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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of March 27, 2016



Some local school districts took some dramatic steps that made a splash in this week's Florida education news. The Pinellas school district announced it planned to offer larger recruitment and retention bonuses as part of an effort to boost teacher pay in hard to staff, low performing schools. Hillsborough County's superintendent asked 13 top lieutenants to reapply for their jobs as part of an administrative review. The Volusia School Board relaxed its athletics participation rules, to the consternation of coaches. At the state level, the incoming House speaker declared war on for-profit charter school companies, while an administrative judge heard arguments about the validity of the controversial Best and Brightest teacher award. Get the latest Florida education news daily on the Gradebook. Send suggestions and feedback to

Top of the Times

Pinellas proposes pay bump up to $25,000 for teachers at struggling schools, Lisa Gartner
"Teachers and administrators at five struggling elementary schools stand to make up to $25,000 more next year, one of several major reforms proposed to transform the south St. Petersburg campuses, Pinellas County schools officials said Tuesday night."
RELATED: Teacher bonuses are only part of the solution for troubled schools, experts say, Jeffrey S. Solochek
EDITORIAL: Ambitious proposal for troubled Pinellas schools

Parents: Hernando schools are threatening students who opt out of exams, Dan DeWitt
"[Nicole] Rinaudo was one of several parents of Hernando County third-graders who told the Times that their children were threatened with retention for declining to complete the test. And statewide and local testing activists say Hernando is among a handful of Florida counties that have taken a hard line against children who opt out."

Incoming speaker Corcoran says bill that would benefit his wife's charter school is part of broader reform, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"The perception, noted by some in Tallahassee, was of a powerful lawmaker benefiting from legislation he helped advance. But Corcoran said Tuesday that the two actions were not related, and he bristled at suggestions otherwise. The language allowing charters access to state money after two, rather than three, years of operation had a much bigger target, he explained. ‘The reason that law changed is because the Legislature is done allowing big, for-profit corporations to have in statute laws that protect their profits and squeeze out the competition,' Corcoran said."

Thirteen top Hillsborough school administrators are asked to reapply for jobs, Marlene Sokol
Hillsborough County's school superintendent is telling 13 high-ranking administrators to reapply for their jobs so he can make sure they have the correct qualifications to manage more than 200 schools and 27,000 employees. ‘I've told each and every one of those people I have a great amount of confidence in them,' Jeff Eakins said Monday. But, one year into leading the nation's eighth-largest school district, he said, ‘I just feel like I owe it to myself and the community and the organization to ensure that, come July 1, everyone has those skill sets necessary to do the work.'"
EDITORIAL:  Reorganizing Hillsborough school leadership for the future

Around the State

Teacher shortages continue nationwide, AMI Newswire, Andrea Billups
"At the University of Florida, Tom Dana, associate dean for academic affairs at the College of Education, says education faculty are feeling the challenges of a newly invigorated Sunshine State economy and working to respond.  ‘It's troubling,' he said of shortages in Florida. ‘When the economy wasn't doing as well, things were a little better in terms of teacher shortages. We had fewer school-age children in Florida. Now, we're sort of back to the point where about 1,000 people a day move to Florida and a third of those are school-age children.'"

Orange schools hide names of disciplined employees, Orlando Sentinel, Annie Martin
"If your child's teacher is punished in Orange County because he broke the law or district policies, don't expect to hear school leaders discuss it or to find that information on the district's website."

Is change ahead for Florida in battle over standardized testing?, The Ledger, Sara Drumm
"When Polk residents ask School Board members why the School District is doing something, they often get the same answer: The state mandates it, or, the federal government mandates it."

Volusia School Board OKs uniforms, relaxes academics policy for athletics, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Dustin Wyatt
"A Volusia School Board member said it wouldn't work here and urged others at the dais to reconsider, but a uniform policy for next school year was still adopted Tuesday evening by a 4-1 vote. Students will be required to wear collared polo or button-down shirts in specific colors with a wide variety of bottoms, including blue jeans. In a less-contentious decision, the board voted unanimously to rescind a policy that requires students to pass all classes in order to participate in sports."

Judge hears challenge to 'Best and Brightest' teacher awards, Herald-Tribune, Shelby Webb
"A Florida Division of Administrative Hearings judge wrestled with a $10,000 question at Sarasota County's Downtown complex on Wednesday: Who qualifies as a teacher?"

Does More Time on the Playground Equal Success in the Classroom?, Education Week, Marva Hinton
"In Florida, some moms who are upset about the loss of any time for recess pushed the legislature to mandate it by law. Their effort failed. The measure passed in the state house but never got a hearing in the state senate. The group was asking for a total of 20 minutes of recess a day. Debbie Rhea said that's not enough. She holds a PhD in education from the University of Houston and works at Texas Christian University where she's a professor in kinesiology and the associate dean for research and health sciences."

Other Views

Make kids take algebra, but don't make them pass it, Sun-Sentinel guest column, Jac Wilder VerSteeg
"I am not saying that I despise math knowledge or that I do not admire students who have the knack and teachers with the skills to convey mathematical ideas. I agree that mathematical excellence is, in general, crucial for our country and our species. I just don't think that every individual member of the species needs to have a clue about algebra. It's fine by me if states continue to require students to take algebra. Just don't make passing it a graduation requirement."

The strength of public schools depends on all of us, Miami Herald op-ed, Hector Fonte of
"With funding for public education always in question every legislative session, it's evident that local, state, and federal governments can't be the sole funding sources. The task of educating our youth falls on all of us. Individual and corporate giving has become essential to ensuring the best education possible. Our local schools need not just dollars."

We may lighten the testing load, but not its weight, The Ledger editorial
"The educational landscape has become cluttered. Various types of schools, programs and even classes can cater to a particular student's needs or tastes. And in many respects, that is a good thing. But we must be mindful that the cafeteria-style education system we've set up still has only one way to determine how much a child has learned over 13 years. Scaling back testing is wise, but doing away with it would be a mistake."

Parent readiness is important, too, Pensacola News-Journal, Shannon Nickinson
"Winning the school readiness battle begins way before kindergarten. At T.R. Jackson PreK Center in Milton, it goes on every day."

Politics in schools proving a volatile mix, Naples Daily News columnist Brent Batten
"It's the end of March, Easter is over, snowbirds are heading home and it's starting to feel like August already. And we're not talking about the weather. Elections are five months away but already controversy is bubbling up in the bound-to-be-contentious battle for the Collier County School Board. The Collier County Education Association, the union representing Collier County's teachers, is predictably at the center of the simmering dispute."

Reports of Note

Latinos and Literacy: Hispanic Students' Progress in Reading, Child Trends Hispanic Institute|
"Average 2015 reading scores for Hispanic students varied significantly by state-the equivalent of more than two grade levels, depending on the grade assessed. At grade four, the difference between the top state (Florida) and the bottom (Alabama) was 25 points, or about two-and-a-half grade levels. At grade eight, the difference between the top (Kentucky) and bottom (Rhode Island) states was 21 points, or about two grade levels."

Do Choice Policies Segregate Schools?, William J. Mathis and Kevin G. Welner, University of Colorado Boulder
"Choice can give children the opportunity to attend a school outside of highly segregated neighborhoods, with the hope that market forces will drive integration. Buttressing the integration claims, these advocates assert that charter schools, the most common and most extensively studied form of school choice, enroll a greater proportion of students from low-income families and students of color than do traditional public schools. Yet the weight of the research evidence does not support such claims, and a key flaw in the arguments concerns the level of aggregation."

50-State Comparison: Dual / Concurrent Enrollment Policies, Education Commission of the States
"How funding flows can either incentivize schools to participate or deter participation. If courses meet rigorous criteria yet students are denied transfer credit at another postsecondary institution, the value of dual enrollment as an option for students to save money and time to degree is negated."

Latest Laws

None this week, but lawmakers did send some bills to Gov. Rick Scott for his consideration. He has two weeks to decide on:

HB 7029, education omnibus (includes several issues including charter school funding)

HB 287, principal autonomy pilot program

HB 585, instruction for homebound and hospitalized students

[Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2016 3:38pm]


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