Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida And Federal Education Department Disagree About Testing English Learners

Florida lawmakers have challenged federal government requirements that students learning English be tested after one year in school. The U.S. Department of Education could revoke flexibility Florida was granted from No Child Left Behind rules.

Florida Department of Education leaders agreed to the requirement when originally seeking an NCLB waiver, which then-Commissioner Gerard Robinson argued was critical so Florida could end the “duplication and confusion” of following two accountability systems. The waiver allowed Florida to use its own system for setting school grades and intervening at troubled schools, without worrying about whether a school had made “adequate yearly progress” as defined by the feds.

At the time, some groups criticized the requirement, saying it was unfair to English-language learners and schools, even though it was an effort to look after students’ interests.

Several states have asked that the requirement be relaxed, but the U.S. Education Department has declined. In her letter to Stewart, Delisle said Florida risks having its waiver revoked if it does not comply with federal law.

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

State Board Closes Three Charter Schools On First Day Of Classes

The State Board of Education denied requests from three charter schools that they remain open despite earning failing grades in consecutive years. The board shut down schools in Broward, Columbia and Miami-Dade counties on the first day of classes.

Because Florida didn’t close the schools over the summer, roughly 600 families will now have to scramble to find a replacement school for their children. And because it might take weeks or months for the schools to finally shut down, both will likely get additional taxpayer money just before they go out of business.

“That is a case of very bad timing,” said Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. “What’s up with that? Is the state like, on vacation for the summer?”

Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick said the state had moved as quickly as possible to hold a hearing after school grades were released on July 11.

Read more at: www.miamiherald.com

Poll Finds Support For Common Core Declining Among Republicans And Teachers

The annual Education Next poll finds support for Common Core is declining among Republicans and teachers. But the poll found people generally support the idea of common education standards.

TheTruthAbout / Flickr

The annual Education Next poll finds support for Common Core is declining among Republicans and teachers. But the poll found people generally support the idea of common education standards.

Public support for Common Core math and language arts standards dropped in the past year, and less than half of teachers now say they support the standards, according to an annual back-to-school poll Education Next.

Just over half of the general public — 53 percent — said they support Common Core. That’s down from 65 percent in 2013. And just 46 percent of teachers said they support the standards. Last year, more than three-quarters of teachers said they supported Common Core.

Florida is one of dozens of states which have adopted the math and language arts standards. The state amended and renamed the standards last year, but kept nearly all of Common Core.

The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade but have been facing rising political opposition for more than a year. A handful of states — Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina — have repealed the standards and other states are studying whether to rewrite or repeal Common Core.

“Opinion with respect to the Common Core has yet to coalesce,” poll authors Michael B. Henderson, Paul E. Peterson and Martin West wrote. “The idea of a common set of standards across the country has wide appeal, and the Common Core itself still commands the support of a majority of the public. But proponents probably need to clarify their intentions to the public if they are to keep support from slipping within both the nation’s teaching force and the public at large.”

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Florida School Districts Preparing For Central American Immigrants

Jessica Gaspar was born in the U.S. and grew up speaking English at school — but at home, she speaks Q’anjob’al.

That’s the Mayan language spoken by her Guatemalan parents.

She said she and her brother struggled to practice their English once the school day ended. It’s why Gaspar volunteers at a community center on a back street lined with body shops in Lake Worth.

More than 100 Honduran students have enrolled in Miami Jackson Senior High School the past two years. Principal Carlos Rios says the school must make sure their basic needs are met.

Miami-Dade schools.

More than 100 Honduran students have enrolled in Miami Jackson Senior High School the past two years. Principal Carlos Rios says the school must make sure their basic needs are met.

She’s helping new, young immigrants at the Guatamalan-Maya Center learn the basics – the ABCs and colors. She’s helping them get ready for school in Palm Beach County.

“I just want them to feel like they’re wanted and not to be afraid or anything,” Gaspar says, “and hopefully in class they won’t be put aside because ‘Oh, they’re behind.’”

Monday is the first day of school in many Florida school districts. Schools are expecting hundreds – if not thousands – of Central American students to enroll in the coming weeks.

And schools across the country are expecting as many as 50,000 immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This year more than 3,000 children have already been released to sponsors in Florida.

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Bush: Florida Standards “Not Substantially Different” From Common Core

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott at a campaign stop in Homestead.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott at a campaign stop in Homestead.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hit the campaign trail with current Gov. Rick Scott on Friday.

Bush has been one of the nation’s most prominent supporters of the Common Core math and language arts standards adopted by dozens of states, including Florida.

Scott? Not so much.

After initially supporting the standards, Scott withdrew support for the federally-funded exams designed by multi-state coalitions. Last fall, under pressure from conservative and liberal Common Core critics, Scott asked the state Department of Education to hold public meetings and tweak the standards.

Eventually, the state added calculus, tweaked a few other things and renamed them the Florida Standards. But, the changes left Common Core largely untouched.

Scott now says Common Core is out of Florida.

So how does that jibe with Bush’s support of Scott?

As he has in the past, Bush said Friday he supports the alterations. But Bush conceded not much changed about the standards besides the name.

“They’re not substantially different, but they’re Florida-based,” Bush said, “after listening to a whole lot of people express concerns and support.

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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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Experts Say Evidence Is Mixed On Adding An Extra Hour Of Reading

Does adding an extra hour of reading instruction help students? WJCT reporter Rhema Thompson finds, like many things in education, the evidence is mixed. Experts said success depends on how the addition instruction is implemented.

“You can find supported that it does work or that it doesn’t work. Some researchers say that this is the best way to help children who need intervention and others say ‘Let’s think about the need for play, teacher motivation,’” Fagen said.

Fagen’s colleague Developmental Pediatrics Chief Dr. David Childers said the the additional time is “a good starting point” in the journey to success.

“One of the things that we always have to ask is ‘What is going to be the outcome at grade 12?’” he said. “Reading is going to determine, more than anything else, where you end up in the socio-economic status in our society.”

Read more at: news.wjct.org

Report Says Tax Credit Scholarship Students Aren’t Falling Behind

Students receiving tax credit scholarships to private schools are keeping pace with national norms, according an annual review of student test scores redefinED reports. The report found tax credit scholarship students are typically among the lowest-performing and most economically disadvantaged students.

Each year, schools that serve students on the scholarship program report their test scores to an independent research team led by David Figlio of Northwestern University, who analyzes their performance on national norm-referenced tests and compares the results to students nationwide.

This is the seventh such report, and the bottom line is familiar. As Figlio writes, tax credit scholarship “participants on average keep pace with national norms, suggesting that they neither gain ground nor lose ground on average relative to a national peer group that includes not just low-income families but also higher-income families.”

Read more at: www.redefinedonline.org

Lee County School Board Members Want Out Of Testing

The Lee County school board is considering opting the entire district out of standardized tests — and would be the first school district in Florida to do so. Board members said the tests are too expensive and are designed for kids to fail.

Board members unanimously expressed their disdain for standardized testing at the school board meeting Tuesday, pledging to research the possibility of “opting out” the entire district from standardized testing.

“There needs to be a come-to-Jesus meeting … to talk about these issues point blank,” Chairman Tom Scott said.

Board member Don Armstrong said the district cannot afford to continue testing at the current rate.

“A lot of our money is being poured out of this county to go to one company, I won’t say names,” he said. “But on this board or not on this board, I won’t stand for it anymore.”

Read more at: www.news-press.com

Why Schools Are Finding It’s Difficult To Go Digital

School districts across the country are running into roadblocks as they try to update technology and teaching methods in classrooms, MindShift reports. Florida schools are required to add digital curriculum, but not every district has added the high-speed Internet capacity needed to make it work.

Funding – or lack of it – is the number one issue facing school districts as they convert to the digital learning world, said John Halpin, vice president of the Center for Digital Education, a national research institute that focuses on in K-12 and higher education technology trends. It’s not that districts don’t necessarily have money for instructional materials; rather, state policy and district proclivity often haven’t caught up with tech realities. States have operated for decades in a system where they have huge textbook adoption cycles where they shell out millions for, say, middle school science texts that are expected to last for five-to-seven years — even if a new planet is discovered or dumped.

In the transition to digital, districts buy a license for a specific software and pay based on the number of students using it. Though it’s uncertain whether the move saves money, there are other benefits. Districts could negotiate for updates and improvements, just like any other software program.

Read more at: blogs.kqed.org

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