Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

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The Florida Tests Which Will Remain After The Switch To Common Standards

The FCAT will mostly disappear from Florida schools next year. But like a zombie, the state's science exam will still carry the FCAT name.

Scott Beale / Flickr

The FCAT will mostly disappear from Florida schools next year. But the state's science exam will still carry the FCAT name.

The final bell begins tolling today for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Florida schools are scheduled to complete the switch to new K-12 math and language arts standards based on Common Core this fall. New standards will require a new test.

So Florida is switching to math and language arts exams produced by the American Institutes for Research.

FCAT is going away — with one exception. Fifth and eighth grade students will still take the FCAT science exam. Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle noted the exam will stagger on:

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Florida Matters: Choosing The Next FCAT

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will soon choose an FCAT replacement.

shinealight / Flickr

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will soon choose an FCAT replacement.

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is expected to recommend a test to (mostly) replace the FCAT this month.

A new test is needed because Florida is finishing the switch to new K-12 math, language arts and literacy standards this fall. The standards are largely based on Common Core standards fully adopted by 44 other states and the District of Columbia.

This evening, WUSF’s Florida Matters takes a look at the test decision with University of South Florida education historian Sherman Dorn, Pasco County assistant superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson, and Melissa Kicklighter, a vice president with the Florida PTA.

Dorn said we won’t know how much will change with the test until the decision is announced.

“It might be tests that are interesting and challenging,” he said. “It might be tests that are very close to what students experience with FCAT — or somewhere in between.”

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Explaining The Florida Tuition Law Gov. Rick Scott Wants To Repeal

Gov. Rick Scott is asking lawmakers to revoke a law which allows state universities to request up to an additional 15 percent tuition increase.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Gov. Rick Scott is asking lawmakers to revoke a law which allows state universities to request up to an additional 15 percent tuition increase.

Gov. Rick Scott is asking lawmakers to eliminate the state’s tuition differential law, which allows universities to request as much as a 15 percent tuition increase each year.

Scott has fought higher education tuition hikes since he took office in 2011.

“We are changing how we fund higher education,” Scott said, according to the prepared version of his State of the State speech, “but if we want to make higher education more accessible to low and middle-income families we have to make it more affordable.

“We will hold the line on tuition,” he added moments later.

Lawmakers are talking about reducing the hikes to a maximum of 6 percent each year.

But what is tuition differential?

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Why Long-Term Economic Changes Might Mean Better-Quality Teachers

University of Central Florida education professor Lee-Anne Spalding

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

University of Central Florida education professor Lee-Anne Spalding

The Great Recession — and disappearing middle-class jobs — may be encouraging more people to go into teaching.

Bloomberg View’s Megan McArdle and American Enterprise Institute writer Neerav Kingsland argue it’s happening, and that it will mean better quality candidates entering the teaching field. Good students looking for stability might seek it with a classroom job.

Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch also argue in Education Next that the quality of teaching candidates, as measured by SAT scores, is improving, and that the economy might be a factor.

Here’s McArdle’s conclusion:

As insecurity in the private-sector labor market increases, the value of public-sector job protections effectively increases, meaning that candidates will be willing to accept lower pay in exchange for the guarantee that it will be nearly impossible to fire them. This is separate from the shrinking number of jobs in the private sector, which also conspires to make higher quality candidates available to school districts. Both factors together could give us a nice boost in teacher scores.

Of course, it’s also possible that a lot of college students suddenly and for no apparent reason decided they wanted to be teachers around the same time that the job market became massively more insecure. But I’m betting it’s no coincidence. Bad news for the graduating seniors, but good news for the nation’s schools.

Has that been the case in Florida?

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What Florida’s Graduation Rates Say About Opportunity In Our State

National trends: The Opportunity Index measures factors that contribute to quality of life, like graduation rates and access to early learning.

OpportunityIndex.org / OpportunityNation.org

National trends: The Opportunity Index measures factors that contribute to quality of life, like graduation rates and access to early learning.

Florida doesn’t offer as much opportunity to its young people as other states do.

That’s according to new research from Opportunity Nation. The bipartisan organization compiles an index of community characteristics to measure how people’s zip codes affect their quality of life.

The index includes things like access to early learning, violent crime rates and graduation rates.

“As a nation we’re fixated on unemployment, and of course it’s important. But the real core issues of opportunity have been going on for much more than simply this recession,” said Mark Edwards, executive director of Opportunity Nation.

“One of the measures of opportunity is the percentage of young adults in your community that graduate from high school—we know when that number is low, communities don’t do well,” he said.

Edwards was in Florida for a Grad Nation summit on the national dropout crisis. Ultimately, Edwards told the crowd of educators, he wants to see people vote on issues of opportunity—not unemployment.

Florida ranks 22nd  in the country for unemployment. But with other factors, we rank 40th for opportunity.

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Fewer Support Staff In Florida Public Schools

There are fewer custodians and support staff in Florida public schools than there were in 2007.

Kitsu / flickr.com

There are fewer custodians and support staff in Florida public schools than there were in 2007.

A StateImpact Florida analysis of jobs in Florida public schools shows that while full-time staffing is almost back to pre-recession levels, one group of employees hasn’t come back: the support staff.

Since the recession began, Florida’s public school budgets have been hit with more than $2 billion dollars in cuts from state and federal funding, decreased property tax revenue and sequestration. StateImpact has been following the resulting layoffs and hard choices in schools across the state.

Some of the funding has since been restored. Full-time instructor positions have inched back to pre-recession levels.

But at the start of last school year there were still about 15,000 fewer full-time jobs in Florida public schools than there were in 2007. Almost all of those jobs — 99.5% — are support staff positions. Custodians, secretaries, classroom aides—there just aren’t as many people filling those roles anymore.

LISTEN: WHAT IT MEANS TO LOSE SUPPORT STAFF

You can see a breakdown of year-to-year full-time employment numbers in Florida public schools here:

Show rows.
School Year
Full-Time Support Staff
Full-Time Instructional Staff
Full-Time Administrative Staff
Total Full-Time Staff
2012-1311553319400811670321211
2011-1211686218993011417318209
2010-1112093919246411280324683
2009-1012311718942911236323782
2008-0912665519092411374328953
2007-0813057819415911592336329

 

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