Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Gina Jordan

  • Email: gjordan@miamiherald.com

Orange County Schools Want To Set An Example During Switch To Common Core And Digital Instruction

ocps.net

Orange County Superintendent Barbara Jenkins and Chairman Bill Sublette focused their State of the Schools speech on changes in curriculum and technology.

Orange County schools superintendent Barbara Jenkins says the district should be a leader as they switch to new education standards and add more required digital instruction.

“Orange County Public Schools intends to be at the forefront of that change,” Jenkins said during her “State of the Schools” address last week with school board Chairman Bill Sublette.

The two spoke about “schools of the future” and what it will take to make Orange County, one of the nation’s largest school districts, the “top producer of successful students in the nation.”

So, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

“After 16 years of Sunshine State Standards and FCAT,” Jenkins said, “we are transitioning to Common Core State Standards.”

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test  is being phased out. In its place, students will take exams being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers, or PARCC, starting in 2015.

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Orange County Opting For More K-8 Schools

sixninepixels/freedigitaldownloads.net

Orange County is planning to add up to five K-8 schools. Research shows students at those schools tend to perform better and have fewer discipline problems.

The popularity of K-8 schools is growing in one of Florida’s largest districts.

Orange County Public Schools will add up to five kindergarten through 8th grade schools to the three already in place.

These are traditional public schools, not charters or magnets. Kids will be zoned for them just like any other.

“A growing body of research shows the K-8 model is correlated to higher student achievement, higher attendance, and lower student discipline levels,” Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said during the State of the Schools address.

The average middle school in Orange County has 1,000 students. The new K-8 schools will have similar student populations.

“Our research has shown that the optimal size of a K-8 is 900 to 1,200 students,” Jenkins said. “Anything larger, and we need to build a traditional middle school. Anything smaller, and we cannot justify the operating costs.”

The key to their popularity is that K-8 schools are smaller and the kids only have to make one transition — into high school.

But private schools and charters are often the only option for parents who prefer a K-8 school.

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Bush: Don’t Back Away From High Education Standards

National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA)/flickr

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told business leaders gathered in Michigan that education can pull kids out of poverty.

“There’s an unspoken right in our country,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told attendees at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan Wednesday.

“That is the right to rise. The right for all Americans to reach their full potential.”

Bush gave a keynote speech to the audience of business leaders, spending much of his time talking about education. He’s behind two groups that have set out to change education – the Foundation for Florida’s Future and the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

He stayed on point with his message: School choice, merit-based pay for teachers, and higher academic standards are good; Unions and social promotion of students are bad.

Bush said being competitive in a global economy means measuring everything American students do against the best students in the world.

“Higher standards is a key element of that. The Common Core State Standards are clear and straight forward,” Bush said. “They will allow for more innovation in the classroom; less regulation. They’ll equip students to compete with their peers across the globe.”

“Do not pull back. Please do not pull back from high, lofty standards,” said Bush, acknowledging the backlash of late against Common Core.

“The greatest mistake we make in public education is underestimating the capacity of our children to learn. When we do that, particularly with our at risk kids,” Bush said, “we take from them the right to rise.”

Bush said America isn’t rising to the challenge, because only 4 in 10 kids who “go through the most expensive education process in the world” are ready for college or a career by the end of 12th grade.   Continue Reading

Pinellas Superintendent Outlines District Goals At Education Summit

www.pcsb.org

Superintendent Mike Grego is wrapping up his first school year as head of Pinellas County Schools.

Education leaders gathered in Orlando today for a summit sponsored by the Florida Sterling Council, a not-for-profit corporation supported by the Executive Office of the Governor.

The summit covered a wide range of issues facing schools and universities.

Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego laid out his plan to move the district forward as the state transitions to Common Core standards. Florida schools are scheduled to use the new standards in every grade by the fall of 2014.

The district will need to establish goals in critical need areas and hold the players accountable, he said.

Grego’s five goals include improving student performance, especially at schools with a higher percentage of students living in poverty; improving district reading instruction; ensuring schools are safe and reducing staff turnover; balancing the district budget; and making sure school technology is up to date and ready for online end-of-course exams.

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Bennett Ready To ‘Drill Into The Data’ To Improve FCAT Reading Scores

Wishard of Oz/flickr

Students get one more year of the FCAT, then they begin taking Common Core assessments.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is talking about today’s Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) results.

The Florida Department of Education (DOE) released results from 3rd grade Reading and Mathematics assessments as well as FCAT 2.0 Writing for grades 4, 8 and 10.

“While we have relatively static third grade reading and math scores, we think the writing component is a real step forward,” Bennett said, noting that scores for third-graders didn’t change much from last year.

Overall, 3rd grade students increased their reading scores by one percentage point and math scores stayed the same.

“I am a person that doesn’t believe that static scores are really ever acceptable. We can’t be satisfied,” Bennett said, “and frankly I think the flat performance in reading is something we should take special notice to given our emphasis on reading.”

“We intend to drill into the data with our districts,” Bennett said, “help our districts come up with improvement plans to make sure we are improving ourselves in those areas.”

On a positive note, 4th graders saw a nine-point increase in the percentage of students scoring at 3.5 or higher in writing.

“The 4th grade writing results, I think, show incredible improvement,” Bennett said.

As Florida transitions to Common Core State Standards, Bennett said he expects to see improvement in all areas because teachers will be better able to meet “the instructional needs of students.”

Next year, students will again take FCAT 2.0 Reading, Writing and Math – then switch to the new Common Core assessments in 2014-15.

Tidbits from DOE:

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FCAT Writing Scores Show Improvement

Florida Department of Education

Scores from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test have been released. The test is being phased out to make way for new Common Core assessments.

The Florida Department of Education (DOE) has posted the results of FCAT 2.0 Writing and 3rd Grade FCAT 2.0 Reading and Mathematics assessments.

Overall, FCAT 2.0 Writing in grades 4, 8 and 10 improved.

Students don’t need to pass the writing test to advance to the next grade. But, the percentage of students scoring at least a 3.5 – on a scale of 1 to 6 – is used to calculate school grades.

The results for 2013 show students who scored a 3.5 and above increased by 4 percentage points over last year, and those scoring at 4.0 and above increased by 5 percentage points.

DOE shows a breakdown of scores based on race/ethnicity, with white students performing better overall than their Hispanic and African-American counterparts.

The scores also show improvements for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities.

FCAT 2.0 Writing

Statewide Subgroup Comparison, 2012-2013

Grades 4, 8, and 10

Score Point 3.0 and    Above

Score Point 3.5 and Above

Score Point 4.0 and Above

2012

2013

2012

2013

2012

2013

All Students

81%

82%

54%

58%

33%

38%

White

83%

84%

59%

62%

38%

42%

African-American

76%

79%

43%

49%

23%

28%

Hispanic

81%

83%

52%

56%

30%

36%

Students with Disabilities

55%

58%

27%

31%

13%

16%

English Language Learners

57%

59%

27%

31%

12%

15%

Click here to check each county’s performance. Individual schools are also listed.

Did you know the FCAT is going away? Check out StateImpact Florida’s parents guide to how new standardized tests coming in 2015 are different from the FCAT.

 

Why Florida’s Per-Student Spending Isn’t As Bad As It Looks

James Madison Institute

JMI's Bob Sanchez says the report released by the U.S. Census Bureau wasn't exactly an apples-to-apples comparison of per-student funding among the states.

As the school year is winding down, Florida school districts are looking ahead to next year and the additional funding coming their way.

Almost half a billion dollars is available to boost the salaries of teachers and other personnel. Plus, spending is going up by more than $400 per student.

Legislative leaders have repeatedly said “education is the big winner” in the state budget that goes into effect July 1.

But, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report this week that may have taken the wind out of some sails.

The report, Public Education Finances: 2011, found Florida ranks 42nd among the states and the District of Columbia for per-pupil spending.

A couple of problems with the report:

  1. It’s outdated. A lot has happened with Florida’s budget since mid-2011.
  2. It doesn’t explain where the money goes. How the money is spent is good to know.

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Panel: Florida Teacher Evaluation System Still Needs Tweaks

A panel in Jacksonville discusses flaws in the value-added model for calculating teacher salaries and whether schools are on a new path toward teaching to the test.


If Florida continues to base its teacher evaluations solely on student academic growth and observations from a principal, that might lead educators to “teach to the test.”

Currently, a public school teacher is evaluated based on two components: principal observation and value-added data.

A four-person, educator panel at the University of North Florida decided on Tuesday that teachers deserve other information factored into their annual evaluation.

Read more at: jacksonville.com

Report: Florida Among The Cheapest States In Spending Per Student

forwardstl/flickr

Florida is among the states that spend the least on students, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Florida spent $8,887 on each public school student in 2011, making it one of the lowest states in the nation for per-pupil spending.

The totals from the U.S. Census Bureau – including federal revenue – were compiled before Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature cut about $1.3 billion from education funding.

Since then, the state has put about $2 billion back into education, so Florida students may be faring a little better these days.

For example, Florida’s share of per-student spending is going up by more than $400 in the budget year starting in July.

The numbers from the Public Education Finances: 2011 report are from data collected through the end of June 2011.

Florida ranked number 42 in student spending. The national average at that time was $10,560 per student.

The report includes details about spending on instruction, student transportation, salaries and employee benefits.

 

Board Of Education Wants More Focus On Common Core

FL Dept. of Education

Commission Tony Bennett told the Board of Education the state will aggressively roll out Common Core and fight misinformation about the new standards.

The Florida Board of Education is meeting today in Jacksonville.

The panel heard an update from Education Commissioner Tony Bennett on three strategic initiatives being carried out over the next year.

The initiatives are part of a reorganization at the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) that involves analyzing every position. A lot of job descriptions may change to accommodate the new initiatives.

For example, jobs related to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) will change as the FCAT is phased out and new assessments are developed.

But board member Kathleen Shanahan was less concerned about plans for reorganization and more interested in focusing on Common Core State Standards.

“This wave is coming to kill Common Core,” Shanahan said. “I don’t want to be seen as a board lost in reorg.”

“No one is a more aggressive advocate for Common Core than I have been,” Bennett said. “The department (FDOE) is going to deploy more aggressively than any department in the country on Common Core.”

Bennett says the following three initiatives are being carried out as planned, with FDOE taking great care to abide by state and federal statutes.    Continue Reading

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