Putting Education Reform To The Test

John O'Connor


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.

Most Students Say Thanks, But No Thanks, To New University Of Florida Online Program

A new program designed to boost enrollment at the University of Florida Online is getting little interest. Just 10 percent of students who weren’t accepted to the brick and mortar campus chose the new online option instead.

UF sent the invites out back in February, at the same time it sent acceptance letters to 14,000 out of 31,000 high school seniors who had applied for admission to the fall semester. Those admitted to UF had an average GPA of 4.3, average SAT scores of 1,918 and average ACT scores of 29.

The PACE program was created as a way to boost the numbers of first-time-in-college students enrolling in UF Online, to provide an alternate path to residential programs, and to populate major areas of study that have been under-enrolled in recent years.

Read more at: www.gainesville.com

Iowa Republicans: “What Is Common Core?”

Common Core — it’s going to be the biggest education issue for 2016 Republican presidential candidates, right?

Maybe not.

Bloomberg Politics has posted video of a focus group session with Iowa Republicans. Moderator John Heileman asks the panel (about 44 seconds in) if any of them think Common Core is important.

The response? Silence.

Finally, one man asks: “What is Common Core?”


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Three State Math Exams Won’t Count Toward Student Grades This Year

New Algebra, Algebra II and Geometry end-of-course exams won’t factor into students’ final grades this year, the Florida Department of Education says. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the state says the tests won’t be validated in time to include the test results in student grades.

In a memo to superintendents, Lyons wrote that the state will not have completed its independent validity study of the exams before grades are issued. Therefore, this year only the scores won’t count in course grades, despite state law, he wrote.

“School districts should calculate final course grades and make promotion decisions without regard to the 30 percent requirement that typically applies,” Lyons wrote. “The absence of EOC results alone in these courses should not result in a grade of incomplete.”

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

Evaluation: Education Commissioner Is (Mostly) Meeting Her Goals

The State Board of Education is scheduled to  review commissioner Pam Stewart's performance next week.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

The State Board of Education is scheduled to review commissioner Pam Stewart's performance next week.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says she is largely meeting goals leading Florida schools.

The State Department of Education posted Stewart’s self-evaluation of her performance Thursday. The State Board of Education is scheduled to discuss Stewart’s evaluation at a meeting next week.

Stewart says she has met the top three goals set out for her by the State Board of Education:

  • Improve rates of learning and students achievement.
  • Improve graduation and completion rates.
  • Complete a positive transition to new K-12 standards and assessments and to improved K-16 accountability systems.

The evaluation cites a list of achievements to prove Stewart’s case: The state’s top-10 ranking for academic efforts in Education Week’s annual report card; rising high school graduation rates; improved performance of Florida’s black and Hispanic students on national exams, particularly compared to white classmates; the number and rate of students taking and passing Advanced Placement exams.

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Former Miami Dade College Dean Picked To Lead Florida Colleges

Former Miami Dade College dean Madeline Pumariega will lead the Florida College System.

Take Stock In Children

Former Miami Dade College dean Madeline Pumariega will lead the Florida College System.

A former dean at Miami Dade College has been selected to lead the Florida College System.

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart chose Madeline Pumariega to be chancellor of the state’s system of community colleges.

Pumariega worked for more than a decade at Miami Dade College, including serving as Dean of Students at the Wolfson Campus. She has been the president and CEO of Take Stock in Children since 2013.

The statewide non-profit takes students at risk of dropping out of high school and helps them complete college.

Stewart says Pumariega will maintain the progress Florida’s college system has made.

“With Madeline’s extensive background in higher education and commitment to helping Florida’s students thrive,” Stewart said in a statement, “she is the right choice to ensure we continue our positive direction.”

Pumareiga follows Randy Hanna, who announced he was leaving the post last year.

The Florida College System enrolls more than 800,000 students at 28 schools across Florida. At many campuses, students can earn two-year or four-year degrees.


As Florida Reduces Testing, Teacher Evaluation Questions Remain

Broward Teachers Union president Sharon Glickman, with Broward County schools superintendent Robert Runcie, calling for changes to the teacher evaluation system in October.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Broward Teachers Union president Sharon Glickman, with Broward County schools superintendent Robert Runcie, calling for changes to the teacher evaluation system in October.

Florida lawmakers’ decision to end mandatory final exams for every class will mean that more teachers’ performance will be judged on subjects they don’t teach.

Concerned about the amount of testing in schools — and pressured by activists and educators — this year lawmakers rescinded a state law that requires school districts to have a standard final assessment in any class that doesn’t already have a statewide exam. In most cases that’s a test, but it could be a final project or compilation of a student’s work.

Many districts jumped on the chance to get rid of the tests, which are also known as end-of-course exams.

But eliminating end-of-course exams means confronting an old problem again: Florida law requires teachers are evaluated based on whether students miss, meet or exceed expected results on state standardized tests. So how do you rate teachers if there’s no test?

Several large Florida schools districts say they will use state test scores to evaluate those teachers. That means some art, music or gym teachers will be judged based on their students’ scores on the state reading test.

“In some cases teachers are definitely not happy with it,” said Sharon Glickman, president of Broward Teachers Union. “And to a certain extent we’re not either. But it’s the best of, I hate to say it, two evils.”

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Schools Often Don’t Check Eligibility For Federal Food Programs, Audit Finds

Schools in Florida, California and Texas are giving away millions of dollars in free or reduced-price meals to students who don’t qualify, according to a new federal audit. Auditors say school districts should do more to verify family income levels. Federal programs provide meals to 1.6 million Florida students daily.

Auditors suggest it might be time to require more proof of poverty from families applying for free or low-cost meals.

“The act of turning in income documentation with applications may discourage applicants from being dishonest about household income levels,” the Agriculture Department’s Office of Inspector General noted in the report made public this week.

But while USDA officials acknowledge the room for improvement, and say they have the legal authority to require income documentation, they also resist imposing new application barriers.

“Significant other legal, policy and operational concerns remain,” the department’s Food and Nutrition Service stated.

Requiring applicants for free or low-cost meals to submit proof of income “could create barriers to participation for eligible children (and) cause significant administrative and record-keeping burden for participating schools,” the agency stated.

Read more at: www.mcclatchydc.com

More For-Profit Colleges Closing Campuses

Two leading for-profit college companies announced they will close or phase out campuses enrolling roughly 14,000 students, Inside Higher Ed reports. The for-profit industry has been shrinking the past several years, a trend highlighted by the sudden collapse of Corinthian Colleges last year.

One reason for the decline is competition. Private colleges with online programs that have a national draw, such as Liberty University and Southern New Hampshire University, tout their nonprofit status in advertisements. And it appears to be working, given some of those institutions’ rapid expansion online.

The for-profit industry may have a way to go before it hits the bottom, said Kevin Kinser, who is chair of the educational administration and policy studies department at the State University of New York at Albany and an expert on for-profits.

Kinser said decisions to close campuses or refocus “do not sound like the actions of a healthy industry.” But for-profits have resisted that kind of transformation for a long time.

Read more at: www.insidehighered.com

Bay District Schools Outline Third Grade Promotion Decisions

Florida’s switch to a new statewide test this year will mean delayed results for 3rd grade reading test scores. So school districts asked for, and received, more flexibility to determine how and why the state’s lowest-scoring 3rd grade students will be held back. Bay District Schools outline their process Tuesday.

Senate Bill 7069 allows the Florida Department of Education to place decisions regarding promotion and retention of third-grade students at the discretion of each district.

The decision to promote or retain a student will be based on the following factors: student course grades and assessment data with a focus on English language arts, diagnostics in reading, writing, math, or science as required by state law, students’ portfolio (classroom assessments, work samples), documentation of performance in school-based reading support programs and other academic performance records.

Read more at: www.newsherald.com

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