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Florida Department of Education reopens “Schools of Hope” applications

The Board of Education already has awarded 11 of 25 possible grants.

After picking 11 struggling district schools to receive an added $2,000 per student through the "Schools of Hope" program, the Florida Board of Education announced it would give eligible schools that didn't get a grant another chance to win one.

Lawmakers allocated $51 million to support 25 schools, based on their turnaround plans. Education commissioner Pam Stewart, who recommended 11 of the 59 applicants, said she thought others could learn from the selected submissions and improve their proposals.

She noted that many of the plans were strong, but that the ones she advanced to the board — five in Miami-Dade, three in Palm Beach, two in Bay and one in Seminole — had the highest chance of success.

Each proposal was reviewed by the same evaluators. Many of the ones that were not selected, such as Hillsborough County's Chamberlain High, included similar positive and negative remarks as those that got an award, such as Palm Beach Lakes High.

Most applications, for instance, contained comments that not enough parent and community input was included in creating the plans. Several had at least one reviewer who did not agree with bringing it forward to the State Board.

Now, the department has reopened the application process for schools that were not picked, and also those that are eligible but did not submit a plan in the first round.

"Awards will be provided for up to 14 additional traditional public schools for implementation of evidence-based interventions that lead to student success, which include wrap-around services that leverage community assets, improving school and community collaboration, and family and community partnerships," Chancellor Hershel Lyons wrote in a memo to superintendents.

The deadline is Dec. 1. The department will have a one-hour webinar on the project on Wednesday.

The district "Schools of Hope" program came about as part of HB 7069, which several school districts are challenging in court. The idea emerged as a late offer to mollify critics who did not like the connected proposal of putting millions of dollars into a new charter school system aimed at challenging district schools with lengthy records of poor test results.

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