bane' of system, Citrus County Chronicle, Andrew Caplan
"Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart envisions a state without clunky, hardback textbooks. Old technology, she says, is not the best way to teach to standards anymore."

Satanic club rejected by Pensacola elementary, Pensacola News-Journal, Thomas St. Myer
"C.A. Weis Elementary Community School is among nine schools nationwide the After School Satan Clubs contacted to present its curriculum, but Escambia Superintendent Malcolm Thomas put the kibosh on that proposal."

State Resumes Borrowing For Education Projects, News Service of Florida, Lloyd Dunkelberger
"Reversing a five-year trend, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday unanimously agreed to borrow $285 million over the next few years to build and maintain facilities for state universities, colleges and public schools."

Other Views

Education must maintain a human touch, Keynoter guest column, education blogger Sue Woltanski
"We are now at another transition point in public education. State mandates and powerful education reformers, funded by billionaires, are pushing us towards Competency Based Education (CBE), a tech laden system that suggests computer programs will provide a more personalized, higher quality education system than a qualified teacher. The plan is to roll out CBE on a global scale. Such a system will make a few very, very wealthy. But will CBE provide a high quality education experience? So far, there is no evidence to support that."

One Mother's Story: How Overemphasis on Standardized Tests Caused Her 9-Year-Old to Try to Hang Himself, AlterNet, Florida education columnist Marion Brady
"I've no doubt that at least some reformers sincerely believe that America's schools should be privatized, that educators are unduly attached to the status quo, that unions are a serious problem, and that teachers resist change and must be pressured to perform. I'm sure some are sincere in their belief that the Common Core State Standards actually identify core knowledge, that standardized tests can evaluate complex thought processes, that the reforms they're pushing, although painful, are essential and right, and that teachers can't be trusted to judge learner performance. But willful ignorance from an unwillingness to talk to experienced educators is unacceptable."

Reasons behind Collier's 'B' school grade, Naples Daily News guest column, Collier School Board member Erika Donalds
"When school grades fall, it is more convenient to attack the grading system than for school boards, parents, administrators and the local press to use this vital information to ensure the education system is focused on improving outcomes for every child. History has shown when the state raises the bar for students on their tests or for schools and districts on the grading formula, grades initially fall, but soon after, they climb back and perform at a higher level than ever. These uncomfortable but necessary adjustments implemented by the state guard against complacency settling into our education system, which still graduates the lion's share of its students unprepared for college and career."

Disabled girl's mom wins hearing over testing, Herald-Tribune columnist Tom Lyons
"Funny just how authoritative and absolutely certain Florida's commissioner of education sounded in the letter she sent when she denied a hearing to the mother of a severely disabled Sarasota teenager. Most moms would have given up, I imagine. But Paula Drew got a lawyer, even if she couldn't afford to pay one."

Why Every Personal Brand Deserves an Early Start: One Florida high school's forward-thinking course is jumpstarting students' professional lives, Huffington Post, blogger Stacy Cohen
"It's important for young adults to remember that social networks may seem private, but are indeed public. There are consequences for what you post, even if your intentions aren't malicious. Since the internet never sleeps - or forgets - personal branding should start early. If young adults begin cultivating their brands in high school, their online reputations will grow positively and strengthen over time."

Reports of Note

"Double-dosing" in math in North Carolina public schools, Southeast Regional Educational Laboratory at Florida State University  
"The average achievement of high school students who received a double dose of math tended to be related to the academic purpose of the double-dosing. Students who received a double dose for remediation had the lowest incoming test score averages, students who received a double dose for maintenance had a slightly higher average, and students who received a double dose for enrichment had the highest average. Students who received a single dose of math had an average score in between that of students who received a double dose for maintenance and students who received a double dose for enrichment."

Making use of waivers under ESSA, Brookings Institution, Susanna Loeb and Heather Hough
"Because few states presently have adequate measures for the new goals, they will need to develop the measures along with accountability structures. ESSA includes a provision that would allow district waivers to their state's programs. States can use such waivers to make use of particularly high-capacity districts' ability to innovate and test new approaches. The CORE districts in California serve as a model for the potential for waivers to benefit their state as well as other states."

[Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2016 11:36am]


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