Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Common Core Opponents Seeking Special Legislative Session

Florida Parents Against Common Core protest at a national meeting discussing the standards in June in Orlando.

Courtesy of Laura Zorc

Florida Parents Against Common Core protest at a national meeting discussing the standards in June in Orlando.

A coalition of groups opposing Florida’s use of new math and language arts standards say they will try to force the Legislature to call a special session to address two bills which would put the standards on hold.

The gambit is a long shot. Twenty percent of the Legislature must call for the special session, and a super majority must vote to approve it.

Activists are unhappy HB 25 and SB 1316 have yet to get a hearing with the 60-day legislative session winding down. The identical bills would halt implementation of the standards until the state completes an analysis of how much the standards will cost, and public hearings are held in every Congressional district. They say House and Senate leadership are blocking the bills.

“We worked so hard just to get that bill; find someone to carry the bill for us,” said Laura Zorc, a co-founder of Florida Parents Against Common Core. “They’re saying our concerns aren’t valid. Why not hear the bill? Why not let it go for a vote? If it was going to fail, then let it fail.”

Continue Reading

Meet The New SAT

Throw away the old prep guides because the SAT will be changing in 2016.

Marlith's / flickr

Throw away the old prep guides because the SAT will be changing in 2016.

The new SAT will take a little less time, focus on words students are more likely to encounter and have fewer answers for each multiple choice question, according to a preview from the College Board, to non-profit which oversees the college entrance exam.

Changes to the SAT are particularly important in Florida, because the Sunshine State has pushed hard to have more students take college entrance exams each year. In addition, SAT and ACT scores can exempt Florida students from taking the state’s college placement exam. The scores can also be used as a substitute for the 10th grade FCAT exam required for graduation.

College Board president David Coleman is the same guy who helped lead development of the Common Core State Standards fully adopted by 44 states including Florida. The SAT changes will incorporate ideas and concepts emphasized in Common Core.

Here’s how things will change overall and why, according to College Board’s Chief of Assessment Cynthia Schmeiser, from the Huffington Post:

Continue Reading

Gov. Scott Avoids Question About House, Senate Private School Scholarship Dispute

Gov. Rick Scott at Tampa's Graham Elementary School.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Gov. Rick Scott at Tampa's Graham Elementary School.

House and Senate leaders are divided over whether students who receive a tax credit scholarship to attend a private school should have to take the state’s standardized test.

The dispute — the Senate wants the requirement, the House does not — has threatened to derail a bill which would expand eligibility for the private school scholarships.

At one point, Gov. Rick Scott agreed with Senate leadership about the testing. So we asked Scott if he still felt the same way at a visit to a Tampa school.

His answer was noncommittal.

“I think all of our education system likes measurement,” Scott said. “They want to get better. I have not met a teacher that doesn’t say ‘Look, I believe in measurement.’ We gotta have the right measurement for every school that we have. And I support what’s happening in our schools. We’re clearly doing the right thing when it comes to the results.

Continue Reading

Doral Charter School Will Be Run By Miami-Dade School District

In a twist, Doral developers broke ground on a new charter school which will be privately financed and run by the Miami-Dade school district. The elementary school is expected to enroll 800 students.


Downtown Doral Charter Elementary School, part of a 120-acre Codina Partners project of luxury condo towers, shops and restaurants, was born from a deal that will result in a new facility that is privately controlled and financed but publicly managed by the school board.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said such an arrangement was unprecedented in charter-friendly Florida, if not the country.

“This is the first time that a district-managed charter school from the ground up is created in the United States of America,” he said. “We are at the forefront of school choice.”

Codina Partners CEO Ana-Marie Codina Barlick said discussions with the district spanned a decade, but that for years talks about the school were unproductive. That changed a few years ago, she said, resulting in a 2012 agreement through which the $3.5 million plot of land at 8390 NW 53rd St. was deeded to the school board.

Read more at: www.miamiherald.com

Bandwidth, Computers, Classroom Space All A Challenge In Online Testing

Florida school districts have to upgrade networking and devices for new online testing.

ACS Amman / Flickr

Florida school districts have to upgrade networking and devices for new online testing.

Having enough high-speed Internet and computers are problems as Florida school districts transition to online testing tied to new math and language arts standards.

But testing rules have made classroom space and logistics a challenge as well.

Pensacola News Journal reporter Michael Scott Davidson outlines some of the issues in Santa Rosa County schools:

Wyrosdick said the school district has invested about $3.5 million to buy and upgrade infrastructure to meet the minimum specifications for testing systems. The standards are required but not funded by the Florida Department of Education, so a recent half-cent sales tax has financed the purchases.

There are other problems, too. Guidelines that dictate how far apart students taking the test must sit mean that in a close-quarter computer lab, not every available computer can be utilized.

Scheduling is a big problem because most classrooms aren’t outfitted with enough computers to conduct a standardized test, said Bill Emerson, Santa Rosa County assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment.

“It used to be if we had 300 kids taking the FCAT, we’d put them all in the cafeteria,” he said. “Now it takes 10 different classrooms to do that. And most of our schools don’t have 10 computer labs.

Continue Reading

Florida Polytechnic University Selects First President

Randy Avent, left, shakes hands with Florida Polytechnic Board of Trustees Chair Rob Gidel.

Courtesy of Florida Polytechnic University

Randy Avent, left, shakes hands with Florida Polytechnic Board of Trustees Chair Rob Gidel.

Randy Avent has a career of turning research into new defense, computer science and life science projects.

Florida Polytechnic’s Board of Trustees said they want Avent to inspire future entrepreneurs at the Polk County campus.

Avent was the board’s unanimous choice for the university’s first president.

“Dr. Avent personifies the innovative, entrepreneurial qualities that we hope to inspire in our future students,” Board of Trustees Chair Rob Gidel said in a statement. “As an institution focused on hands-on learning, we’re proud to welcome Dr. Avent, who has impressive experience and demonstrated commitment to applied research and academics.”

Avent is the associate vice chancellor of research development at North Carolina State University. He’s also led research for the Department of Defense and worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Labortory.

Avent will now negotiate a contract with the university, which the Lakeland Ledger reported is expected to come with a salary between $310,750 to $550,000. And the Florida Board of Governors must approve Avent’s selection.

Florida’s 12th university is scheduled to open in August.

The Florida Tests Which Will Remain After The Switch To Common Standards

The FCAT will mostly disappear from Florida schools next year. But like a zombie, the state's science exam will still carry the FCAT name.

Scott Beale / Flickr

The FCAT will mostly disappear from Florida schools next year. But the state's science exam will still carry the FCAT name.

The final bell begins tolling today for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Florida schools are scheduled to complete the switch to new K-12 math and language arts standards based on Common Core this fall. New standards will require a new test.

So Florida is switching to math and language arts exams produced by the American Institutes for Research.

FCAT is going away — with one exception. Fifth and eighth grade students will still take the FCAT science exam. Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle noted the exam will stagger on:

Continue Reading

Remembering FCAT, 1995-2014

This is the last year Florida students will sit for the FCAT.

Photo by Norm Robbie (Flickr) / Illustration by Sammy Mack

This is the last year Florida students will sit for the FCAT.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is dying, say Florida education officials. By this time next year, the FCAT will be replaced with a new, Common Core-aligned assessment.

FCAT was born in 1995 in the humid June of a Tallahassee summer.

The Florida Commission on Education Reform and Accountability under Gov. Lawton Chiles gave birth to the test. It was part of a series of recommendations that were meant to give local districts more control and a better sense of how their schools were doing.

“At some point we may look fondly at the FCAT and wish we had it back,” says Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association — the umbrella organization for Florida’s teachers unions.

Eventually, Ford and the FEA would become outspoken rivals of FCAT, but the relationship didn’t sour immediately.

“It gave me information as a classroom teacher,” recalls Ford. “Unfortunately it was used as a political football to be the decision-maker for every decision that anybody wanted to tie to a test.”

Continue Reading

Hillsborough Superintendent Says District Is Ready For Medical Emergencies

Hillsborough County schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia asked the State Board of Education to review the school grading formula.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Hillsborough County schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia asked the State Board of Education to review the school grading formula.

Hillsborough County schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia is talking about what happened on a district bus when a child with muscular dystrophy stopped breathing and eventually died in 2012, now that the district has settled its lawsuit with the family.

In a column written for the Tampa Bay Times, Elia notes the school district has 85 to 100 medical emergencies requiring an ambulance every most months. She said the investigation found no criminal conduct, but that the school district has learned from Isabella Herrera’s death:

Despite testimony from several medical experts, there is no conclusive opinion as to whether different decisions on the bus would have yielded a different outcome. Regardless, our school district has worked to improve the reliability of our bus radio system and bolstered training for drivers, emphasizing that bus drivers can and should use their personal cellphones to call 911 when warranted. We have reached out for input from parents and professionals to see how we could improve services for special needs children — and have made multiple changes based on that input.

At the April 1 School Board meeting, at which the $800,000 settlement was finalized, Isabella’s mother made an impassioned plea to board members and to the school district to keep her daughter in mind when we make decisions regarding the most vulnerable among our students. I know that board members have taken those words to heart — and I certainly have.

Read the full column here.

Jacksonville Effort Raises $20 Million To Recruit And Keep Top Teachers

An education-focused nonprofit has helped Duval County schools raise almost $20 million dollars to train and recruit teachers for 36 district schools over the next five years. Most of the money — $15 million — will be offered as incentives to teachers who switch to one of the 36 schools, or bonuses for teachers who raise student achievement in those schools.


The QEA Fund birthed from an initiative launched in 2004 by the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida to improve student achievement. The group called upon the generosity of about 30 local philanthropists with an ultimate goal of raising $50 million. They also sought the guidance of national consulting firm the Bridgespan Group and Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti to determine how to best invest the dollars.

So far, QEA has raised $36 million, which will go toward six initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining quality educators in the district’s 36 toughest schools — all part of the Ribault, Raines and Andrew Jackson High School feeder pattern. Some of the initiatives have already begun, but the majority will go into full effect next year.

Read more at: news.wjct.org

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education