It’s been another busy week in Florida education news. Reforms to the state’s higher education system took a big step forward in the Legislature, while AP results showed increasing student participation and passage of the accelerated courses and tests. Florida’s teachers continued to earn strong marks in their annual evaluations, and state House members talked about urging Congress to just back off on all those regulations. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

7 Months Ago

7 Months Ago

7 Months Ago

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As transgender restroom issue heads to high court, local school districts wait for more direction, Marlene Sokol
"Are transgender students protected under the federal Title 9 law against school discrimination based on sex? And, if so, is it enough to allow a transgender student to use a single-stall restroom as Hillsborough does? With arguments scheduled March 28 before the U.S. Supreme Court in a Virginia case, local school districts are looking for direction."

Florida Senate could vote on higher ed reforms during first week of 2017 session, Kristen M. Clark
"A top priority of Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is ready for the full Senate to vote on once the 2017 session begins March 7. The higher education package — formerly two bills now blended into one (SB 2) — includes a variety of reforms intended to elevate Florida’s State University System and its state colleges to a more competitive level, nationally and internationally."

House Speaker Richard Corcoran on tax increase for schools: ‘Hell no’, Steve Bousquet
"House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has two simple words for Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Senate on taxes and spending: ‘Hell, no.’ Corcoran says he won’t compromise on the question of whether the Legislature should write a budget that includes nearly $500 million more in local property taxes from Florida homeowners to hit Scott’s target of a K-12 spending increase, under a program known as required local effort."

Florida Department of Education looks at tougher passing scores for alternate tests, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"High school juniors and seniors who haven’t yet passed their exit-level language arts Florida Standards Assessment get another crack at the test at the end of this month. Their chance to retake any failed Algebra I end-of-course exam comes in March. They kralbet might think hard about if and when they want to take one of the state’s approved alternate tests, which they can substitute for the state ones as graduation requirements if they score high enough. Because the Department of Education is taking a look at making the passing ‘concordant’ scores higher."

Old (expensive) habits die hard, even as Hillsborough strains to cut its schools budget, Marlene Sokol
"Hillsborough, in particular, is 19 months into a financial shake-up that began when investment advisors sounded alarms about a $200 million loss in reserves. But while the district has economized in some areas and upended its accounting practices, it’s been slow to retreat from some of the practices that landed it in hot water."

Most Florida teachers continue to get strong evaluation ratings, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Nearly all of Florida’s evaluated public school teachers continued to receive strong reviews in 2015-16, according to newly released data from the state Department of Education. As in previous years, about 98 percent of teachers statewide rated either ‘highly effective’ (42.9%) or ‘effective’ (52.0%), with a tiny 0.2 percent receiving ‘unsatisfactory’ marks, 0.7 percent as ‘developing’ in their first three years, and 1.2 percent ‘needs improvement.’ Another 28,683 teachers were not evaluated."

Recognition money for top-rated and improving schools drops 36 percent statewide, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"Higher standards and tougher tests may have cost many Florida schools reward money from the state, recent data suggests. In total, the state gave out 36 percent less school recognition award money this year than last year, according to data from the Florida Department of Education."

A cheer squad of one: Nims’ only cheerleader embodies Trojan spirit, Tallahassee Democrat, Ryan Dailey
"Nims Middle School eighth-grader Tianiya Hall-Scales committed to being a cheerleader. She had never been part of a cheer squad before this year but decided to go out for the team on a whim. But, the day of a recent cheer showcase at Chiles High, all of Hall-Scales’ teammates decided to back out of the performance. It was just hours before showtime. Rather than quit along with her teammates, Hall-Scales got ready to take the stage. Alone."

Disciplined students become experts in school community, Gainesville Sun, Deborah Strange
"The 25 seventh-graders who received the most discipline referrals as sixth-graders met with [teacher Darby] Delane every week during lunch to discuss their backgrounds and challenges. They acted as community experts, Delane said, able to observe and comment on distressed neighborhoods. ‘The kids, I thought, had to be there,’ Delane said. ‘We needed them.’"

Hidden dropouts: How schools make low achievers disappear, USA Today/ProPublica, Heather Vogell and Hannah Fresques
"The Orlando schools illustrate a national pattern. Alternative schools have long served as placements for students who violated disciplinary codes. But since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 refashioned the yardstick for judging schools, alternative education has taken on another role: A silent release valve for high schools like Olympia that are straining under the pressure of accountability reform."

Failing schools erode Jefferson’s economy, Tallahassee Democrat, TaMaryn Waters
Real estate agent Lynette "Sirmon has pulled all her tricks and charm to sell the home. It needs a family, she said. But she hangs her head in shame when potential buyers ask – how’s the school system? It’s the inevitable question she hates. Jefferson County Schools are under siege: A financial meltdown, under-performing students, high principal turnover, absent teachers and more than a decade of crisis."

School boards should encourage public comments, Sun-Sentinel editorial
"Addressing a school board meeting can be the ultimate civics lesson for a student who feels passionate about righting a wrong. But increasingly, South Florida school boards are applying pressure on students, teachers and parents to avoid airing criticism in public. It’s a disturbing trend that discourages the right and duty of citizens to speak up. And it sends a terrible message to students so passionate about an issue that they are willing to sit through a school board meeting for the chance at three minutes of public comment."

Hidden inside "Fewer, Better Tests" are Cold Showers and other Baloney, Accountabaloney blog
"Sometimes you learn most about a bill from what is NOT mentioned. In this case, there are two GLARING omissions from the sponsors’ press conference presentations. Perhaps these are the REAL reasons for this bill."

I had only 2 black teachers growing up. I equated intelligence to ‘whiteness’, Orlando Sentinel guest columnist Shauna Tulloch
"Growing up in Orlando, I longed to see more adults in my school who looked like me and shared my heritage. Instead, the adults in the building rarely reflected the students in class. I hungered for African-American role models when I was a child. It became a driving force in my decision to become a teacher myself."

I live and breathe public schools: Help me fight for education, Orlando Sentinel guest column, FIU professor Laura Dinehart
"So what now? How do we – educators, parents, citizens, and students – ensure public education remains a pillar of our democracy?  I ask that everyone keep up the commitment to listen and pay attention to what’s being reported in education, not just at the federal level, but locally and especially at the state."

Analysis of the Extra Hour Initiative, OPPAGA
"At 19 Extra Hour schools, students performed better than similar students at non-participating schools in Year Two.  At 13 Extra Hour schools, students performed lower than similar students at non-participating schools in Year Two. These changes were statistically significant."

AP Program Results: Class of 2016, College Board
From the Florida Department of Education press release: "At 29.5 percent, Florida’s percentage of 2016 graduates who potentially earned college credit with a score of 3 or higher exceeded the national average (21.9 percent). Florida is third in the nation for improvement over the past 10 years in the percentage of graduates scoring 3 or higher during high school. Between 2006 and 2016, Florida improved by 11.0 percentage points, from 18.5 percent in 2006 to 29.5 percent in 2016."
See Cohort Data for more details

After months of committee meetings, the Florida Legislature officially begins session on March 7. Here’s the Senate calendar for the first week, and the House schedule. No agendas are out yet.

The State Board of Education meets March 22 in Tallahassee. The Board of Governors meets March 29-30, also in Tallahassee.

Student state testing begins Feb. 27 with writing exams and makeup assessments. Third grade reading tests begin March 27, with other grades taking language arts and math exams starting April 10.

Florida lawmakers continue to file bills related to education as the 2017 session approaches. Some of the latest ones include:

HB 989 / SB 1210, Instructional Materials Challenges
HB 15, Educational Options (voucher-like programs)
SB 1064, Student Discipline / School Resource Officer Qualifications
HM 7027, Federal Education Funding
HB 931, Advertising on School Buses

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New this week:
State Rep. Ralph Massullo on compromise and ‘legislation that works’
Federal funding, school rezoning and red sauce
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