Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

School Choice PAC Gets Involved In Volusia County School Board Race

A political action group which shares leadership with the state’s largest tax credit scholarship organization is running television ads in a Volusia County school board race, supporting the opponent of the incoming president of the Florida School Boards Association. Diane Smith said she thinks she’s being targeted because the FSBA plans to challenge the tax credit scholarship program in court.


Johnson wrote in an email she’s been transparent about her beliefs and nobody asked her to advocate for any position if elected to the School Board.

“I support giving parents and kids as many high-quality learning options as possible,” she wrote. “That includes public schools where my three children attend, virtual learning, home education, magnet schools, dual enrollment, and private choice programs for poor and disabled children.”

The committee declined to disclose how much money it has spent in the Volusia race, and public records for the loosely regulated political committees don’t make it clear.

Read more at: www.news-journalonline.com

Report: Miami-Dade’s Poorest Schools Have District’s Least Experienced Teachers

Pablo Ortiz with the Miami-Dade education transformation office says district schools are improving and they are working to make sure the least-experienced teachers aren't concentrated in the district's high-poverty schools.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Pablo Ortiz with the Miami-Dade education transformation office says district schools are improving and they are working to make sure the least-experienced teachers aren't concentrated in the district's high-poverty schools.

Students in some of Miami-Dade’s lowest-income schools are more likely to have teachers who are new to the profession, who miss more school time and who receive lower evaluation scores, according to a new analysis by the National Council for Teacher Quality.

Washington, D.C.-based NCTQ looked at student and school data by school board district at the request of the Urban League of Miami. The group focused on district 1, an area along the county’s northern border which includes Miami Gardens and Opa-locka, and district 2, an area north of downtown including Little Haiti and Liberty City.

Those school board districts have the highest percentage of black students and the highest poverty, as measured by percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, in the school district.

Of the 60 schools which received a D or F on the state’s grading system for public schools, 70 percent were located in school board district 1 or 2. And poor students were less likely to pass the state’s standardized tests.

At a town hall meeting at the Urban League of Miami, NCTQ researcher Nancy Waymack said districts across the country struggle to place top teachers in high poverty schools.

“This is not a secret,” she said, “but, when we see data like this it’s time to redouble our efforts.”

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Poll: Support For Common Core Falls As Awareness Rises

The annual PDK/Gallup poll shows Americans are less likely to support Common Core standards.

mikecogh / Flickr

The annual PDK/Gallup poll shows Americans are less likely to support Common Core standards.

The more Americans learn about Common Core, the less likely they are to support the math and language arts standards for K-12 public schools.

That’s one conclusion to draw from the annual poll from Phi Delta Kappa, a professional group for educators, and polling firm Gallup.

Last year, two-thirds of Americans said they had not heard of the standards. This year, more than 80 percent said they know at least a little about Common Core.

And they don’t like what they hear — 60 percent of those surveyed said they oppose Common Core. The most common reason given was concern Common Core would limit teachers’ classroom decisions.

“Given the increased media coverage this year, we were not surprised that an overwhelming majority of Americans have heard about the Common Core State Standards, but we were surprised by the level of opposition,” PDK CEO William Bushaw said in a statement. “Supporters of the standards, and educators in particular, face a growing challenge in explaining why they believe the standards are in the best interest of students in the United States.”

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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

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