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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of May 20, 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.

Graduation days are upon us, as students finish their exams and get ready for a summer break. Among the many graduates are the Pinellas County teen who overcame a drug selling mom and life in foster care to become valedictorian. And the Miami-Dade student who’s the third member of her family to become valedictorian at the same prep school. When you read the rest of this week’s news highlights, which often has to do more with politics than schooling, don’t forget these kids are what it’s really all about. • 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. Send a note to

Top of the Times

Judy Genshaft gives $20 million to USF to build a new honors college, Megan Reeves

“Outgoing University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft is giving the school $20 million to build a new honors college that will bear her name.”

Florida education commissioner suggests takeover authority for long-struggling schools, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Florida school districts that fail to follow state rules to improve persistently low performing schools might need to face the possibility of state takeover to force new approaches, education commissioner Richard Corcoran said Wednesday. ‘We will find ways to hold these districts accountable,’ Corcoran told the State Board of Education.”

Hillsborough teacher evokes strong reactions with public resignation, Marlene Sokol

“She’s leaving the teaching profession, but Bianca Goolsby isn’t going anywhere. The 29-year-old business technology teacher who blew the whistle on violence and disorder at Seffner’s Jennings Middle School said Monday that she will continue to advocate for minority youth and improvements in the Hillsborough County school system. ‘We need to hold these people accountable, because it’s absolutely deplorable,’ Goolsby said.”

Valedictorian: His mom sold drugs and he became a foster kid. Then a teacher took him in., Divya Kumar"When she first got the email about her student, Amy Krusemark was perplexed. Robert Hurley, a tall freshman with a messy bun of curls in her geometry class at Boca Ciega High, would have to move away soon. He had been living in a St. Petersburg foster home, and the managers in charge of his case were pushing to relocate him. ... A former foster parent herself, with two open rooms at home, she thought about it some more. Then she approached Hurley. ‘I want to help you be you,’ she told him."

Visit for more education news from the Times staff.

Around the State

Did Sarasota schools sacrifice special needs students for school grade?, Herald-Tribune, Ryan McKinnon

“The complaint alleges and internal emails confirm that [a student with learning disabilities] was abruptly pulled from the program once he hit high school and put into the mainstream curriculum when it immediately became evident he was operating on a third-grade level. A complaint filed on his behalf raises the possibly that district officials transferred him, along with an unknown other number of students, in order to protect school grades by making low-performing students exempt from state testing.”

How did they do it? Miami family’s 3 children are all valedictorians going to Stanford, Miami Herald, Colleen Wright

“The Mistele family is three for three in children named valedictorian of their high school senior class at Ransom Everglades School. What are the odds of that? Probably a lot lower when you also factor in that all three Misteles went on to Stanford University.”

Florida kindergartener collects PB&J donations to feed classmates, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Cassidy Alexander

“Six-year-old Eva Chapman was worried about another student in her kindergarten class having enough to eat over the summer and enough things that he would like to eat. She attends Spruce Creek Elementary in Port Orange. She and her mom started a very specific food drive, Eva explained: ‘So we could have peanut butter and jelly for children all around the world.’”

Board Of Ed Member Michael Olenick Says He Opposes Letting Teachers Carry Guns, WFSU, Lynn Hatter

“Florida’s ‘Guardian’ program is voluntary for districts. It was created in the wake of last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and initially, only allowed school personnel other than classroom teachers to carry guns as a sort of last line of defense. State lawmakers expanded the program recently to include all teachers, something State Board of Education member Michael Olenick, a former teacher and prosecutor, strongly disagrees with.”

Beyond the state’s spin: Simple survey reveals frustrated educators, families, and a troubled FL school system, Florida Phoenix, Diane Rado

“The state’s massive effort to get public input about replacing or revamping Florida’s academic standards has opened the floodgates in schools and homes with schoolchildren, revealing a far more troubled picture of public education than the spin that comes from press releases and news conferences. A plethora of voices, coming from administrators and teachers to grandparents and moms and dads, made blunt assessments of what’s going on at schools in thousands of comments for a survey launched by the Florida Department of Education in February.”

For the latest roundup of Florida education news, visit the Gradebook weekday mornings.

Other Views

Have a moment for another school shooting?, Sun-Sentinel guest column, Rabbi Sholom Ciment

“How could this glorious country, the best humanity has ever had to offer, produce such evil? The truth pierces deeper than many wish to concede. America’s education system has lost its soul. Education has become strictly an accrual of knowledge. Gone are the values on which our founding fathers established this country.”

Teachers union ‘analysis’ of Florida’s new voucher undeserving of media coverage, Redefined blog, Ron Matus

“The Florida Education Association, which is virulently opposed to private school vouchers, has released a perfectly predictable fiscal impact ‘analysis’ of the new Family Empowerment Scholarship. Less foreseeable was the bounty of uncritical coverage it received from news media.”

The results of Florida’s education reforms are impressive. Their return-on-investment is totally off the charts., Foundation for Florida’s Future blog, Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

“To be sure, a handful of other states made strong gains at times over the past two decades, too. Massachusetts deserves special praise for zooming to the very top of the rankings in practically every category, but New Jersey, Indiana and, more recently, Mississippi showed strength, as well. But consider an important qualification: States like Massachusetts and New Jersey made progress, but spent a ton of money along the way. ... Florida, on the other hand, kept spending per pupil flat as a pancake.”

Why are parents leaving traditional public schools and ‘choosing’ something else?, TC Palm columnist Gil Smart

“So clearly, these are boom times for ‘school choice’ and parents who ... have bailed out, or want to bail out, from Florida’s traditional public education system. And that’s what I don’t get. See, I’ve got three kids in the Martin County School District; a senior about to graduate, a sixth-grader hoping to make jazz band next year, and a third-grader looking forward to sleeping in this summer. Between Pennsylvania and Florida, I’ve had at least one of my kids in public schools since 2006. And at no point did I or my wife think: This is terrible, we have to get out.”

What many black parents think about when teachers are armed in schools, Washington Post guest column, Rann Miller of the 21st Century Community Learning Center

“I am horrified at the notion of armed teachers. I echo the concerns and fears of African American students and the families in Texas, where teachers have been armed since 2013. I cringe when I consider that teachers in Florida — where the murder of black youth have been justified under a stand-your-ground state law — are allowed to carry firearms.”

Reports of Note

Rise and Shine: How school start times affect academic performance, Jennifer Heissel of Naval Postgraduate School and Samuel Norris of University of Chicago

“Our research shows that adjusting school start times so that high school students have the latest start time would significantly increase achievement for older children at a very low academic cost for younger children—who will more than make up for this cost when they grow older. Even when start times are reordered so that the average start time across the district remains the same, there are non-trivial gains in average academic performance that would benefit students in all demographic groups.”

What Social and Emotional Learning Advocates Can Learn From Common Core, American Enterprise Institute, Michael Q. McShane

“Republicans, Democrats, teachers and the general public all soured on the Common Core in a few short years. If SEL advocates do not wish to see their efforts meet the same fate, there are lessons they can learn from Common Core. Experience is a hard teacher, but it can impart important information.”

Coming Up

May 27: Memorial Day, no school

June 12: Education Practices Commission, conference call, 3 p.m. Phone Number: (605) 313-4486 Passcode 841279

June 11-13: Florida Board of Governors, University of South Florida, Tampa

July 17: Florida Board of Education, Polk State College, Lakeland

Sept. 16-20: Florida Legislature interim committee week

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