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.

Jeb Bush Not Backing Away From Common Core, Testing

Despite growing opposition to Common Core State Standards — especially among conservatives — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says U.S. schools need high standards, like Common Core. Bush also discusses pre-school, the Florida Virtual School and the impact of Florida’s class size restrictions on education in an interview with EducationNext.


The opposition to the common core has been mostly fueled by President Obama and his administration attempting to take credit for and co-opt a state-led initiative.

To be clear, higher academic standards are necessary, and the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms. If state leaders don’t like common core, they should embrace the challenge of raising their standards even higher. I’ll be the first person in line to support them.

Most importantly, the best, highest standards in the world won’t matter if we don’t accurately measure whether students are truly learning, and hold schools accountable for the results.

Read more at: educationnext.org

“Ballin’ On A Budget:” How A Miami Teacher Keeps His Library Stocked

Some of the books in Daniel Dickey's classroom library.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Some of the books in Daniel Dickey's classroom library.

Miami Northwestern High School teacher Daniel Dickey says there’s no silver bullet or secret book which will spark a student’s interest in reading.

Instead, he says he asks questions and listens.

“I sit down with that student and really figure out what is it that drives you?” Dickey says. “Why do you come to school? Why are you here every day?”

He asks them about their plans, their dreams.

“If you could envision yourself in five months, five years, fifty years, where would you be?” he says. “Why? What are your goals in life? And from that I usually assess which book would be best.”

Dickey has launched the Million Word Campaign at Miami Northwestern High School to get his students reading more. Dickey teaches writing, but believes students need to read in order to be good writers and speakers.

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To Make High Schoolers Want To Read, Miami Teacher Makes It A Competition

Miami Northwestern Senior High writing teacher says you have to be a good reader to be a good writer. He's challenged his student to read one million words this year.

John O’Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Northwestern Senior High writing teacher Daniel Dickey says you have to be a good reader to be a good writer. He’s challenged his student to read one million words this year.

Miami Northwestern High School English teacher Daniel Dickey has found a way to make his tenth graders brag about their reading skills.

Mischael Saint-Sume and Ciji Wright tease each other about who’s going to read one million words first — a contest Dickey created.

“Did you put him in his place?” Dickey asked Wright. “Because Mischael, he’s popping in my classroom every day with a new book.”

“Oh don’t worry about it because I’ve got plenty of books for him,” Wright replied.

“But it ends today, by the way,” Saint-Sume said. “I’m going to hit a million.”

“Not if I take my test before you,” Wright said.

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Republican Congress Means President Must Adjust His Plans For Education

Tuesday’s election results mean that President Barack Obama has likely lost his favored tool in education policy — competitive grants. Republican leadership in both the House and Senate say Obama needs to work with them on education.


“The Obama administration has to rethink its whole approach,” U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, said in an interview this week. “Now, if he wants to get anything done, he needs to talk with us.”

For his part, Mr. Obama said he plans to reach across the aisle.

“The United States has big things to do, and we will make progress if we work together,” the president said in a Nov. 5 press conference. He listed issues including early-childhood education and college access as potential starting points for negotiations with the new Congress.

Read more at: www.edweek.org

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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