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.

Broward Schools Want Changes To Evaluations And High School Schedules

Broward schools superintendent Robert Runcie, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, left, and Broward Teachers Union president Sharon Glickman, right, announced the creation of two task forces to recommend changes to teacher evaluations and high school schedules.

Broward schools superintendent Robert Runcie, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, left, and Broward Teachers Union president Sharon Glickman, right, announced the creation of two task forces to recommend changes to teacher evaluations and high school schedules.

Broward County school and union leaders want to make changes to test-based teacher evaluations and the county’s high school schedule.

Superintendent Robert Runcie announced two task forces will study the issues and recommend changes.

One goal is to come up with a teacher evaluation system that is less about punishing teachers who earn low scores than it is about training, mentoring and helping those teachers improve.

But the task force is also related to the backlash against the many ways students’ standardized test scores are used. Florida law requires half of a teacher’s evaluation score is based on whether students miss, meet or exceed expected results on state tests.

“As educators, administrators, we need data,” Runcie said. “We need information to constantly guide our practice and where we’re going. So, there’s always going to be some types of assessment.

“We want to change the dynamic…We want to change the conversation around how assessments are used, period.”

Runcie was joined by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Sharon Glickman, president of the Broward Teachers Union. AFT and the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, have led the fight against the widespread use of standardized test scores.

In Florida, those scores are tied to decisions about which students graduate or advance to another grade, school and district performance ratings and teacher pay.

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Bay District Schools End Use Of Corporal Punishment

The Bay District School Board will no longer use corporal punishment to discipline students. The district’s attorney said the district is risking a lawsuit spanking children.


Board Chairman Jerry Register maintained his position as a proponent of corporal punishment.

“I know there’s a risk. I know that,” Register said. “But coming as a former elementary administrator, there’s a place for it in elementary school.”

Register recalled spanking students on two separate occasions in the year before he retired in which he’d used a single swat to the behind as an effective form of punishment and motivator for better behavior.

Read more at: www.newsherald.com

What A Second Term Of Rick Scott Or Charlie Crist Will Mean For Florida Education

Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist have talked about K-12 funding, the cost of college and other education issues.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist have talked about K-12 funding, the cost of college and other education issues.

Polls show Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist are polarizing. Voters are as likely to dislike the candidates as they are to approve of them.

So both candidates are talking about schools, colleges and scholarships — to motivate their supporters.

“Education is an issue that is helping to appeal to the base,” says Sean Foreman, a Barry University political science professor and chairman of the education committee for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

Foreman says they’ve got a pretty good idea what a second term of either candidate would mean for education.

“I think Rick Scott is going to focus on more spending, but with that will come more strings attached and more testing involved,” Foreman says. “[Crist] will also call for more spending, but more spending in public schools and less focus on vouchers like the Republicans have.”

So far, the big argument has been over funding for public schools. Both candidates can say they’ve supported more money for schools.

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State Senator Wants School Board To Stop Teaching New Standards

A state senator has asked his local school board to stop — as much as possible — teaching Florida’s new Common Core-based standards. Though Sen. Alan Hays said he wasn’t asking the district to break the law, state law requires students in every grade meet the new standards.


“Everything he was asking us to do is his job in Tallahassee,” Board member Bill Mathias said. “I would not want the public to have the impression based on a state senator coming formally before the board that we have the authority. It is disingenuous in my opinion that we can do what he asked us to do when it is up to the state Legislature.”

Mathias said if the district were to stop teaching the standards it would put students’ high school diplomas at risk and their applications for Bright Futures Scholarships in jeopardy.

According to documents from the Florida School Boards Association, if districts opt out of the Florida Standards and assessments, they could lose Title I funding, school principals would be ineligible for performance pay, the school district could not be an academically high performing school district and the school district would be ineligible for competitive grants, among other repercussions.

Read more at: www.dailycommercial.com

Court, Public Relations Battle Over Florida Private School Programs Heating Up

The Florida Education Association has amended its challenge of a new school choice law in the Leon County's Second Judicial Circuit.

flguardian2 / Flickr

The Florida Education Association has amended its challenge of a new school choice law in the Leon County's Second Judicial Circuit.

The legal and public relations battle over Florida’s private school scholarship programs continues, with the statewide teacher’s union revising its lawsuit and a school choice group producing a new television ad supporting the programs.

Wednesday, the Florida Education Association amended its complaint challenging a new school choice law. The new complaint adds South Florida parents after a judge ruled the parties named in the previously filed suit lacked standing to challenge the law.

The new plaintiffs are Miami-Dade and Lee County parents and attorneys argue their kids’ education suffers because the tax credit scholarship program diverts money to private schools instead of public schools.

“With the result that the Miami-Dade County Public Schools lost approximately $75 million in funding, which was redirected from the public fisc to private schools,” the complaint says.

The suit challenges a bill approved this year which creates a new voucher program for students with disabilities. But the bill also expands the state’s existing private school scholarship program funded with state tax credits for businesses that donate to the scholarship fund.

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South Florida State House Candidates Agree There’s Too Much Testing

Republican, Democrat and independent candidates were unanimous Tuesday -- Florida schools test too much.

shinealight / Flickr

Republican, Democrat and independent candidates were unanimous Tuesday -- Florida schools test too much.

The candidates running for three South Dade state House seats — Republican, Democrat, independent — all agree that Florida students and schools spend too much time testing.

Candidates running for the Florida House of Representatives in the 112th, 114th and 115th districts gathered for an education forum Tuesday night at Palmetto Middle School.

“The biggest problem that the assessment process has right now,” said Rep. Erik Fresen, a Republican who represents the 114th district and is chairman of the House Education Appropriations subcommittee, “we have a completely twisted form of actually executing the assessments. Assessments end up drowning the school.”

His challengers, Democrat Daisy Baez and independent Ross Hancock both agreed: There’s too much testing and teachers must adjust their plans and lessons to prepare students for those exams.

In the 115th district, Republican incumbent Mike Bileca and Democratic opponent Kris Decossard agreed. So did Democratic Rep. Jose Javier Rodriquez, who represents the 112th district. His opponent did not participate.

Tuesday’s forum was the latest sign that the political tide has turned against the testing requirements of Florida education policy and local school school districts.

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Florida Schools Top “Social Mobility” Rankings

The Carnegia Library at Florida A&M University in the 1930s.

Wikipedia

The Carnegia Library at Florida A&M University in the 1930s.

Five Florida schools are in the nation’s top 50 on a new ranking that measures how well graduates climb the economic ladder.

Florida A&M University is ranked number three and Florida International University is ranked seventh on the Social Mobility Index created by CollegeNET, a higher education technology firm, and Payscale, which tracks worker pay.

The rankings factor tuition, percentage of low income students, graduation rates, recent graduate earnings and school endowment. The rankings reward schools with low tuition or a high percentage of low-income students, in particular.

Florida State University ranked 29th, University of Florida 40th and the University of South Florida 48th.

Overall, the state of Florida ranked number four in the nation.

By comparison, Princeton ranked 360th, Harvard 438th and Yale 440th.

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Incentives Help Florida College Students Complete Math Courses, Study Finds

Hillsborough Community College students were more likely to visit tutors and complete remedial math courses with a $600 bonus on the line.

apalapala / Flickr

Hillsborough Community College students were more likely to visit tutors and complete remedial math courses with a $600 bonus on the line.

Hillsborough Community College students who were paid cash bonuses were more likely to complete remedial math courses and meet with math tutors, according to a new study from social science research firm MDRC.

The study looked at students in Hillsborough Community College’s Mathematics Access Performance Scholarship program, which pays students $600 per semester for three semesters, if they met goals. Those goals include visiting HCC’s Math Labs tutoring center at least five times and earning a ‘C’ grade or better on a college level math course or intermediate Algebra.

Researchers found:

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Did 3,000 Teachers Lose Their Jobs Under Charlie Crist? PolitiFact Says ‘Mostly False’

Gov. Rick Scott’s claim that 3,000 teachers lost their jobs while Charlie Crist was governor is “mostly false,” according to PolitiFact Florida. Scott repeated the claim at last night’s debate at Broward College, the second of three debates between the two candidates.


The claim omits some key points. The number was derived from media reports about possible layoffs; not all of them materialized. Also, the claim glosses over the fact that Crist accepted federal stimulus money that preserved thousands of teacher jobs. Finally, Crist was not solely responsible for teacher layoffs. Crist and the Republican-led Legislature signed off on budget cuts amid a national recession — something no single politician is personally responsible for.

Clearly, some teachers were laid off statewide, but there’s a lack of evidence that it amounted to 3,000 positions.

Read more at: www.politifact.com

National Educator Groups Want To Streamline Testing

The leaders of two large, national school groups say they want to change the amount of testing in schools. The Council of Great City Schools and the Council of Chief State School Officers want to eliminate tests which aren’t essential — many of them local — and make sure it’s clear why the tests are given and how the results are used. But the groups say they are committed to annual testing.


In a document put out with the announcement, the CCSSO and the council wrote that they would work together to ensure “assessments are used in responsible ways.” They also affirmed their commitment to yearly testing, writing that “without assessments given at least once a year, educational leaders would not have the information they need to know about who is learning and who is not.”

The state schools chiefs vowed in that document to publish a list of all state assessments, help get rid of duplicative assessments, and “partner with school districts to review their benchmark and formative assessments.” The urban district leaders said they would review the assessments administered in their districts for alignment and quality, eliminate inappropriate assessments, “curtail counterproductive ‘test prep’ practices,” and make the results of their reviews public.

Read more at: blogs.edweek.org

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