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Why Miami-Dade High School Students Are Teaching Their Classmates About Health

Diamante Sharpe leads an practice session for student health educators in the HIP program.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Diamante Sharpe leads an practice session for student health educators in the HIP program.

Abuse. Drugs. Mental health issues.

It’s tough enough for anyone to talk about those problems. It can be even harder for teens facing them for the first time.

That’s why the Health Information Project (HIP) trains high school juniors and seniors to lead freshmen through a year-long health education program. The program is in 37 Miami-Dade public high schools, plus one private school.  It has trained more than 1,000 juniors and seniors on how to teach and talk to younger schoolmates about health issues.

“What we’ve realized over the years is that peers can be very persuasive in a positive way and they can influence those that look like them,” said Risa Berrin, who started the program.

The school day is over at North Miami Beach High School. Most students have headed for the doors. But Diamante Sharpe and Erica Poitevien and about a dozen classmates are working on their lesson plans.

“So welcome back to HIP. My name is Diamante,” Sharpe tells the group. “And today is our fourth session – mental health.”

They ask those gathered to clear their desks, pay attention and offer constructive criticism to classmates to help them teach the material better.

Over the course of the year, students teach eight lessons and lead discussions.

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What Florida’s New Reading Exam Means For Your Third Grader

Third graders who earn the lowest score on Florida's new statewide reading test this school year, are still at risk of repeating third grade.

OSDE / Flickr

Third graders who earn the lowest score on Florida's new statewide reading test this school year, are still at risk of repeating third grade.

We’ve been answering audience questions about Florida’s new statewide test, the Florida Standards Assessments.

A parent asked us on Facebook: “Please find out for us parents of third graders, who face mandatory retention if they fail the new reading assessment this spring, how the state plans to deal with them. Will they return to 3rd grade after the cut scores are determined in Winter 2015?”

The bottom line: third graders can still be held back next year if they score the equivalent of a 1, out of 5, on the reading test. But those students are still eligible to to advance to fourth grade through one of state’s exemptions, including a portfolio or passing an alternative exam.

Florida students will begin taking the Florida Standards Assessments beginning in early March, with testing running on and off through mid-May. But the State Board of Education isn’t expected to set final targets — known as cut scores — until Winter 2015.

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Your Guide To The Florida Standards Assessments

We’re taking this week to help parents and students understand the new Florida Standards Assessments, which students will take for the first time beginning in March.

The math, reading and writing exam (reading and writing are combined as English language arts) is intended to measure how well students in third through eleventh grades understand Florida’s Common Core-based standards. The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade.

We’ve pulled together the most important things to know about the new exam in this presentation. Click on the right or left side of the slide to advance or go back.

Meet Florida’s New Statewide Test

This is a sample math question from the Florida Standards Assessment. The questions asks students to...

Screen shot / Florida Department of Education

This is a sample math question from the Florida Standards Assessment. The questions asks students to fill in the blanks, but provides more possible choices than answer spaces.

This spring, Florida students will take a brand new test tied to the state’s new math, reading and writing standards.

This is the test that replaces the FCAT. It’s known as the Florida Standards Assessment, and it’ll be online.

What’s on the test won’t be the only thing different about the exam. Students will also find new types of questions.

We gathered your questions about the new exam from our Public Insight Network. Here’s what you you wanted to know — and what it’ll mean for students and schools.

Bill Younkin from Miami Beach is wondering about the fact that the exam’s online.

“What type of test will it be? How will it be administered?” he asks. “Will there be a paper and pencil alternative? What types of questions will it contain? How long will it take to administer?”

Last year, Florida students took 3.8 million tests using computers – so online exams are nothing new in Florida. But the Florida Standards Assessment is different from past exams

The new exam will be more interactive (you can see practice questions here).

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Florida Teachers Consider ‘Civil Disobedience’ To Say No To Testing

Miramar High School teacher David Ross says testing has taken more and more time away from teaching. He refused to administer an FCAT make-up exam in protest.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miramar High School teacher David Ross says testing has taken more and more time away from teaching. He refused to administer an FCAT make-up exam in protest.

In September, Alachua County kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles refused to give a state reading test.

She told the parents of her students it was an act of civil disobedience. The Florida Department of Education later suspended the exam for this year.

Florida requires that most students are tested every year. Those results help determine which students graduate, ratings for public schools and teacher pay.

Supporters say Florida schools have improved since pioneering the use of tests. Testing forces schools to pay attention to every student’s progress.

Some teachers say they believe too many tests are bad for students. Around the state, students, parents, teachers, superintendents and school boards are discussing how to voice their opposition to testing.

But is the classroom the right place to raise those questions? Educators disagree about the best way for teachers to speak up.

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“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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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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Why Florida Is Fighting The U.S. Education Department Over English Learners

Althea Valle teaches a class of ELL's. She says of the new federal requirement, "I think it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the schools to get these kids where we think they should be."

Gina Jordan/StateImpact Florida

Althea Valle teaches a class of ELL's. She says of the new federal requirement, "I think it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the schools to get these kids where we think they should be."

A 10th grader born in Haiti struggles to read in his class at Godby High School in Tallahassee. The student is more comfortable with Haitian Creole than English. Teacher Althea Valle has students of various nationalities trying to master the language.

“It’s a challenge,” Valle says. “There’s a lot of gesturing, and you know sometimes I feel like I’m onstage and sometimes I have to be onstage to make myself understood.”

Valle is the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) coordinator for Leon County schools. Her developmental language class is offered as an elective for students who want the extra help, like Anas Al-Humiari from Yemen. His native language is Arabic, and he’s been studying English for 5 years.

“First of all, the words are the main things that get me down and the time, me trying to understand the sentence and what is the article or text actually means,” Al-Humiari says, trying to find the right words.

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How A Miami Middle School Added Speech And Debate Classes On A Budget

Veldreana Oliver has taught physical education for 28 years at Allapattah Middle School. More recently, her principal asked her to teach writing, speech and debate.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Veldreana Oliver has taught physical education for 28 years at Allapattah Middle School. More recently, her principal asked her to teach writing, speech and debate.

Last week StateImpact Florida told you how a middle school in Miami has added speech and debate courses this year to improve reading, writing and speaking.

The school’s principal, Bridget McKinney majored in debate and thought the requirements for Florida’s new Common Core-based standards sounded a lot like her college classes. She needed a writing teacher for new speech and debate courses she wanted to create.

But like many Florida schools, Allapattah Middle has plenty of expectations but a limited budget.

She couldn’t hire a new teacher. It wasn’t in the budget. So she turned to what seems like an unusual place — physical education teacher Veldreana Oliver, who has been with the school for 28 years.

“Let’s go! Dale!” Oliver hollers at students looping around Allapattah’s campus. “Dale! Dale! Dale!”

She’s getting her students ready for a timed one-mile run.

But now she’s also getting them ready for the state’s new, annual exam.

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