Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer

Tom Marshall

Tom Marshall covers education for the St. Petersburg Times. A former teacher, he has covered both K-12 school districts and higher education as a journalist since 2000. He started at the Times in 2006.

Phone: (813) 226-3400





  1. Hillsborough teachers divided over education reform funded by the Gates foundation


    TAMPA — Hillsborough teachers are sharply divided about the district's nationally watched experiment with the Gates Foundation to boost teacher performance and toughen up how they are evaluated and rewarded.

    In a survey conducted last month, fewer than 35 percent of teachers thought the $100 million grant has had a positive impact on the district, had seen positive results firsthand or believed it will be a good thing for them or their school....

  2. Hillsborough joins statewide improvements in school grades


    TAMPA — Despite generally tougher tests put in place this year, Florida school grades remained relatively stable statewide for middle and elementary schools, according to results released Thursday.

    More than three-quarters of schools received an A or B, with the number of A-rated elementary schools growing by 82 and the number of F schools dropping from 44 to 31.

    In Hillsborough, all three of the district's traditional elementary schools with F grades last year — Miles, Just and B.T. Washington — improved their ranking, earning a D and two C's respectively....

  3. Grades stable for state, Tampa Bay area middle, elementary schools


    Despite generally tougher tests put in place this year, school grades remained relatively stable statewide for middle and elementary schools, according to results released Thursday.

    More than three-quarters of schools received an A or B, with the number of A-rated elementary schools growing by 82 and the number of F-rated schools dropping from 44 to 31.

    The vast majority of schools in Tampa Bay also earned A's and B's....

  4. School grades hold steady statewide; Pinellas results mixed


    Despite generally tougher tests put in place this year, grades remained relatively stable statewide for middle and elementary schools, according to results released today by the Florida Department of Education.

    More than three-quarters of schools received an A or B, with the number of A-rated elementary schools growing by 82 and the number of F-schools dropping from 44 to 31.

    Woodlawn in St. Petersburg climbed to a C. ...

  5. Hillsborough kids put new school lunch items to the test


    TAMPA — Exotic smells wafted from the kitchens at Freedom High School. Eighteen dishes, from Thai curry chicken and breakfast pizza to sweet potato casserole, had been prepared for a group of visiting food critics, and everything had to be just right.

    The chefs had every reason to be nervous, because these weren't your run-of-the-mill fussy eaters. These judges were kids.

    On Wednesday, the Hillsborough County school district asked students to sample potential additions to cafeteria menus at its second annual Fresh Flavors food-tasting expo. About 200 students, wearing "Official Taste Tester" buttons, filled out scorecards on each dish....

    Chiles Elementary School students Dakayla Hall, left, and Jordan Watts, both 9, sample new menu items for the 2011-12 school year menu on Wednesday at Freedom High School.
  6. Hillsborough teachers and district spar over money as contract talks resume


    TAMPA — There was one thing school district and teachers union negotiators could agree on Tuesday as annual contract talks got under way in Hillsborough County: It could be worse.

    While neighboring districts are facing teacher layoffs and furloughs amid historic state funding cuts, officials here have narrowed their own shortfall to just $4.4 million in the $1.7 billion operating budget. For now, at least, everyone's job is safe....

  7. Expert: transforming teacher evaluation isn't easy


    TAMPA -- As we reported Sunday, many Hillsborough teachers were shocked by the new evaluation system rolled out this year with $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Teachers who had been rated as virtually perfect in previous years learned that they needed to improve under the new system -- and fast....

  8. Hillsborough teachers wrap up challenging first year under Gates reforms


    TAMPA — Some teachers thrived. Others gritted their teeth and managed, while a few walked out the door.

    It's been a trying year for Hills­borough teachers, as the district tried out a tough new teacher evaluation system with $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Most teachers got extra advice and support from peer evaluators or mentors. But officials expect many scores will drop compared with recent years, when 99.5 percent of teachers were rated satisfactory or better and one-third were called perfect....

  9. Do some kids get more public schooling than others?


    Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley has written a provocative essay in Education Week on the "skyboxing of education."

    In it, the former Clinton Administration official takes America to task for creating a public education system that depends so completely on local property taxes and charitable donations. The result, he says, is a society in which the quality of education depends on where you live....

  10. Hillsborough's labor-management harmony draws more federal notice


    TAMPA --We've written a bit about Hillsborough's national reputation for positive relations between the school district and its teachers union.

    Now comes a report from the federal Department of Education that makes the case in detail. The study -- written by Jonathan Eckert, an assistant professor of education at Wheaton College, along with members of the federal Teaching Ambassador Fellows program -- highlights Hillsborough among a dozen school districts that presented at a national conference on labor relations last winter....

  11. How much is a good teacher worth?


    As we've previously reported, Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek has gotten a lot of mileage out of his argument that America could vault into the league of high-performing nations like Finland and Singapore if it did just one thing: get rid of the least-effective 5 to 10 percent of teachers, as measured on standardized tests, and replace them with average performers....

  12. Following Tallahassee's lead, Pinellas tweaks dress code


    The days of droopy pants – or clothing that reveals underwear or skin – are numbered for Florida students.

    State legislators passed a law this year banning saggy clothing in schools starting in the 2011-12 school year, and those found in violation could miss extracurricular activities or face in-school suspension.

    The new requirements will be added to Pinellas schools’ code of student conduct, which went  through a first revision at Tuesday's School Board meeting. Included in the proposal are the consequences of such violations, and some board members were quick to point out that these are not their idea.

    “Those are state consequences, not this board’s policies,” said Robin Wikle, school board vice-chairwoman.

    Chairwoman Carol Cook noted that the list of punishments overlooks a simpler, more immediate solution: by asking offending students to change.

    “It doesn’t say clothing violation can be rectified, that they can change their clothes, change their shirts, or turn it inside or out whatever they want to do,” she said.

    The code revision is expected to be discussed at a board workshop next month.

    - Sylvia Lim, Times correspondent...

  13. Students really don't know much about history


    It's official: history is American students' worst subject.

    That's the bottom line in the latest of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, otherwise known as the nation's report card.

    Just 12 percent of seniors scored at proficient levels on the U.S. history test, with eighth graders at 17 percent and fourth graders at 20 percent, reports the New York Times. Most fourth graders struggled to recall anything important about Abraham Lincoln, and seniors mostly dropped the ball on the significance of the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education....

  14. Unions try an old-school tactic in UK: striking


    Say what you will about teachers unions. But over in the United Kingdom the labor movement appears to be alive and kicking.

    Two of Britain's largest teachers unions facing virtually the same dilemma as their counterparts in Florida -- a change in pension plans that would amount to a 3 percent pay cut -- have voted to go on strike beginning June 30. The move would affect millions of schoolchildren according to the Guardian newspaper....

  15. Tech devices could be banned in Pinellas, too


    It's not just teachers who could lose some social media freedom at today's Pinellas School Board meeting. Students are facing some new restrictions, too.

    Under proposed revisions to the code of student conduct, both the iPad and Kindle would be added to the list of devices that are not allowed to be used in school. (See item 1 under the Non-Consent agenda. We're going to assume that the more than 2,000 Kindles purchased this year at Clearwater High as an alternative to textbooks would be exempted from this rule.)...