Sunday, May 20, 2018
Education

A busy summer and Common Core

LARGO — For Pinellas County schools, there were no lazy days of summer.

More than 9,000 students were in school over the summer — they were enrolled in summer school, prekindergarten classes, credit recovery and enrichment camps. Thousands of teachers were trained, as were district and school administrators.

"It is my motto with staff that you build a championship team in the offseason," superintendent Mike Grego told about 200 people who attended the "Superintendent's Roundtable" last week at the Stavros Institute in Largo.

Grego presented a brief State of Education speech, emphasizing the accomplishments of the past year. Among the highlights:

• Elementary schools are getting science labs, starting with 14 schools and growing to more than 70.

• Every school now offers classes for gifted students.

• A summer program for top seventh-graders enrolled about 300 students. It will "close to double" enrollment this year.

• More than 20 businesses are working with schools through the Executive PASS program, which pairs businesses with schools for three years to develop strategies and activities for school improvement.

After his remarks, Grego discussed issues as part of a panel that included St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster; School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook; U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor; and state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg.

The panel fielded questions about career education, the new Common Core State Standards and St. Pete's Promise, a partnership between the city of St. Petersburg, the Pinellas Education Foundation and the school district.

Asked about the potential for additional testing under Common Core, Bilirakis said he was worried about how much testing students have now. Grego said new tests being developed by a consortium known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers called for 20 days of testing, or about a month of instruction.

"We cannot test ourselves to excellence," he said.

Florida legislative leaders have questioned whether the PARCC tests, which would replace the FCAT, should be used in Florida. The issue has yet to be resolved.

Cook and Grego were asked why the School Board opposes outsourcing certain district functions, such as bus and food services. Grego said the board isn't opposed to it, but he called the question "somewhat shortsighted."

Food service, he said, is the district's most profitable operation. Each opportunity for contracting services is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Contact Cara Fitzpatrick at cfitzpatrick @tampabay.com or (727) 893-8846. Follow her on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

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