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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 10, 2016



Creepy clown threats continued to plague Florida schools during the past week, with at least two children facing felony charges as a result. Schools tried to keep ahead of the rumors so parents wouldn't worry. Also in Florida education news, districts looked for ways to place and keep experienced teachers in their toughest schools. One local school board called on lawmakers to do away with state testing. And parents at a south Florida high school raised concerns that their children's campus wasn't safe enough after a former student entered with a loaded gun. Keep up with the latest Florida education news daily on the Gradebook.

Top of the Times

As schools deal with threats, officials strain to stay ahead of rumors and social media, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"It was a message St. Petersburg High principal Al Bennett never imagined having to send. ‘Students/Parents,' he wrote on the school's Twitter feed last week, ‘do not listen to rumors about a clown on campus - it's all a social Media hoax!!!' But like so many other school leaders across the state and nation, Bennett felt compelled to reach out. Responding to gossip, unverified threats and incomplete facts has become part of the administrator's job as never before."

Hillsborough schools freeze teacher hiring amid austerity push, Marlene Sokol
"The Hillsborough County School District froze teacher hiring Tuesday, the same day superintendent Jeff Eakins took to YouTube to reassure the public that he is putting students first in all cost-cutting measures."
See the video message
RELATED: Report: Hillsborough schools could save nearly $50 million a year with changes

Hillsborough works to solve a problem: rookie teachers in the most demanding schools, Marlene Sokol
"If your child attends Potter Elementary School, the odds are about 1 in 2 that his teacher is in her first year on the job in Hillsborough County. If your child goes to Westchase Elementary, those odds shrink to 3 in 100."

Union, school district team up to nurture first-year Pinellas teachers, Colleen Wright
"Although she's a classroom veteran, [Kali] Davis is also just starting her job - an unusual new position funded jointly by the Pinellas County School District and the teachers union. Her assignment: to mentor and coach 26 first-year teachers in six of the district's lowest-performing schools, in the hope that they will stay. ‘My goal is to stop the teacher shortage,' says Davis, who spends her days traveling among the schools. ‘I want everyone to be supported and to be where they feel is a good fit.'"

Around the State

School Board advocates for replacement of tests, Daily Commercial, Livi Stanford
"Lake County School Board members will ask state legislators in the next session to replace the current Florida Standards with a nationally normed assessment."

Lee school board seeks equality in new choice plan, Fort Myers News-Press, Pamela McCabe
"Equality in education became a talking point in the Lee County school board briefing meeting Monday afternoon, when staff presented ideas on how to change the school assignment process. While many of the recommendations were clerical in nature - such as making the plan easier to read, reflecting newly passed state law or changing up the program designations for certain schools - the board focused much of its attention on how general education and low-level students are spread out around the high schools."

Coral Springs High incident shows schools can't stop all security risks, Sun-Sentinel, Scott Travis, Lisa J. Huriash and Caitlin McGlade
"Parents at Coral Springs High are outraged that an armed former student got on campus this week with a loaded gun, but district officials and school experts say there's no way to guarantee it won't happen again. The high school is one of dozens in Broward County that lack the security features needed to keep outsiders off campus, a factor that allowed Ryan Trollinger, 17, to walk into the cafeteria at lunchtime Monday carrying a loaded 9mm handgun."

Windermere mayor objects to new high school name, Orlando Sentinel, Bethany Rodgers
"Windermere officials for years have groused when fancy subdivisions outside the town's borders have co-opted their name. Now, they're unhappy because a new Orange County high school will do the same thing."

Other Views

Wake up to kids' needs, Orange County School Board: Where We Stand, Orlando Sentinel editorial
"If the Orange County School Board thinks it's just fine to start high school at 7:10 a.m., then that's when School Board meetings should be held as well. And to get the full experience, board members should catch a pre-dawn bus ride to the meetings. That's not going to happen, of course. And to be fair, the School Board is finally addressing the early-start issue that has been documented as a public-health threat to teenagers. Yet some school officials seem in no rush to take on the responsibility of a difficult, though necessary, decision."

FL: Oh, Come On Now!, Curmudgucation blog
"Nobody in power in Florida was asking if the flunk-third-grade policy was even a valid or viable one (spoiler alert-- it isn't). They were just going to hold the line so that students would be forced to bow at the altar of the Holy Test. The ultimate result of this case was that children in particular and common sense in general won. A student who, for instance, was an honor student with straight A's in reading should not have to take the BS Test in order to be passed to fourth grade. The judge gave a pretty clear reading of the law, and that really should have been it, right? Not right. Which is exactly how we will now start describing certain Florida administrators. The court said, ‘Put these kids in fourth grade.' Some districts said, ‘Oopsies-- we just don't seem to have a seat for them in the school they used to attend.'"

School accountability: An opportunity Florida can't afford to waste, Orlando Sentinel guest column, Michael Petrilli and Brandon Wright of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute
"Florida needs to improve its accountability system for K-through-12 education. A relic of the No Child Left Behind era, it has a critical flaw: It encourages schools to narrowly focus on the progress of their lowest-performing students. That's a worthy and important objective, but schools should be held accountable for educating their high performers, too. This shortcoming is particularly pernicious for high-achieving poor and minority children, students who deserve better and are critical to Florida's - and our nation's - competitiveness."

Reports of Note

Workin' 9 to 5 How School Schedules Make Life Harder for Working Parents, Center for American Progress
"As part of this report, CAP researchers decided to dig deep into Hillsborough County, Florida, to understand how much school schedules may vary across schools within a single district. While these results may not be representative, they echo what was found across districts: From vacation days to start times, school schedules are a mishmash of poorly aligned times and dates. In Hillsborough County, there are at least 12 different school calendars and schedules in operation. Hillsborough County elementary schools start anywhere from 7:45 a.m. to 8:20 a.m., middle schools start anywhere from 7:35 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., and high schools start at around 7:30 a.m."

Assessment Matters: Constructing Model State Systems to Replace Testing Overkill, FairTest
"The ‘Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority' pilot program in the federal Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) allows up to seven states to implement new state assessment systems that will replace existing standardized tests. This initiative could lead states to fundamentally improve student assessment. ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB). To help states and education reformers take advantage of this opportunity, FairTest proposes a model system to maximize high-quality assessment within ESSA's constraints. The model described in this report represents a significant departure from NCLB's narrow test-and-punish framework. Unlike NCLB, which revolved around standardized test scores, the model begins with classroom-based evidence that emanates from ongoing student work."

[Last modified: Friday, October 14, 2016 3:32pm]


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