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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news, week of Dec. 4, 2016



Newly elected school board members, superintendents and lawmakers are now sworn in and ready to get back to work after a campaign lull in policy conversation. Already, legislators have begun filing education hot-button bills on issues ranging from in-state tuition to computer coding, even in a year expected to focus on higher ed rather than K-12. Meanwhile, school boards continue to tackle day-to-day matters such as testing, attendance zones and teacher vacancies as winter break approaches. Keep up with the daily Florida education news with Gradebook.

Top of the Times

Testing relief for high schoolers in Hillsborough, Marlene Sokol
"High school students in Hillsborough County will see testing relief this spring as the school district continues to chip away at duplicate exams. More than a dozen classes, from AP French to IB Visual Arts, are affected by the change."

Bill that would count computer coding as foreign language makes reappearance in Florida Senate, Colleen Wright
"Maybe third time's the charm? A bill that would allow Florida high schools to satisfy foreign language requirements with computer coding credits is back, and this time it's sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican State Sen. Jeff Brandes."

Pasco suspends, transfers teacher accused of making Trump-related racial remark, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"A white Pasco County teacher accused of making racially charged statements to black students has been suspended without pay for three days and transferred to a different school across the county."

Sen. Latvala takes issue with bill to revoke Florida in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Without mentioning any names, or even the issue at hand, Florida Sen. Jack Latvala took a clear swipe Thursday at a newly minted Senate colleague who filed legislation to undo a university tuition measure that Latvala worked hard to broker two years ago. Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, proposed a bill Wednesday to void a law granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students who graduate from Florida high schools. Latvala initially had little to say about the proposal, which he hadn't yet read. A day later, in a room filled with school board members from across the state, Latvala let loose."

Around the State

Treasure Coast schools report dozens of teacher vacancies near mid-year, TC Palm, Andrew Atterbury
"Dozens of Treasure Coast educators are quitting mid-year, in some cases creating more teacher vacancies now than school districts had before classes began in August. While that's alarming, school officials say it's a dilemma they encounter every year and that teaching staffs are 99 percent full."

Newly crowned political stars likely to give charter schools big lift, Palm Beach Post, John Kennedy
"From Washington to the state Capitol, political stars are aligning for a major drive to expand charter and voucher schools - a double-barreled push sparking fear among defenders of traditional schools."

Making the turn: Incoming 6th-graders often not ready for middle school in Polk, The Ledger, Madison Fantozzi
"The spotlight has been on five middle schools going through the turnaround process, but what about the elementary schools that send students to them?"

Experts: School District has slim chance to overturn Gay-Straight Alliance ruling, Daily Commercial, Livi Stanford
"Lake County's School District attorney plans to brief School Board members Monday on their legal options after the United States Federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned a lower court's ruling that kept students from establishing a Gay-Straight Alliance at Carver Middle School in Leesburg. Sherri Owens, spokeswoman for the district, said Steve Johnson wants to inform the board first before publicly commenting on the case. But the legal options to overturn the decision and keep GSAs out of middle schools are slim, according to legal experts."

Other Views

High school and early college: Are 11th and 12th grades wasted years?, Bridge to Tomorrow blog, FSU physics professor Paul Cottle
"I asked the students in my own introductory physics class - who are majoring in subjects like biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering and physics - about their experiences in 11th and 12th grades. Most of my students were caught completely off-guard by the question."

Teacher unions aren't "evil," but neither are vouchers, Tallahassee Democrat columnist Bill Cotterell
"We've had a lively discussion of school choice in these pages over the past few weeks. It's one of those big, important arguments in which both sides make some valid points and each side feels strongly about its position. In fact, they feel so strongly, neither side seems to hear what the other says."

Charter school leniency must come with accountability, Palm Beach Post editorial
"The district, with some 21,000 students in 52 charters this academic year, has allowed several troubled charters ... to continue operating as they struggled to right themselves. That's because the majority of local charters are run well and fill a niche that helps the School District offer more choice to its 188,000-student population. Both [superintendent Robert] Avossa and the School Board have said as much to charter school proponents. They tend to diverge when the board refuses to rubber-stamp every charter school application that comes before them. The board, in particular, has balked when a new charter offers students little or nothing that is not already available in a nearby traditional public school. That sounds like the job the board should be doing: demanding accountability for our tax money."

Education goals face budget cuts, Ocala Star-Banner editorial
"Given the unlikelihood of any tax increase, the money will have to come from slashing other important programs or raising tuition. And any tuition hike makes it more important to fund need-based aid, or ensure the merit-based Bright Futures scholarships are more widely available by putting a means test in them. The lofty rhetoric of state officials when it comes to state colleges and universities is soon going to come into conflict with hard budget realities. If they truly want Florida to have the best higher education system in the nation, they're going to have to come up with a way to pay for it."

UF trains professional coaches to benefit teachers - just like great athletes, Orlando Sentinel guest column, Don Pemberton of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning
"As we search for ways to better educate our children in an increasingly competitive world, we can't afford to overlook providing teachers with the coaching support they need to improve their performance. In the end, just as on the football field, success in the classroom takes practice, teamwork and good coaching."

Reports of Note

New State Laws Reflect the Rethinking of Excessive Mandated Standardized Testing in America's Public Schools, Florida A&M University Law Review, Renalia Smith DuBose
"Statewide, the Legislature and Department of Education began to receive negative feedback from school district officials regarding the testing requirements. According to Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade County superintendent and 2014 National Superintendent of the Year, ‘The state must own and address over-assessment. Instructional time is too precious to spend it assessing students on duplicative measures.' Florida began to realize that accepting federal dollars as a motivator to administer more and more standardized tests was having negative consequences around Florida."

Stepping Up: The Nation's Top K-12 Education Foundations, Caruthers Institute
"Education foundations serving school districts with less than 100,000 students largely populated the top 25 in the nation. In fact, of the top 15, only two foundations have more than 100,000 students - Pinellas (Florida) and Albuquerque (New Mexico). There are 7 education foundations that have ranked in the top 25 for 3 consecutive years: 2016, 2015, 2014 respectively.  Hillsborough Education Foundation (Florida) 21st, 6th, 6th;  Clark Co. Public Education Foundation (Nevada) 17th, 14th, 2nd; The Foundation for Osceola Education (Florida) 12th, 13th, 8th;  Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools (Florida) 14th, 16th, 10th."

Coming Up

Legislative committees are getting back in business with new members. The Senate side is set to begin next week. Most sessions are broadcast on The Florida Channel.

Education, 4 p.m. Dec. 12

PreK-12 Appropriations, 10 a.m. Dec. 14

Higher Education Appropriations, 2 p.m. Dec. 14

[Last modified: Friday, December 9, 2016 3:16pm]


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