Putting Education Reform To The Test

Lake County School Board Could Ban Corporal Punishment

The Lake County school board could vote later this month on whether to outlaw the use of corporal punishment in schools. The district hasn’t paddled students in years, and was sued over the use of paddling in 1988 by a parent.

If given a final OK in mid-July, the decision would represent a significant break with the past. Lake officials have clung to the increasingly obsolete paddling policy — the district is the last in Central Florida to allow the form of discipline. The board last year decided to keep corporal punishment as an option, but a consensus has now developed that in a modern world populated by potential litigants it’s time to cast aside the paddle.

The goodbye comes with a twinge of regret for one board member.

“I’m not one to spare the rod,” board member Bill Mathias said at a recent workshop, adding that order is sometimes instilled “from the butt up.”

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

Florida’s New School Standards Both “Successful” And A “Disaster”

 Frances S. Tucker Elementary School fifth grade teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar. Math lessons are carefully designed to match Florida's new Common Core-based standards.

John O’Connor / StateImpact Florida

Frances S. Tucker Elementary School fifth grade teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar. Math lessons are carefully designed to match Florida’s new Common Core-based standards.

Florida just completed the first year of one of the biggest experiments in U.S. education.

For the first time this year, every grade in every public school used new math and language arts standards that outline what students should know each year. The goal to have is high school graduates who are ready for college-level classes or the full-time work force.

School district and state leaders generally support the switch. Teacher and parent opinions differ about whether the new standards are an improvement.

But nearly everyone agrees the switch has been imperfect.

“This has been not necessarily a smooth transition,” said Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

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Federal Grants Will Fund Education Programs in Three Florida Cities

Florida’s K-12 education efforts are getting a boost from federal funds going to support about 700 Americorps volunteers in Orlando, Jacksonville and Miami.

Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, says the partnership will support education programs throughout Florida.

“We can’t do it alone in education—our community partners provide a tremendous amount of support to help ensure that our students and parents get the most out of education they receive in the schools in Florida,” Stewart says. “Volunteer Florida is one of those partners and thanks to this funding from CNCS, Volunteer Florida will be able to put Americorps members to work in schools across the state.”

Read more at: news.wgcu.org

Charter School Applicants Could Have To Disclose Ties To Other Schools

Florida International Academy charter school students in Opa Locka, Florida.

Joe Raedle / Getty News Images

Gov. Rick Scott visits with Florida International Academy charter school students in Opa Locka, Florida in 2011. The school closed last year because of poor academic performance.

The State Board of Education will consider changing the state’s standard contract for charter schools to require applicants to report affiliations with other charter schools. Charter school applicants would also have to report the academic and financial performance of those schools.

The proposal is a response to the rate of charter school closures across the state. A South Florida Sun-Sentinel series tracked the issue in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, finding more than 50 charter schools had closed in the past five year. Overall, nearly one in three Florida charter schools has closed since 1998.

Some schools closed owing school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Private Sports Academy Getting $2 Million In State Budget

Bradenton’s IMG Academy is getting $2 million in the state budget to expand its campus. The school trains pro athletes in many sports and charges up to $80,000 a year. School officials say the money will help lure sports research jobs to Florida.

When a private, for-profit sports academy known for training international sports stars — and charging as much as $80,000 a year to attend their boarding school — asked for money, state legislators this week quietly pledged more than $2 million to the project. That’s on top of more than $7 million they’ve sent its way the last two years.

Money materialized for the IMG Academy in Bradenton, even as other funding projects for stadiums and sports venues were staunchly opposed by budget hawks. IMG became the exception, lawmakers said, because it has become an international sports juggernaut that is attracting 12,000 athletes a year to train in the region. And that in turn is pulling in tourist and growing Florida’s fledgling sports tourism industry.

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

What To Know As Congress Prepares To Rewrite No Child Left Behind

Thursday the Senate could begin debating a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. Right now, the proposal would still require annual testing, but Education Week has the rundown on the areas of debate and what amendments to expect.

Among other things, the measure would:

Maintain the annual federal testing schedule;
Provide some flexibility on testing through a limited pilot program that allows states and school districts to develop innovative assessments;
Not include any provision allowing Title I dollars for low-income students to follow them to the school of their choice;
Maintain the requirement that states report disaggregated data for subgroups of students;
Require states to use disaggregated data in their accountability systems, but give them leeway to craft their own such systems;
Require states to identify low-performing schools, but wouldn’t be specific about how many schools states need to target;

Read more at: blogs.edweek.org

Teacher’s Union Appeals Decision In Private School Scholarship Lawsuit

The Florida Education Association and League of Women Voters are appealing a judge’s decision which dismissed their challenge of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. The program gives companies a dollar-for-dollar tax credit if they donate to a private school scholarship fund targeted toward low-income families.

The lawsuit, filed last year, argued the program violated the state Constitution because it redirects taxpayer money to religious schools and creates a separate system of state-funded schools. About 82 percent of the students using the scholarships attend religious schools.

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

Data Helping Colleges Catch Students Before They Drop Out

Virginia Commonwealth University has hired a data firm to help the school find “markers” that indicate when a student is more likely to drop out. The school doesn’t know yet whether graduation rates will improve, but the school has seen the number of students completing courses and re-enrolling improve.

VCU established “success markers” for every major, identifying classes students should be completing at various points on their path to graduation. A chemistry major, for instance, should earn at least a C in general chemistry by the end of the first year, Sykes said. If that student fails or enters sophomore or junior year without finishing that course, he or she would be flagged for counseling.

Advisers can use the school’s early-alert system to search for groups of students who have accumulated a lot of credits but haven’t graduated or those starting to fall below a 2.0 grade point average.

Read more at: www.washingtonpost.com

As Test Scores Count Less Toward Evaluations, Teachers Take Wait and See Attitude

Florida state lawmakers have acknowledged an over emphasis on tying job evaluations to student test scores. But as they re-evaluate their approach and retool measurements for teacher accountability, teachers and unions wait to see what comes next.

It cut the amount that test scores would count toward evaluations, giving school systems the option to add other indicators to the mix. It also dropped the requirement that every course in every grade level have a written end-of-course exam, a mandate that was to take effect this spring.

But the law also left room for interpretation. And that has left teachers and school district leaders uncertain, and somewhat distrustful, as they try to figure out what the next steps should be.

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

How Jeb Bush’s Education Record Will Change The 2016 Republican Primary

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to become a Republican presidential candidate Monday.

Education has been a signature issue for Bush. He helped start Florida’s first charter school. He says schools and teachers should be judged on student performance. He pushed for vouchers for private schools.

And he spent most of his time since leaving the Florida governor’s office advocating for his brand of school reform.

Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Bush will ensure education is a top issue in the 2016 presidential race. But he’s not the only candidate with a strong record on schools.

“You have a roster of candidates that are quite strong on this issue from the Republican side,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank which generally supports Bush’s version of education reform.

“It did not get much airtime in 2008 or 2012 and I think it’s going to be different this time around. And for those of us that care about education and schools, I think that’s a good thing. It’s better to have the country engaged on these issues.”

Bush is the 800-pound gorilla in the GOP field. His family has already produced two U.S. presidents. He has been raising tens of millions over the past few months as he explores a presidential bid. And he has an 8-year record as Florida governor.

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