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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

The goal: Giving Hillsborough schools the help they need



A committee in the Hillsborough County Public Schools has found a way to give schools the extra help they need instead of staffing them in a way that, by all accounts, has been largely random.

There was no rhyme, no reason and no pattern to the old way of assigning teaching coaches and specialists, district officials said Tuesday, showing the School Board a graph that represented the way schools were assigned math and reading coaches and other specialists.

Under the new system, a formula will come into play.

The formula divides the district's more than 200 schools into four tiers based on their needs. Factors include behavior, attendance, how often students move from school to school; and scores they earned on the Florida Standards Assessment.

But it doesn't stop there.

It also will consider how successful the school has been at improving scores for its lowest-performing students; and even teacher traits -- such as how many are new, got low scores on their evaluation, or have made their own moves from school to school.

The data is rolled together with each school receiving a score that translates into how much time it can get from "supplemental" teachers such as coaches and specialists. Adjustments will be made for schools with high poverty rates. And more points will be awarded if a school is undergoing a state-ordered turnaround plan; or if it is one of seven Hillsborough Elevate schools.

Each principal will be able to see the data on all the other schools, making the system transparent.

The project is one of many that resulted from the financial crunch the district found itself in after it was discovered that the main reserve account lost more than $200 million over four years.

Superintendent Jeff Eakins referred to that event as a "financial challenge," and said Tuesday that "this was an opportunity to see a challenge and come out of it with a reprioritization of how we do business."

Looking ahead, schools will have some flexibility in how they use the extra staff positions. Based on their needs, they might want to use a reading coach to teach half the day and help reading teachers the other half; or hire a success coach to help students stay on track to graduation. In some cases, they will bring in guidance counselors and psychologists for more hours.

Assistant superintendent Van Ayres said the system has other accounting benefits as the district works to protect the reserve level in that main account, called the general fund.

More of the supplemental employees can be paid from supplemental funds instead of the general fund, he said. Similarly, there will be a chance for schools in affluent neighborhoods to get coaching help if they need it, according to the forumula. Under the old system, that help came more easily to so-called "Title I" schools, which get federal assistance to combat poverty.





[Last modified: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 2:44pm]


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