Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Education

Amid controversy, Gov. Scott, state education leaders to huddle in Clearwater

TALLAHASSEE — After a turbulent summer that saw the state education commissioner resign and angry parents call for a moratorium on school grades, Gov. Rick Scott will convene a group of educators, business leaders and lawmakers in Clearwater next week to hash out Florida's education woes.

"Florida's education accountability system has become a national model, but we are at a critical point in our history," Scott wrote Thursday in a statement announcing the three-day event.

The summit, which begins Monday afternoon, will focus on four main topics: the new Common Core education standards; the tests that will replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests; the school grading system; and teacher evaluations.

The 36-person guest list is a familiar roster. Included are state Board of Education chairman Gary Chartrand; Florida Education Association president Andy Ford; Florida School Boards Association executive director Wayne Blanton; Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho; Florida Charter School Alliance board member John Kirtley; and Patricia Levesque, executive director of former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future.

Three top teachers from Miami-Dade, Orange and Duval counties were also invited, along with representatives from the Florida PTA, Florida Parents Against Common Core and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

The move won kudos from Senate President Don Gaetz, a former school superintendent in Okaloosa County.

"I have conveyed to the governor that the Senate looks forward to working with him to build upon the gains Florida's public education system has made for more than a decade, and we appreciate the opportunity to have a seat at the table for this significant event," Gaetz wrote in a memo to the upper chamber.

But some invitees were skeptical.

"If there's not a willingness to admit that the current system has some serious flaws, then we'll be wasting our time," said Jeff Wright, who oversees public policy advocacy for the Florida Education Association, the state teachers' union.

Scott's summit will cap off a challenging three months for Florida education officials.

In July, superintendents convinced the state Board of Education to approve a "safety net" to prevent school grades from plunging as a result of more challenging exams. But the grades dipped anyway, sparking a statewide debate about the legitimacy of the school accountability system.

Meanwhile, tea party groups and libertarians ramped up their efforts to derail Florida's transition to the new national curriculum standards known as the Common Core.

State education officials held firm on their commitment to the benchmarks. But Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford raised concerns about the national consortium creating tests to accompany the Common Core standards — and implored Florida to craft its own testing plan instead.

No decision was made immediately. Action was further delayed in August, when former state education commissioner Tony Bennett resigned amid a school grading controversy in his home state of Indiana.

Carvalho, who recently expressed concerns with the school grading system, called the summit "a good first step toward tackling the unintended consequences of many tweaks to the accountability system, as well as the challenges ahead."

"There is too much at stake to treat this meeting as anything other than important," Carvalho said.

Kathleen McGrory can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is ‘Feminism’

NEW YORK — This may or may not come as a surprise: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is "feminism." Yes, it’s been a big year or two or 100 for the word. In 2017, lookups for feminism increased 70 percent over 2016 on Mer...
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot i...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17
Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Hillsborough County’s public school teachers are horn-honking, voice-raising, sign-waving, foot-stomping mad, and I can’t blame them. They are paying for a problem they didn’t create. About one-third of the workforce was expecting to receive a $4,000...
Published: 12/07/17
In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

SPRING HILL — On a small wooden dock at the Cross Bar Ranch, Cynthia Brinker gingerly pokes through the trappings in her fishing net, plucking out a tiny creature to examine close up. "What the heck is this?" the Weightman Middle School studen...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

BROOKSVILLE — For just a year and a half, Steve Crognale has been the principal at the Endeavor and Discovery Academies. But now, he’s been named the Hernando School District Principal of the Year for 2018. Endeavor serves students, most of them hig...
Published: 12/06/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey is skilled at calming first-day-of-school jitters. But this school year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every weekday with a knot in her stomach.It’s been there ever since th...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Why do universities handle sexual assault cases, anyway?

Why do universities handle sexual assault cases, anyway?

News stories about campus sexual assault often get the question, "Why do schools handle these cases, anyway?"Readers often wonder how universities got tasked with handling these convoluted cases in the first place. Where, they ask, do the police come...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

TAMPA — The second Hillsborough County School Board meeting in less than a month took place Tuesday against a backdrop of honking car horns, cheering teachers and audience members moving through the room in shifts.Dressed in blue union-issued T-shirt...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17