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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Nov. 29, 2015



Florida's education world kicked into high gear this past week, as educators and policy makers returned from a weeklong holiday break. The Legislature held several committee meetings, discussing issues as wide ranging as teacher bonuses, computer coding and reading instruction. Districts, meanwhile, pushed for more recess, looked for more substitute teachers, and sought ways to start high school classes later in the day. The goal, it seems, was to pack it all in before winter break begins in a couple of weeks. Session is coming! What issues will you be watching? Keep up with the latest Florida education news daily on the Gradebook.

Top of the Times

New bonuses come to nearly $8,500 per teacher, but only the 'best and brightest,' Jeffrey S. Solochek
"In the final days of their June special session, Florida lawmakers set aside an extra $44 million for highly rated teachers who scored well on their SAT or ACT exams. They aimed to provide 4,400 "Best and Brightest" bonuses of $10,000 each. Five months later, the actual numbers are in: About 5,200 of the state's nearly 172,000 teachers qualified for the money, according to an initial review of reports submitted to the Florida Department of Education by Wednesday's midnight deadline. But they stand to get a slightly smaller pay hike of about $8,460 because the pool of money stays the same no matter how many teachers qualify."
BLOG POST: Best and Brightest bonus extension survives first House stop

Pinellas violated class size rules, state investigation finds, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"State investigators have determined that the Pinellas County School District knowingly violated Florida's class size rules in 2013-14 to make it look like schools had smaller classes than they actually did."
DOCUMENTS: State final report, Superintendent's response

How much did 'schools of choice' option affect Florida's class size compliance?, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"The effect of Florida's 'schools of choice' class size option was dramatic, education commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a recent letter to the Senate Education Committee. Before appeals, Florida schools of choice were out of compliance by just 84 students statewide in 2014, Stewart wrote. If those same schools had been held to classroom counts, as the 2002 amendment mandates, they would have missed by 31,257 students. If those numbers would have been applied to penalties, districts that used the schools of choice designation would have faced $162.5 million in funding adjustments. Instead, they paid $421,513, Stewart noted."

Florida Senate considers computer coding as a foreign language for high school students, Kristen Clark
"A controversial plan from a Broward County Democrat to require high schools to offer computer coding courses and let students count them toward foreign language requirements was heralded Thursday as ‘novel,' ‘innovative' and ‘forward-thinking.'"

Around the State

Parents Fight For School Recess, State Impact Florida, Robin Sussingham
"Remember recess? When you knew that if you just sat still for a couple more hours, you and your friends could go racing out to the merry-go-round or the hopscotch court for a daily dose of fun? In many public elementary schools in Florida, recess has become a thing of the past. And parents are not happy."

Collier schools on a search for substitute teachers, Naples Daily News, Melhor Leonor
"Collier County school officials are renewing a push to attract more substitute teachers to area schools - echoing other school districts facing shortages."

Pons to weigh in on school start times issue, Tallahassee Democrat, Amanda Claire Curcio
"In the next few days, Leon County Schools Superintendent Jackie Pons will decide whether the school start times task force is ready to present a formal proposal to push back high school start times to the School Board."

Christian high schools denied prayer before football game, Bay News 9, Josh Rojas
"A pair of Christian high schools facing off in the District 2-A Championship football game Friday at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando will not be allowed to broadcast a prayer over the PA system before kickoff, according to the Florida High School Athletics Association."

Reports of Note

Validity Problems Undermine Study of Florida's Third-Grade Retention Policies, NEPC"There is a serious shortcoming in the design-namely, the law requires that students below the cut-score receive intensive extra services intended to raise their subsequent achievement, and this applies to those retained and those promoted. This means the researchers do not know if these positive outcomes for those below the cut-score were due to the greater likelihood of retention or to the assurance of additional services."

Gov. Rick Scott's 2016-17 proposed education budget
SUMMARY: "If Florida is going to be first in job creation, the state must have the most skilled workforce in the world. This is why making Florida first for education is a top priority. The Florida First budget invests in Florida's education system to attract more businesses to Florida and help diversify the economy. Historic amounts of funding in K-12 education, state colleges and universities will ensure every student has the opportunity to succeed and gain the skills they need for a great job. The Florida First budget also prioritizes investments in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields so students are prepared for jobs in high-demand areas."

Continued Approval of Teacher Preparation Programs in Florida: An Analysis of Program Performance Measures and Scores, Curva & Associates for the Florida Department of Education

Other Views

Bring back elected education commissioner, Tampa Bay Times column, Paula Dockery
"Florida's commissioner of education is an appointed position, but it hasn't always been that way. If a couple of Republican legislators have their way, the voters may get a chance to change that - again."

No more politicking over Gardiner's disability reforms, Palm Beach Post editorial
"Credit Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, for crafting an intelligent and humane package of reforms that is sure to open new vistas of opportunity for those people with ‘unique abilities,' the term Gardiner prefers over ‘disabilities.'"

How the state of Florida used bad data to almost destroy a teacher's life, Education Matters blog
"Recently I heard from a Civics teacher about the student data piece of an evaluation from a prior year. It brought to mind the brilliant Gilda Radner and her character, Emily Litella. The teacher received an email that said an error had been made in the VAM score for the year 2013 - 2014. Seems that the score wasn't below 25% of students making growth and that the NEEDS IMPROVEMENT rating was in error. In actuality, the teacher is EFFECTIVE."

FEE Panel Agrees: Raising Proficiency Levels Demands Accountabaloney Pause, Accountabaloney blog
"The question ‘Why Proficiency Matters' is currently a hot topic in reform circles. In this blog, we will attempt to get into the mind of a reformer and see the issue from their perspective. The best place to start is the Foundation for Excellence in Education's (FEE's) annual meeting."

Recently Filed

SB 1002, Public School Recess, by Sen. Alan Hays (HB 833, identical, by Rep. Rene Plasencia)
"Each district school board shall provide 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 and for students in grade 6 who are enrolled in a school that contains one or more elementary grades so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day. Free-play recess may not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons."

SB 990, Bright Futures Scholarships, by Sen. Bill Montford
"For a student who is unable to accept an initial award immediately after completion of high school due to a full-time religious or service obligation lasting at least 18 months, the 2-year eligibility period for his or her initial award and the 5-year renewal period begin upon the completion of his or her religious or service obligation."

SB 978, Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship, by Sen. John Legg (HB 7043, related, by House Education Committee)
Would create a permanent bonus for highly effective teachers with eligible SAT or ACT scores.

SJR 976, Charter Schools, by Sen. Kelli Stargel (HJR 759, identical, by Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.)
"The state board of education shall direct the Department of Education to establish a statewide system for the approval of charter schools within the state as provided by law."

HB 829, DIstrict School Board Home Rule Powers, by Rep. Dwayne Taylor
"A district school board that wishes to independently govern its district in a manner that best suits the needs of the students in its district may form a home rule school district upon adoption of a rule."

HB 859, Education in Public Schools Concerning Human Sexuality, by Rep. Reggie Fullwood
"Each public school that directly or indirectly receives state funding and that provides information, offers programs, or contracts with third parties to provide information or offer programs regarding human sexuality, including family planning, pregnancy, or sexually transmitted infections prevention, including the prevention of HIV and AIDS, shall provide comprehensive, medically accurate, and factual information that is developmentally and age appropriate."

HB 887, Computer Coding Instruction, by Rep. Janet Adkins
"High schools must provide students opportunities to take computer coding courses of sufficient rigor, as identified by the commissioner, such that two credits in such courses and the earning of a related industry certification satisfies two credits of sequential foreign language instruction. Florida College System institutions and state universities must recognize the credits as foreign language credits. Computer coding courses identified by the commissioner and computer coding courses taken to earn the related industry certification shall be included in the Course Code Directory."

[Last modified: Friday, December 4, 2015 3:29pm]


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