Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

John O'Connor

Reporter

John O'Connor is the Miami-based education reporter for StateImpact Florida. John previously covered politics, the budget and taxes for The (Columbia, S.C) State. He is a graduate of Allegheny College and the University of Maryland.

Teacher Warns Students Are Set Up To Fail New Florida Test

A Marion County teacher wrote an open letter to students and parents telling them why she think students will fail the new Florida Standards Assessments math exam.


Here’s what I did to you: I taught you three different ways to divide multidigit numbers except the one way everyone else in the world was taught. I tried my best to teach it to you, but since I was never taught this way, I know I confused you quite a bit. When you went home to your mom and dad confused as to how to solve a division problem with pictures and partial quotients, your parents — out of desperation — showed you how they were taught. We call that the standard algorithm, which in Common Core is a dirty word in fifth grade.

The next day, you came back to school so excited because you got it! You weren’t confused anymore. All your answers were correct because you checked them using multiplication.

And then, I did the unthinkable. I gave you a zero because you didn’t do it my way, the Common Core way.

Read more at: www.ocala.com

Job Market Improving For Recent College Grads, But Pay Is Not

Recent college graduates are more likely to find work since the end of the Great Recession, but pay is not yet increasing.

dsb nola / Flickr

Recent college graduates are more likely to find work since the end of the Great Recession, but pay is not yet increasing.

New college graduates are finding it easier to land their first job  – and unemployment rates are dropping for most degree holders.

But paychecks are still getting smaller for most recent grads, according to a study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

The study shows that unemployment was down for nearly every category of majors in 2012, the only exception being communications and journalism.

Science and engineering grads had the lowest unemployment rate — most around five percent.

Architecture and social sciences had the highest unemployment rates — around 10 percent. Those rates are almost the same as for experienced workers with just a high school diploma.

But while the job market is recovering from the Great Recession, salaries are not. The Georgetown researchers say pay won’t fully recover from the recession until 2017.

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Gov. Scott Signs Paperwork Suspending 11th Grade Test

As he promised last week, Gov. Rick Scott has signed an executive order suspending Florida’s new 11th grade reading and writing exam this year. He’s asked lawmakers to make that change permanent.


The governor last week said that there was too much testing going on in Florida’s schools.

He said then he planned to use his executive power to stop the administration of the English language arts test for high school juniors. The test is based on new standards drawn primarily from Common Core standards.

But some school districts said they would not suspend the test without an official order from state officials.

Read more at: www.gainesville.com

Why Do-It-Yourself Charts Help Students Remember Math Lessons

Frances B. Tucker Elementary School 5th grade math teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar stands in front of an example of a line plot.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Frances B. Tucker Elementary School 5th grade math teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar stands in front of an example of a line plot.

The 5th grade math lesson at Frances S. Tucker Elementary School asked students to do a lot of things.

They were learning how to use a line plot to organize and visualize data.

They had to add fractions to find a total for the amount of cake or glasses of apple juice students consumed.

Then, they had to divide the total to find the average.

Along the way, the students frequently took a peek at charts hanging around the room. Called anchor charts, these diagrams were drawn by students in the other 5th grade class and laid out each of the steps they used to create a line plot.

As Miami-Dade schools have switched to Florida’s Common Core-based math standards anchor charts are an important addition to classrooms, said Michelle White, who directs math instruction for the school district.

“It tells a learning story,” White said. “When you walk in I can look at anchor charts and see what concepts have been covered.”

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Miami-Dade Classrooms Using Computerized Math Lessons

Frances S. Tucker Elementary students use the i-Ready software during class.

John O'Connor

Frances S. Tucker Elementary students use the i-Ready software during class.

On one side of Yaliesperanza Salazar’s math class at Miami’s Frances S. Tucker Elementary School, students were learning to group data and draw conclusions using a line plot.

But another lesson was happening on the other side of the class, one tailored for each student using i-Ready computerized instruction.

i-Ready tests each student, identifies the concepts which he or she is struggling with and then delivers lessons, games and other activities to help the student master them. And this can all happen without the teacher’s help.

Salazar divided her class in half. While students worked in groups on line plots, the rest of the class worked by themselves on i-Ready lessons.

Working with just a dozen students — instead of 24 — allowed Salazar to spend more time with each on the complicated line plot lesson, which included more math concepts than usual. Salazar planned to switch the two groups the next day.

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Education Commissioner Recommends Eliminating Some State Tests

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Florida Department of Education / Flickr

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has recommended eliminating a high school exam, making another optional and asking state lawmakers and local school districts to cut back on the amount of testing.

Stewart’s recommendations are the conclusion of a statewide review of standardized testing requested by Gov. Rick Scott.

“There is, without a doubt, an excess of testing in Florida schools,” Stewart said in a statement, saying she’ll work with Scott, lawmakers and school districts to “strike the appropriate balance between accountability and instruction.”

Stewart says lawmakers should eliminate an 11th grade English language arts exam that was added this year as part of Florida’s adoption of Common Core-based standards. Florida’s 10th grade reading exam is a high school graduation requirement, prompting some lawmakers and schools to ask why an eleventh grade exam was needed.

Students are scheduled to take the new Florida Standards Assessments starting next month.

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Opinions On Common Core Mixed In Early-Voting States

A new poll checks the temperature of how early-voting states feel about the Common Core math and language arts standards. The poll shows support is stronger among potential Democratic voters than Republican ones. Of the three early-voting states, Common Core is least popular among Iowa Republican voters.


An NBC News/Marist College poll of the common core in the three states with the earliest presidential primaries shows that at this early stage, the standards appear to be in good political standing among both Democrats and Republicans in Iowa, but it’s a different story in New Hampshire and South Carolina on the Republican side. And the views of self-identified members of the tea party might also surprise some veteran observers of common-core politics.

The poll focused on registered voters; registered Republicans or unaffiliated voters who prefer to vote in a GOP primary or caucus; and registered Democrats or unaffiliated voters who prefer to vote in a Democratic primary or caucus.

Read more at: blogs.edweek.org

How Common Core Brought Attention To The Math Education Debate

As schools switch to the Common Core standards, long-running teaching debates are becoming more public.

wwworks / Flickr

As schools switch to the Common Core standards, long-running teaching debates are becoming more public.

One of the by-products of states around the country adopting Common Core is that the standards have brought attention to long-running education debates that aren’t about money or testing.

This week our story looked at how Miami-Dade schools are changing math lessons to teach Florida’s Common Core-based math standards. The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade — such as kindergarteners being able to count to 100.

As we noted in the story, many of these “new” techniques schools are adding have been around a while. And math educators have spent years debating the best ways to teach math.

Journalist Elizabeth Green cataloged what some argue are deficiencies in math education in a New York Times Magazine story headlined: “Why Do Americans Stink At Math?”

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School Board Members Launch New Pro-School Choice Group

Escambia County school board member Jeff Bergosh is leading the new school boards group.

Escambia County school board

Escambia County school board member Jeff Bergosh is leading the new school boards group.

School board members dissatisfied with the statewide association who represents them are forming their own group, the Fort Myers News-Press and others report.

One reason is the school board members are unhappy the Florida School Boards Association joined a lawsuit challenging the state’s private school tax credit scholarship.

From the News-Press story:

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members seeks to become a “financially responsible,” grassroots group that supports school choice options including charter school and local control of education issues.

“One of our responsibilities as a school board is to partner with the state… however, it’s become very clear that the school boards are really losing influence in Tallahassee,” said [Erika] Donalds, who was elected to the Collier school board in November. “We feel the FSBA has kind of lost touch.”

Why Elementary Math Lessons Are Changing In Florida Schools

Frances S. Tucker Elementary Schoo fifth grade math teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar leads her class through an exercise to group data on a line graph.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Frances S. Tucker Elementary Schoo fifth grade math teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar leads her class through an exercise to group data on a line graph.

At dinner tables across Florida, parents and their elementary school children are trying to solve a math problem: What’s going on with my kid’s homework?

Florida is one of dozens of states that has switched to new math standards based on Common Core. The standards outline what students should know in every grade.

Experts say it means big changes to how math is taught. More focus on understanding concepts and solving problems multiple ways. Less memorization of formulas and grinding out worksheets full of similar problems.

Math is a constant conversation for Jessica Knopf and her fifth-grader, Natasha.

They talk about math at the dinner table. They send questions and answers by phone. They sought tutoring in online videos.

“When this Common Core stuff starting coming home,” Knopf says, “it wasn’t something I could just scribble and go ‘Oh, here it is.’ No. I had to stop. I had to think about it. I had to go online to Khan Academy. I had to bring my husband in. It wasn’t logical.”

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