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ICYMI: Florida education news, the week of Aug. 9 in review

Welcome to the Gradebook's weekly Florida education roundup. Each weekend, we'll provide a look back at the education news and commentary that kept us talking. Want it early? Send an email to jsolochek@tampabay.com, and we'll add you to the list that receives the update 12 hours before it publishes.

Top of the Times

Failure Factories, Michael LaForgia, Cara Fitzpatrick and Lisa Gartner
"In just eight years, Pinellas County School Board members turned five schools in the county's black neighborhoods into some of the worst in Florida."
See also an intriguing interactive chart

Florida's school testing debate is alive again with calls to adopt a national exam, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"The push to overhaul Florida's testing system is regaining momentum with a proposal to replace the new Florida Standards Assessments with tried and true national exams."

Eakins says Hillsborough school finances might get a look from outside auditor, Marlene Sokol
"Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins has so many questions about the district's finances, he is considering hiring an outside auditor to look at the books."

Pasco school district reaches tentative employee contract, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"For the first time in about a decade, the Pasco County school district has concluded its employee contract talks before faculty and staff return to work."

Hillsborough black students still expelled at higher rates, despite efforts to fix racial disparities, Marlene Sokol
"In a year when the Hillsborough County school district tried to ease racial disparities in student discipline, black students continued to be removed from their schools in larger numbers."
Read also one principal's response to the story

Around the state

Dropped assignment raises questions about book banning, Tallahassee Democrat, Amanda Claire Curcio
"A principal's ad-hoc decision to pull a summer reading assignment after a handful of parents slammed the book's content and language is calling into question Leon County Schools' censorship bylaws."
Follow-up: After book ban controversy, LCS reviews policies

Investigation: Charter school paying founder's firm for loan never made, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"Eagle Arts Academy, one of Palm Beach County's largest charter schools, is paying more than $38,000 to a company owned by its founder, calling it a loan "repayment" even though the school never borrowed money from the company and owes it no debt, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found. Rather than repaying a loan, the school is steering taxpayer dollars to a business owned by Gregory James Blount for money he claims he spent writing a charter application years before the school opened, records show."

Manatee school planning a complicated task, Herald-Tribune, Dale White
"As home construction continues to pick up, Manatee County commissioners say they have to work hand in hand with the School Board to make sure classroom capacity keeps pace as well. Although much of the public thinks otherwise, they cannot do so by only taking into account the amount of future residential development that is approved, county and school district staff told them Tuesday."

Reports of note

Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents' Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background, The American Journal of Family Therapy
"Contrary to the 10 Minute Rule, primary school children received about three times the recommended load of homework. The amount of homework load reported also varied significantly between English and Spanish speakers, as it did between parents with limited education and those with advanced education."

How Districts and Schools Can Make the Most of Course Access, Foundation for Excellence in Education
"Leading in an Era of Change: On the Ground profiles ten districts and charters in seven states utilizing Course Access or Course Access-like strategies to maximize the use of resources, better serve students and ensure districts are evolving with the needs of the 21st century student. Students take language courses from local universities, earn industry certification for workforce training and stay on course for graduation, even while pursuing time-intensive athletic or artistic activities. Taking place in small and large districts, rural and suburban, these cost-effective strategies harness technology to strengthen districts and offer new opportunities for students."

What does it mean to have your whole middle-school curriculum designed around games?, Hechinger Report, Alexandria Neason
"One morning, just before classes at New York City's Quest to Learn Middle School broke for lunch, Etai Kurtzman found himself transformed into a lemon tree. It was a warm day in late April, and his chatty sixth-grade class had been corralled from a narrow hallway into a classroom at the end of a short hall. Etai, tall and lanky, lugged a gray backpack to a desk that had been pushed up against a wall. Each student had been cast for a role-playing game either as a honeybee sent out from the hive or as a plant. In a flurry of organized chaos, the students simulated the pollination process: student honey bees, wearing pipe-cleaner antennae, approached classmates pretending to be plants and received small, colored building blocks. When a plant ran out of blocks, it meant their flowers had been pollinated. But the bees had to be careful: some of the plants randomly gave them white blocks, which represented pesticides and caused the bees to die. Their teacher, Kate Selkirk, was using this game as a starting point for an eight-week unit on math concepts — data analysis and graphing, proportions, probability and slope. But what does a beehive or a lemon tree have to do with any of that?"

What Doesn't Work in Education: The Politics of Distraction, Open Ideas at Pearson, John Hattie
"In my travels I have met with many political leaders and department officials and continue to be impressed with their commitment to improving their education systems, their desire to make them world-leading and their dedication to improving outcomes for students. But they struggle to have the hard, somewhat uncomfortable discussions about the variability in the effectiveness of what happens at the classroom level and instead focus on policies which are politically attractive but which have been shown to have little effect on improving student learning – structural 'fixes' such as more money, different forms of schooling, different types of buildings, performance pay for teachers, setting standards, privileging a few subjects, more assessments, more technology, lower class size, greater school choice, or longer school days, to list just a few."

Other views

The Big Jeb Bush Charter School Lie: Why His Florida Education 'Miracle' Is Hogwash, Alternet, Jeff Bryant

I'm not angry anymore, ConversationEd, Kathleen Jasper

Black parents should opt kids out of high-stakes tests, Florida Courier column by Glen Ford

Did you know ...

... there's also a Pasco school district in Washington state? And a Hillsborough school district in New Jersey?

Did we miss something? Let us know what you want to see in the roundup, and we'll take a look. Email your thoughts to jsolochek@tampabay.com. And thanks for reading.

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