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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Sept. 14, 2016



Yet another busy week in the world of Florida education. The State Board of Education called for the end of a controversial teacher bonus, while the state's teacher shortage continued in several school districts. A Miami-Dade school decided to do away with homework, while Pinellas County schools explored ways to eliminate out-of-school suspensions. Follow these and other stories daily on the Gradebook. Send your thoughts and ideas to [email protected]

Top of the Times

An extra hour a day goes a long way for Florida's 'Lowest 300' schools, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"One hour. For 311 Florida elementary schools, that's the length of time they've been told to extend their day this year, just to focus on reading. It could be the fix that lifts them off the list of lowest performing schools on the state's language arts test. Or not. As the ‘Lowest 300' program enters its fifth year - with a growing number of Tampa Bay area schools on the list - educators insist it's not just the time that matters, but also how they spend it."

Pinellas looking for ways to avoid out-of-school suspensions in elementary schools, Colleen Wright
"The Pinellas County school system will be trying a range of strategies to further reduce out-of-school suspensions for elementary school students- from detentions and student work details, to Saturday classes and having parents shadow their children at school."
EDITORIAL: Pinellas makes progress on student suspensions

Former Florida education commissioner will lead Trump education team, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"[Gerard] Robinson, who came to Florida after a stint as Virginia secretary of education, was Gov. Rick Scott's choice for education commissioner after shoving three-year office holder Eric Smith to the side. He notably was in Scott's Tallahassee office taking photos at the same time the Board of Education was meeting in Tampa to vote on its selection. In his brief tenure, Robinson sparred with school districts over test cut scores and butted heads with School Board members over education accountability. As parents began complaining about too much testing, Robinson blamed districts."

New principal brings a 'no-nonsense and nurturing' style to Melrose Elementary's turnaround bid, Colleen Wright
"Many Melrose families had already met her over the summer - at the neighborhood discount store, in church pews on Sunday, and in their driveways, where she pulled up in her truck to say hello. Facing them again at the open house, she didn't mention the crisis that brought her from her native Memphis to St. Petersburg: Melrose's unfortunate status as one of the worst-performing elementary schools in the state. Instead, [Nikita] Reed gave a brief, friendly welcome. ‘We all want to be a success factory this year,' she said. ‘This is the only thing we're speaking here at Melrose.'"

School bus driver's repeated violations raise questions about district policy, Dan DeWitt
"Since her hiring in 2001, [Hernando bus driver Mildred] Rodgers, 61, has accumulated 23 points for incidents that include causing six wrecks, speeding and improper passing - all while driving a bus. Including citations for non-driving violations, such as repeatedly missing meetings, she has 17 disciplinary actions in her personnel file. Yet, according to the district's Safe Driver Plan, Rodgers is still allowed to drive a bus."

Florida Board of Education seeks to end Best and Brightest teacher bonus, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"The Florida Board of Education on Friday backed a budget plan that would eliminate funding for the state's controversial two-year-old Best and Brightest bonus, which rewards teachers based on their job evaluations and their SAT or ACT scores. The board's legislative budget proposal would take the bulk of the $49 million expenditure and place it into ‘teacher recruitment and retention.' The recommended $43 million fund would provide bonuses for ‘new teachers who show great potential for and veteran teachers who have demonstrated the highest student academic growth among their peers.'"
DOCUMENT: Florida Board of Education Legislative Budget Request

Around the State

One Miami-Dade school says no to homework; will others follow?, Miami Herald, Kyra Gurney
"This year, one Miami-Dade school is trying something radical: Ending homework. At least, the mandatory kind."

Students opting out of neighborhood schools as choices grow, Sun-Sentinel, Scott Travis
"Neighborhood schools soon could be a thing of the past. Parents now have a lot more options to send their kids to schools all over South Florida."

Boy allowed to run for homecoming queen after high school initially denies request, WFTV Orlando
"An Orange County, Florida, high school student said he wants to be homecoming queen, but school administrators initially wouldn't allow it because of his gender. ... The school is now reversing its decision, saying the policy will allow Anthony Martinez to run for homecoming queen and the principal who told the boy he couldn't run never consulted with the district's central office."

Central Florida school districts looking for nearly 100 teachers, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal and Annie Martin
"Central Florida school districts are still seeking to hire nearly 100 teachers, more than a month after classes started. They attribute the vacancies to stiff competition for candidates, high numbers of retiring teachers and growing student enrollment."

Other Views

View from an elementary teacher, Gradebook guest column, Westchase Elementary teacher Jamie Cook
"Teachers have a choice. We can work our paid eight hours and call it a day, and settle for ‘just good enough' on our evaluations. Or we can live and breathe and bleed educational excellence, above and beyond our classroom hours, to get that stellar evaluation. Does one choice or the other make one a better teacher? No. But those of us passionate about it can't seem to choose the ‘good enough, now go live your life' option, even when our personal lives suffer, our families suffer, our physical and emotional bodies suffer. I want to be and feel excellent at my two most important jobs: mother and teacher. But it feels nearly impossible to achieve both of those goals in a 24-hour day, a 7-day week, a 180-day school year, a 5-week long summer."

Pasco County school rezoning: An opposing parent view, Gradebook guest letter, parent Traelee Works
"I feel obligated to speak up on behalf of the unheard parents regarding school rezoning. Many of us have been bullied into silence or have grown weary of our concerns falling on deaf ears. My neighbors have been vocal at meetings with all of you and have encouraged a delay. However, I have a different perspective."

Patience improves student performance, Gainesville Sun guest column, retired UF economics professor Dave Denslow
"In Florida's public schools, children of non-native parents on average score higher on third grade tests than children of Americans. Not only that, between third and eighth grades, the gap widens. That's noteworthy because students' relative scores usually change little over those five years. The children of immigrants improve while the trajectory of the rest is flat."

Bad Math Either Way, Accountabaloney blog
"[Hillsborough superintendent Jeff Eakins'] prepared comments indicate Florida's ‘superintendents strongly support the Florida State Standards in... Mathematics' but they are requesting the reinstatement of the ‘"banking" of middle school Algebra I scores for high school accountability purposes.' Really? Have the superintendents discussed the standards with their math teachers? Do those teachers strongly support the current math standards? Or are the superintendents only concerned about shoring up their school grades? Apparently, FADSS thinks the standards are fine as long as the accountability system can be manipulated.  We can smell the accountabaloney."

Why ban parents from eating lunch with their kids at school?, Tampa Bay Times guest column, parent Chris Ingram
"Imagine my surprise last week when they told me the school's policy had changed and that parents could no longer have lunch with their kids - with the exception of their birthdays. I called the school's principal to find out why. First, she informed me the policy of allowing parents on campus for lunch was up to each school. She said the reason for the change was too many parents were not following the rules. Pictures were being taken of other kids and posted on Facebook without permission. Parents were bringing in prohibited fast-foods. Some of them had the nerve to discipline somebody else's little Johnny when they got out of hand in the lunchroom. Others lingered around the school and pigeonholed or pestered their kid's teachers."

Should kids be forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance?, Religion News, Jeffrey Salkin
"Should kids be forced to stand for the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance? According to a law in Florida, where I am a resident, yes. Here it is. ... The law smacks of a McCarthy-era loyalty pledge, which is problematic enough."

How School Choice is Influencing Education, Empower Mississippi
"Those with the financial resources often decide where they live based on the assigned school district. That is certainly the case in Mississippi where counties with the high performing school districts have experienced rapid population growth, often at the expense of neighboring cities or counties with failing school districts. But should we continue to believe that education fits into a one-size-fits-all model resembling some sort of factory? Indiana, Louisiana, and Florida are examples of three states' that have put the decisions about a child's education in the hands of parents, and the competition this created has caused all schools to examine the education they are providing as parents now have a wealth of new options."

Reports of Note

SURVEYING STATE LEGISLATORS: Views on K-12 Education, Choice-Based Policies, and the Profession, EdChoice
"In brief, we find: Majorities of state legislators voiced their support for ESAs, school vouchers, and public charter schools. ... State legislators are twice as likely to say they supported ESAs, compared with opposing such a public policy (61% vs. 30%, respectively). We also found a majority of state legislators say they support school vouchers (52% favor vs. 40% oppose), and they are three times more likely to support public charter schools than to oppose them (67% vs. 22%, respectively). Legislators' views on the direction of K-12 education, school vouchers, and charter schools do not appear well-aligned with the general public."

Do Top Dogs Rule in Middle School? Evidence on Bullying, Safety, and Belonging, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Syracuse University; Leanna Stiefel, New York University; Michah W. Rothbart Syracuse University
"As shown in Table 6, bottom dog status hurts academic performance and top dog status improves academic performance in sixth grade. These results highlight that declines in academic performance during transitions to middle schools are in part a result of transitioning from top dog to bottom (or middle) dog status."

[Last modified: Friday, September 23, 2016 3:19pm]


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