Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

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New Teacher’s Union Leader Promises More Florida Activism

Lily Eskelsen Garcia asks students what they want from the president on a visit to Allapattah Middle School last week.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Lily Eskelsen Garcia asks students what they want from the president on a visit to Allapattah Middle School last week.

At a Spanish restaurant in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, one of the most powerful women in education, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, pumps up union members by telling them where her career started – the cafeteria.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia is the first Latina elected to lead the nation’s largest union – the National Education Association.

Thursday was her fourth day on the job. She started at 6 a.m. with a tour of the Keys by plane. She followed with visits to Allapattah Middle School and Hialeah High School in Miami-Dade County.

And she wrapped up a 12-hour day with a high-energy pitch for union members to get out and support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist in his race against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“I like to say I was the lunch lady – that was my first job in a public school,” Eskelsen Garcia told about 50 members of the United Teachers of Dade. “That is padding my resume. I was the salad girl.

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FAU Students Building Robot Boat To Conquer The World

Ivan Bertaska, Anderson Lebadd and Edoardo Sarda run their robotic boat through the motions on the Intracoastal Waterway near Dania Beach.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Ivan Bertaska, Anderson Lebadd and Edoardo Sarda run their robotic boat through the motions on the Intracoastal Waterway near Dania Beach.

On the Intracoastal Waterway near Dania Beach, Ivan Bertaska was getting ready to captain his vessel.

Bertaska wants to check the boat’s capabilities by having it speed up and slow down as it carves a wavy wake across the Intracoastal.

“The wave pattern actually gives me a good range of velocities,” he said, “so at first we go about two knots and then we get to the top corners where we’re making sharp turns we’re going about one knot. So I get a good operational range of the vehicle.

“We get a lot of funny looks from boaters.”

Funny looks because Bertaska and a team of other engineers are building a boat that can drive itself.

The team is from Florida Atlantic University and Villanova University in Philadelphia. It includes FAU student Edoardo Sarda and Villanova student Anderson Lebbad. They’re traveling to Singapore in October for the Maritime RobotX Challenge.

And they’re one of just three teams from the United States chosen for the competition.

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Take An Audio Tour Of Florida’s Newest University

The distinctive facade of the main building on Florida Polytechnic's campus.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

The distinctive facade of the main building on Florida Polytechnic's campus.

Florida’s 12th university, Florida Polytechnic University, is an architectural marvel that sits right next to Interstate 4 in Polk County.

The main building features a swooping veil-like facade designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

The public can get a peek of the new campus when it opens on Saturday. But WUSF reporter Steve Newborn took a tour with university spokesman Crystal Lauderdale to talk about the features and Calatrava’s intent.

“It was designed to inspire innovation,” Lauderdale said of the design, which she said people have described as looking like a spaceship, a fountain, or less impressively, a football.

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Computer Programming Camp Offers Lesson In Logic

Ryan Seashore starts off every CodeNow workshop with a simple request — write out step-by-step instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

A CodeNow teacher pretends to be a robot, and follows the students’ orders exactly as they’re written.

Students quickly find that asking a computer to perform an everyday task isn’t so easy.

CodeNow's Kareem Grant works with students during a June coding camp in Miami. Grant likes that coding requires disciplined thinking.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

CodeNow's Kareem Grant works with students during a June coding camp in Miami. Grant likes that coding requires disciplined thinking.

“They basically follow every instruction,” said Seashore, who founded CodeNow. “And so if it’s ‘Hey, take out bread from a bag,’ they will tear the bag of bread open. If it’s like ‘Spread the peanut butter’ and they didn’t say ‘Hey, twist the lid off’ it’ll spread the jar on it.

“This is a really amazing exercise because it teaches students the importance of logic.”

The lesson: Good programming starts with organized, disciplined thinking. And one mistake can cause everything to crash.

Coding is a hot subject right now in Florida schools. Florida lawmakers allowed students to substitute computer programming for a math or science high school graduation requirement.

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A Q & A With Activist And Algebra Project Founder Bob Moses

Algebra Project founder Bob Moses.

miller_center / Flickr

Algebra Project founder Bob Moses.

Fifty years ago Bob Moses organized volunteers to register voters in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer.

And for decades, Moses has been fighting for civil rights as an educator.

He’s won a MacArthur Genius Grant to develop a new way to teach algebra in largely low-income and minority schools.

The Algebra Project shows students how to translate mathematics into common language and back — to simplify algebra.

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What We Learned This Year Watching Schools Prepare For Florida’s New Standards

Darlene Paul, principal of West Defuniak Elementary, speaks to a student during a visit to a third-grade classroom. Paul says she has been impressed with the academic success of young students who have been taught only using the new Florida Standards.

Jackie Mader / The Hechinger Report

Darlene Paul, principal of West Defuniak Elementary, speaks to a student during a visit to a third-grade classroom. Paul says she has been impressed with the academic success of young students who have been taught only using the new Florida Standards.

For the past year The Hechinger Report and StateImpact Florida have taken you into two schools to hear what preparations for Florida’s new Common Core-based standards sound like. The standards outline what students should know in math and language arts. When classes start this fall every grade in every Florida public school will use them. But are schools ready?

The Hechinger Report’s Jackie Mader and StateImpact Florida’s John O’Connor tell us what they’ve learned.

The teachers at Tampa’s Monroe Middle School are confident that the transition to Florida’s new standards will go well. They’ve got a principal and superintendent enthusiastic about Common Core, and say that they’re on track for the changes.

“A lot of times in education they put things under different names when it’s something you’ve been doing all along, so I think we’re probably doing mostly what we need to do already,” said gym teacher Shane Knipple. Civics teacher Tony Corbett agreed. “It just gives us 10 things to focus on that we’ve already been focusing on.

Although the teachers at Monroe Middle School are optimistic, many teachers and school leaders think the switch to Common Core is the biggest change in education now, and it’s taken a lot of work.

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Students React To The Closure Of A Giant For-Profit College

Corinthian Colleges, the parent company of Everest University, has agreed to sell or close all its campuses. This campus is Boston will close. Florida campuses will be sold.

Kirk Carapezza / WGBH

Corinthian Colleges, the parent company of Everest University, has agreed to sell or close all its campuses. This campus is Boston will close. Florida campuses will be sold.

After a long reign as the fastest-growing and most problematic sector in higher education, for-profit colleges are on the ropes.

This week the U.S. Department of Education announced that it will review how federal student aid is administered at one of the country’s largest for-profit colleges, the University of Phoenix. Owned by the publicly traded Apollo Group, the University of Phoenix enrolls over 200,000 students, rivaling the size of the nation’s largest public university system.

Between 2000 and 2010, enrollment at the nation’s for-profit colleges quadrupled, peaking at 1.7 million — or about 1 in 10 college students. These colleges benefited from both the Internet boom and the relaxing of credit in the run-up to the financial crisis. They spent serious money on advertising and marketing, targeting working and low-income adults with convenient online programs and the promise of job opportunities, and sometimes lending them private student loans. But the sector has been plagued by repeated allegations of financial mismanagement, fraud and abuse. For-profit colleges have been the target of class action lawsuits, congressional investigations and probes by state attorneys general.

The Department of Education controls the purse strings for these institutions, because they’re highly dependent on federal student aid for revenue. to another big for-profit, Corinthian, after that college reported errors in enrollment and job placement figures and failed to comply with record requests. Unable to operate with even a temporary cash freeze, Corinthian struck a deal with the Department of Education earlier this month to sell or close all of its campuses.

 

The Department of Education controls the purse strings for these institutions, because they’re highly dependent on federal student aid for revenue. Last month the department halted funding to another big for-profit, Corinthian, after that college reported errors in enrollment and job placement figures and failed to comply with record requests. Unable to operate with even a temporary cash freeze, Corinthian struck a deal with the Department of Education earlier this month to sell or close all of its campuses.

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The Science Supporting Starting High School Classes Later In The Morning

 

New research provides some support for Florida school leaders who want high schools to start later.

Diana Schnuth / Flickr

New research provides some support for Florida school leaders who want high schools to start later.

Blame science – and not your teenager – if they’re slow starters in the morning.

Teenagers just can’t get eight hours of sleep if high schools starts much before 8 a.m.

University of Minnesota researcher Kyla Wahlstrom said that’s because adolescents go through something called the sleep phase shift.

“Teenagers are basically unable to fall asleep on a regular basis every night, say, before 10:45 or 11,” Wahlstrom said. “It’s just a biologic almost impossibility.”

It’s why Wahlstrom and others said high schools should start later to allow students to get eight hours of sleep. She studied 9,000 high school students in three states.

The debate about when high school classes should start has gained steam across the state. Last year, state Rep. Matt Gaetz filed a bill which would prevent classes from starting before 8 a.m. Gaetz withdrew his bill, but lawmakers have asked a state agency to study the idea.

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Florida Students Talk About The State’s Race-Based Education Standards

Students and civil rights activists are still asking Florida to hold black and Hispanic students to a higher standard.

It’s been a little more than a year since the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County filed a federal civil rights complaint against the state’s race-based academic goals.

There have since been a number of protests by activists who oppose lower expectations for minorities.

But to understand how the race-based goals play out in the classroom, StateImpact Florida sat down with a panel of high school students to talk about the expectations:

We spoke with a panel of students about Florida's race-based education goals.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

We spoke with a panel of students about Florida's race-based education goals.

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How A Federal Program Will Help Florida Schools Go Wireless

Curtis Lanoue teaches music in a trailer behind Oliver Hoover Elementary School in Miami. His colleagues have interactive smart boards in their classrooms.

Those are like 21st-Century chalk boards that can can plug into the school’s network — and the Internet.

Schools are switching to mobile carts like this, loaded with iPads, and Wi-Fi hot spots for new online tests and high-tech lessons.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Schools are switching to mobile carts like this, loaded with iPads, and Wi-Fi hot spots for new online tests and high-tech lessons.

But Lanoue doesn’t have a smartboard — or the Internet — in his portable classroom.

“YouTube might not be the greatest thing to let a kid use unattended,” he said, “but for the teacher to use it there’s a ton of resources on there.

“It would help a lot to show performances; to show historic stuff would be great.”

Miami-Dade schools are finishing a $1.2 billion overhaul of schools across the district. Most now have fast wireless networks — as of the end this school year. Others will soon – like Oliver Hoover Elementary.

Florida schools are in the middle of a high-tech transformation.

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