ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of May 15, 2016
Florida's public school students ended weeks of state testing on Friday, with millions of exams taken. And unlike a year ago, testing wasn't the big news. Rather, the Obama administration's edict on treatment of transgender students played large in the state, where the Marion school district refused to respect those students' restroom preferences. The SPLC sued the Collier school district over allegations that the district denied a high school education to some immigrant teens. In Palm Beach, some parents began pushing back against standards-based report cards. And that's just the beginning. Check out the highlights of Florida's education news, and visit the Gradebook daily for regular updates.
Top of the Times
Pinellas vote would close three charter schools if problems aren't cleaned up in 90 days, Colleen Wright
"The Pinellas County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to close four charter schools unless they correct several problems in the next 90 days."
RELATED: Documents point to inflated spending at troubled Pinellas charter schools, Colleen Wright
Some Tampa Bay schools were addressing transgender issues before the Obama bathroom edict, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"School superintendents across Florida and the nation got a stern warning from the Obama administration on Friday to respect the rights of transgender students, or face the loss of federal funds. It's a matter of civil rights, the departments of Education and Justice asserted in a letter to districts. ‘This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.' At least one Tampa-area school district was not waiting for an edict from Washington, D.C., to act on the sensitive subject."
RELATED: Transgender bathroom debate comes to Florida, Kristen M. Clark
COLUMN: Transgender school issue is not as simple as some suggest, John Romano
Pinellas moving fast to replace teachers in troubled schools, Cara Fitzpatrick
"With the school year drawing to a close, the Pinellas County School District is moving fast to replace dozens of teachers on five troubled campuses in south St. Petersburg. As of last week, more than 80 teachers had requested a transfer or were told they couldn't return to Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose elementary schools. Four out of five principals also were moved to new schools for the 2016-17 school year."
Collier school district sued amid claims immigrant children were denied an education, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"On Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against the district on behalf of three students, saying they were pushed into adult education programs and denied the opportunity to pursue a high school diploma."
Read the complaint
Around the State
Expelled: No Second Chances, Herald-Tribune, Shelby Webb
"Sarasota County school leaders often brag about how the district is among the best in the state academically, touting high test scores, innovative early childhood literacy programs and cutting-edge classroom technology. But the Sarasota County School District also is near the top in another category: kicking kids out of school."
Haitian Flag Day celebrations at Immokalee High result in students sent home, Naples Daily News, Melhor Leonor
"At least six Immokalee High students were sent home Wednesday after, district officials say, they were asked by the school administrators to take off shirts bearing the Haitian flag and refused."
Parents push for return to letter grades at Palm Beach County elementary schools, Sun-Sentinel, Brittany Shammas
"The district's 108 elementary schools got rid of letter grades in favor of a standards-based system, in which students are given ‘performance codes.' The new report cards are meant to give a clearer picture of how well students are mastering learning standards. But some parents are now pushing to go back to letter grades."
Polk County School District reduces impact of end-of-year exams on student grades, Ledger, Sara Drumm
"After sustained pushback against end-of-year exams, the Polk County School District is reducing the exams' impact on student grades."
‘Hippie school' votes for school choice, Redefined blog, Ron Matus
"The tiny Grassroots School in Tallahassee, Fla., is democratically run. Everybody votes on everything. Some of its 24 students recently led a successful bid to limit use of school computers. Others debated whether Grassroots should raise chickens or rabbits. The chicken faction won. School choice has been on the agenda, too. And for those who think choice is a good thing, good news: After a decade-long hiatus, the 42-year-old "free school" is again among the 1,600 private schools in Florida that accept tax credit scholarships for low-income students."
Pinellas School District should show more respect for teachers, Tampa Bay Times guest column, Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Mike Gandolfo
"The PCTA agrees with the district that these [turnaround] schools should have the best-quality teachers, but our position differs in that we believe that they already do in most cases and that the reasons for the low scores are independent of teacher control. The district's turnaround plan for these schools centers on extending the school day. Not every teacher can commit to a longer day. For some, a longer day may cause child care issues or other hardships to their family life. But most teachers leave out of fear and frustration. Others were asked to leave by their administration."
Send Georgia GOP a message in support of school choice, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Kyle Wingfield
"A comparison to Florida is instructive. Both states have vouchers for students with disabilities, with similar eligibility rates (13 percent of students in Florida, 11 percent in Georgia). Yet Florida students eligible for the voucher are four times as likely as their Georgia counterparts to enroll in the program."
"Fund"amental facts about Collier County Public Schools, Naples Daily News guest column, superintendent Kamela Patton
"There seems to be misinformation regarding the amount Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) spends annually per student in K-12 education."
Some education choices are just bad, Tallahassee Democrat guest column, Sue Legg and Pamela S. Goodman of the Florida League of Women Voters
"It would be nice to believe that competition between the public and private educational systems would improve the quality of our schools as school choice advocates attest. Competition only results in winners and losers. We should strive to have more winners, not turn away from our responsibility. The reality is that Florida's schools are among the lowest funded in the country. Dividing what little money there is in three directions - traditional public schools, charters, and private schools - assures only that no schools are adequately funded."
Reports of Note
Florida Standards Assessment third-grade English-language arts results for 2016
"Students' grade 3 performance in English language arts increased by 1 percentage point over the 2015 baseline administration."
Opt Out: An Examination of Issues, ETS
"(O)pt out is a complicated, politically charged issue made more so by its social class and racial/ethnic associations. It is also an issue that appears to be as much about test use as about tests themselves. While the majority of the public opposes opt out, the minority that supports it is sizable, organized, vocal, and politically effective. Given these observations, how should the assessment community respond to the concerns raised by the movement as well as to the ones voiced by the general public?"
RELATED: Opt Out 2.0: Snapshot of Spring Testing Season, Education Writers Association
Better Use of Information Could Help Agencies Identify Disparities and Address Racial Discrimination, GAO
"The percentage of K-12 public schools in the United States with students who are poor and are mostly Black or Hispanic is growing and these schools share a number of challenging characteristics."
Do Students Show What They Know on Standardized Tests?, Jeffrey A. Livingston, Bentley College
"(I)f students exhibit improvement on only the tests for which an incentive is provided, it calls into question the appropriateness of using standardized tests that have no impact on a student's welfare as an evaluation of a student's academic progress. Students may fail to show improvement merely because they have no incentive to show what they have learned, not because they are missing the requisite skills."