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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news roundup, week of Oct. 4



The hue and cry over Florida's testing and accountability system continued to intensify this past week, with more groups adding their voices to the call for a pause. Gov. Rick Scott's press office told the Times that Scott had no intention of setting the system off course. They were so insistent, in fact, that they called us twice to make sure we understood the answer was "No" to the question whether he would suspend school grading. Late buses remained a problem for Palm Beach schools, while Sarasota got to revisit the principal who lost his job after hypnotizing students who subsequently committed suicide. Follow these and other stories daily on the Gradebook. And please, let us know how we're doing. It's been more than a month of these weekly roundups. Like them? Hate them? Want something else? Send your comments to, and thanks for reading.

Top of the Times

As the revolt over school testing widens, many in Florida ask: What next?, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"But [the Department of Education] faces an increasingly vocal challenge amid surging concerns over the way state standards and tests have been altered in recent years. Even some solid accountability backers have broken ranks, saying they can't abide a system that changes so frequently, often without regard for classroom reality. ‘I think we've reached a new level of frustration that is ubiquitous and universally felt throughout the state of Florida,' said Miami-Dade school superintendent Alberto Carvalho."
Will Gov. Rick Scott suspend Florida school grades? No., Jeffrey S. Solochek

Hernando superintendent Romano tells board she won't tolerate interference, Dan DeWitt
"Hernando County school superintendent Lori Romano accused School Board member Susan Duval of micromanagement on Tuesday - and she was just getting started."

Charter Schools USA wants to run four new Hillsborough schools, Marlene Sokol
"Charter Schools USA is back, and this time Hillsborough County officials are giving it a warmer welcome. Subject to School Board approval on Tuesday, the Fort Lauderdale company will manage four new schools projected to serve as many as 4,650 students. That's in addition to 3,200 who now attend the Henderson Hammock, Winthrop and Woodmont schools, also managed by Charter Schools USA."

Around the State

Late school buses are hurting students' grades, parents say, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"By mid-September, Aanya Patel had become used to missing the start of her first-period civics class. The seventh-grader's bus to Don Estridge High Tech Middle School was chronically late, meaning her teacher often was well into the lesson by the time she walked in. But one day last month, her bus to the Boca Raton school was even later than usual, running behind by almost an hour. She missed nearly the entire class. It was the day of a pre-quiz review. The next day she took the quiz and failed it."

Roberts urges parents unhappy with FSA tests to make concerns known, Gainesville Sun, Erin Jester
"Parents' frustration with the Florida Standards Assessment is at an all-time high, and Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Owen Roberts is right there with them."

Florida's struggle over testing and school standards could mar Jeb Bush's legacy on education, AP, Gary Fineout and Sergio Bustos
"Jeb Bush's signature achievement in education policy as Florida governor may be at risk of coming apart."

Therapy dog among animals denied Okaloosa school visits, Northwest Florida Daily News, Brian Hughes
"Fans of Dozer, a well-known therapy dog, will no longer see the Great Dane on Okaloosa County school campuses. A new blanket ban on animal visits ends Dozer's two years of regular visits to North Okaloosa elementary school libraries. Students who met their reading goals by completing at least 11 books on their logs could read to him as a reward."

Board OKs settlement over principal who hypnotized students, Herald-Tribune, Shelby Webb
"The families of three North Port High School students who died after being hypnotized by former Principal George Kenney will receive $200,000 each from the Sarasota County School District under a settlement agreement unanimously approved by the School Board at its meeting Tuesday night. The $600,000 settlement closes a bizarre, yearslong case that began after former North Port High School Principal Kenney admitted he hypnotized 16-year-old Wesley McKinley a day before the teenager committed suicide in April 2011."

More FSA tests could not be scored in 2015 compared to FCAT last year, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
"More than 20,000 FSA exams taken this spring ended up without a score because students did not answer enough questions to meet scoring criteria. That was more than three times as many as in 2014 when Florida students took another series of standardized tests. The goal of Florida's growing "opt out" movement -- spurred by parents opposed to the state's high-stakes standardized tests -- was to provide exams to the state that could not be scored."

Reports of Note

American Almanac of Family Homelessness, Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness
"Only eight states ranked below Florida on the State Education Ranking, though the state did rank above average for identifying homeless children in grades K-12."

Measuring Up: Educational Improvement and Opportunity in 50 Cities, CRPE

Other Views

Florida insults school teachers with a $44 million absurdity, Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm
"The temptation is to dismiss Florida's Best and Brightest teacher bonus program as just another joke coming out of Tallahassee - the worst and dimmest legislation in recent memory (other than bills endorsed by the NRA ). Except this joke is costing state taxpayers $44 million."

Students are overtested, results not reliable, Tallahassee Democrat op-ed, former Leon School Board member Fred Varn
"The problem, as I see it, is not the test (aside from the computer glitches), but rather the amount of tests that are given. We have Florida Standards Assessments, Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, End of Course Examinations, PSAT, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, then the retakes for all of those tests follow. And by the way, this does not include the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams given for almost the entire month of May. The days we spend testing are disruptive for all, whether or not the student is being tested that day, regardless how well the test is administered. And there are so many test days!"

We must be honest with our students, Pensacola News-Journal op-ed, Escambia School Board member Jeff Bergosh
"The issue is how to set ‘cut scores,' which are the scores Florida education officials establish to define student proficiency on state-administered tests. Currently, there is a troubling disconnect between what Florida defines as proficient and what the Nation's Report Card and dozens of other states define as proficient."

Coming Up

The Pinellas and Hillsborough school boards meet Tuesday.

Florida students get their first chance to take the redesigned PSAT on Wednesday. Practice here.

The National Assessment Governing Board will release The Nation's Report Card: 2015 Mathematics and Reading on Oct. 28.

[Last modified: Friday, October 9, 2015 1:46pm]


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