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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 31, 2016



With elections near, Florida education news became rather hushed, particularly on the policy front. That didn't stop all the activity, though, as teachers continued to negotiate contracts, students protested their new dress code and districts began adopting new open enrollment rules to meet the latest state requirements. Visit the Gradebook daily for the latest Florida education news.

Top of the Times

Partnership gives high school students a taste of the teaching profession, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"As children arrived at Hudson Elementary School for classes on a recent Tuesday, a befuddled bus line volunteer approached principal Dawn Scilex with a puzzled look on her face. ‘There are a bunch of high-schoolers getting off a bus,' the volunteer reported, asking what to do with the 40 or so teens. Scilex chuckled and said not to worry. She had been expecting the group from River Ridge High School's New Teacher Academy, which recently partnered with her perennially struggling school, and guided them to her office."

Hillsborough teachers call for School Board support as contract talks drag on, Marlene Sokol
"More than a month has passed since the union and district leaders have met to negotiate the current year's contract. Teachers now are working under terms of the 2015-16 contract. Some are waiting for bonus money, scheduled raises and other supplements. By delaying negotiations ‘you completely disregard what we do and what we stand for as educators,' said Naze Sahebzamani, a social studies teacher at Robinson High School."
RELATED: Close, but no pay deal for Hillsborough teachers

More than 60 students cited for violations in Ridgewood High dress code protest, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Pasco County's Ridgewood High saw an increase in dress code referrals Tuesday as a committed group of opponents protested the school's stricter clothing rules."

Are Pinellas' neighborhood school enrollments faring better, worse or the same?, Colleen Wright
"Maximo Elementary, which lost more than 300 students in five years, went up from 365 in 2015 to 397 in 2016. So did Azalea Elementary, which hemorrhaged 210 students in the past five years, up 467 last year to 532 in October. Also in that group are Shore Acres Elementary (lost 165 students, now at 686), Westgate Elementary (lost 104 students, gained 50 to be at 613) and Starkey Elementary (lost 100 students, gained 45 to reach 627)."

Around the State

Palm Beach County school district sets rules for open enrollment, Sun-Sentinel, Lois K. Solomon
"Starting next year, Palm Beach County students will be able to enroll in almost any school in the state under a plan approved on Wednesday by the School Board. But there is an important caveat: The chosen school, if it's in Palm Beach County, must be at least 10 percent empty. This eliminates some of the most popular schools, such as Calusa Elementary in Boca Raton, which has 357 more students than it was designed to handle."

Allegation clouds schools chief contract, Herald-Tribune, Billy Cox
"The Sarasota County School Board's failure to fully explore sexual harassment allegations raised by one of incoming superintendent Todd Bowden's former employees could lead to a re-evaluation of his new contract - approved by the board Tuesday night - according to School Board Chairwoman Shirley Brown."

More Lake teachers earn top marks but still lag compared to neighbors, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
"More Lake County teachers earned top evaluations this year than last, though the county's public school instructors still earned less-stellar reviews than many of their counterparts in neighboring in Orange and Seminole counties. The different results seen in Central Florida school districts highlight how Florida's teacher evaluation system, though mandated by the state, gives wide leeway to individual districts. And they often come up with very different results when judging the quality of their teachers."

Teacher finds himself in hot water over blog post; wonders about right to free speech, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"One of Duval County Public Schools' most outspoken teachers who blog is in trouble."

Other Views

A-F grades for schools triggers improvements, Huntington (WV) Times-Dispatch guest column, Christy Hovanetz of the Foundation for Excellence in Education
"Studies in Florida and New York City demonstrated significant academic gains for students after their schools received an F grade. That is because the system was forced to respond with more resources and better instructional practices. We advocate for measuring what matters, and we praise West Virginia leaders for recently adopting an accountability mechanism that focuses on all students and their achievements and growth."

Stop the coming education cuts, Ocala Star-Banner editorial
"Everyday we Floridians are reminded how good things are going. The governor talks incessantly about how strong Florida's economy is, how we lead the nation in job creation, how we outpace the other 49 states in economic growth. People are pouring into our state once again, and for good measure a record 100 million-plus tourists visited our state last year. Yes, times are good in Florida. So we are perplexed by the admonition the Marion County School Board received last week from its Tallahassee lobbyists, Mixon & Associates, that the school district needs to implement a hiring freeze sooner than later because state funding for K-12 is expected to be flat, or maybe even decline, for the next school year."

Tampa teacher's tale raises question: Does that happen here?, Palm Beach Post column, Sonja Isger
"Last week, the Tampa Bay Times wrote a story about an elementary music teacher in Hillsborough County who faces being fired after a disastrous experience administering a required and computer-based end of year exam in music. The teacher's experience was all too relatable if you know kids and computers ... As stories do these days, this one wound up on Facebook. And the question came from some Palm Beach County parents: Does that happen here? If you're asking does the school district impose these tests in and/or grade students and teachers by it. And the answer is no."

We can't let any gifted kids slip through the cracks, Orlando Sentinel guest column, M. Rene Islas and Rudy Crew
"For too long, policymakers and many in education have turned a blind eye to the reality that gifted students exist in all populations and communities and that giftedness is not determined by one's skin color, native language or ZIP code."

Reports of Note

THE TAX-CREDIT SCHOLARSHIP AUDIT: Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Money?, Martin F. Lueken, Ph.D.
"Arizona's ‘Original' program saved taxpayers between $115 million and $405 million, or about $400 to $1,300 per participant. Iowa, Florida, and Pennsylvania taxpayers saved between $280 million and $1.7 billion. Pennsylvania's EITC program alone saved taxpayers between $720 million and more than $1.7 billion dollars, or up to $5,800 per scholarship awarded, between 2002 and 2014. ... Actual savings were likely much higher than the lower-bound estimates for at least two reasons. First, private schools are likely incentivized to maximize enrollment and would prefer granting scholarships to students from public schools than to students currently enrolled in private schools. Second, scholarship organizations are likely to target students with financial need either as part of their mission, or as a program requirement, and these students are more likely to attend public schools if their financial assistance from the school choice program were removed. These school choice programs have expanded the educational opportunities for countless families at a fraction of the cost for states to provide a public education."

"While many states have multiple diploma options for students, and several states are adding additional endorsement options, many states still do not publicly report how many students earn which diploma. The lack of transparency means that in most states there continue to be more questions than answers about the true value of a high school diploma."

Through Our Eyes: Perspectives and Reflections From Black Teachers, The Education Trust
"Simply recruiting more teachers of color only gets them in the door; we must pay equal attention to creating the conditions to keep them. And while it is critical to diversify the teaching force, just having a Black or Hispanic teacher in the classroom isn't enough. They must be strong teachers, so diversity and excellence go hand in hand. Holding on to teachers of color, though, requires education leaders to understand their unique experiences and perspectives. And who better to learn from than the teachers themselves."

[Last modified: Friday, November 4, 2016 3:06pm]


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