ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Nov. 5, 2018

The Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments Nov. 8, 2018, on a lawsuit contending the state does not provide adequate funding for a high quality uniform system of public education. [WFSU/The Florida Supreme Court]
The Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments Nov. 8, 2018, on a lawsuit contending the state does not provide adequate funding for a high quality uniform system of public education. [WFSU/The Florida Supreme Court]
Published November 10 2018

Can Florida’s courts determine what a “high quality” education system looks like? Or is that too subjective a term? The Florida Supreme Court has that question before it, as it determines whether a 9-year-old school funding adequacy lawsuit will live or die. Read on for that and more news. •  Don’t miss our weekly highlights of the news, views, reports and more. You can keep up daily with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who’d like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to [email protected].

Top of the Times

Florida Supreme Court considers education funding challenge, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Florida’s Supreme Court justices gave just a few hints Thursday of how they’re thinking about a 9-year-old case that contends, essentially, that the Legislature has shortchanged some students in the state’s public education system.”

How Hillsborough sold a school tax in just 10 weeks, Marlene Sokol
“The clock started ticking on Aug. 24, the day the Hillsborough County School Board voted to take the plunge. District supporters had just 10 weeks to sell the public on a half-cent sales tax to support the schools’ capital needs, including replacements for ailing air conditioners. They had even less time before early voting started.”

Closing the achievement gap at Pinellas’ most struggling elementary schools needs holistic approach, principals say, Megan Reeves
“Principals of Pinellas County’s worst-performing elementary schools gathered Tuesday to share their progress in closing the academic achievement gap between black students and their peers. Successes, like added reading programs, new clubs and gains on state tests, were tempered with challenges, like the fight for more parental involvement in schools populated by kids in some of the county’s most impoverished neighborhoods.”

Pasco school district announces possible closing of two more schools, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“A week after recommending the closure of Lacoochee Elementary in northeastern Pasco County, school district officials have turned their attention to possibly shutting down two west side schools serving primarily low-income students.”

Visit tampabay.com for more education news from the Times staff.

Around the State

Appointed school superintendent: What now?, Ocala Star-Banner, Joe Callahan
“Voters on Tuesday decided to change the way Marion County selects its school superintendent. The elected system is gone; Marion’s School Board will now appoint K-12 chiefs. In the event that this might happen, the board recently asked its attorney, Paul Gibbs, to research the issue and determine how it should proceed. Gibbs did so and concluded that the School Board is now in charge of day-to-day operations of the district.”

Orange County private school removed from Florida’s voucher program for hiring felon as MMA coach, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal and Annie Martin
“An Orange County private school — already facing scrutiny after a 4-year-old pre-K student was found dead in a hot car in its parking lot — has been yanked from Florida’s school voucher programs for hiring a man convicted of manslaughter, according to documents from the Florida Department of Education.”

Sarasota Housing Authority’s attendance program earns national acclaim, envy from Manatee, Herald-Tribune, Ryan McKinnon
“The Sarasota Housing Authority’s ‘Attendance Matters’ program has made it a violation of a public housing lease for a child not to attend school regularly, and if a parent is not proactive in making sure their child gets to school, they could lose their housing voucher. In the four years of the program’s existence, chronic absenteeism has been reduced by 25 percent among children they have worked with living in public housing, according to William Russell, executive director of the Sarasota Housing Authority. And the Housing Authority has not had to evict a family based on their child not attending school.”

No issue is more important to Florida’s future than education, influencers say, Miami Herald, Adam Wollner
“The key to solving the wide array of policy challenges facing Florida starts with one thing: education.”

Other Views

SAT scores reveal the depth of Florida’s lousy education system, Orlando Sentinel columnist Lauren Ritchie
“Over the years, Florida has used its own poorly written amateur tests to befuddle residents and claim that students as a whole are doing wonderfully. There was the High School Competency Test, FCAT and now the Florida Standards Assessment — all of which let the state compare its students to other Florida students. Oh, the little darlings are brilliant! Look at the great success! But things go south when Florida crawls out of its bubble and students must go up against others nationwide who take the same test. That’s when the truth will out. The dismal quality of education is impossible to deny.”

What do SAT scores really say about Florida’s K-12 education?, Patrick R. Gibbons, Redefined
Routinely underappreciated, Florida’s K-12 schools do outstanding work with what they are given. Despite a relatively large low-income/working-class majority-minority student population and low per-pupil funding compared to other states, Florida performs about middle of the pack on national assessments. Results look even better when making apples-to-apples comparisons, which include controlling for racial and income differences between states.  Unfortunately, that good news is often ignored by many professing anxiety over education quality in the Sunshine State.”

Florida’s SAT results are significant because Florida’s educational leaders refuse to make a commitment to secondary-level math achievement., Bridge To Tomorrow blog, FSU physics professor Paul Cottle
“Florida’s educational leaders frequently brag about how well the state’s elementary school students achieve in reading and math, and how they do so despite the state’s demographic challenges. Those brags are justified, as shown by results from 4th grade results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). But in math at the middle and high school levels, the state has nothing to brag about.”

Voters invest in Hillsborough schools, transportation, Tampa Bay Times editorial
“Hillsborough County voters embraced critical investments Tuesday in public schools and transportation that will improve the quality of life and enhance the county’s economic competitiveness. This is wonderful news for residents and businesses, and it’s a powerful vote of confidence that reflects the ambition of a growing region.”

Reports of Note

A Child’s Day: Parental Interaction, School Engagement, and Extracurricular Activities: 2014, U.S. Census Bureau
“Not surprisingly, high engagement in school was more common among children who participate in extracurricular activities compared to those who do not. And children who participate in multiple extracurricular activities have higher school engagement than children who participate in one activity. Markers of social and economic status such as parental education and poverty status were associated with engagement.”

A Parent Guide to State and Local Report Cards, U.S. Department of Education
“The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requires every State and district to publish a report card. The report cards provide parents and the public with important information on State, district, and school performance and progress. The information in this presentation provides an overview of the types of information included on report cards. States and districts can also add information they believe is useful and helpful to parents and others in evaluating schools’ progress.”

Coming Up

Week of Dec. 11: Legislative committee meetings

Jan. 16, 2019: Florida Board of Education

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