Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Test Review Raises Questions About Florida Standards Assessments Results

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and chief academic officer Marie Izquierdo.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and chief academic officer Marie Izquierdo.

The superintendent of Florida’s largest district says an outside review of the state’s new test shows that Florida students weren’t being tested on what they were expected to know.

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says a review of the Florida Standards Assessments released today shows that on some exams as many as one in three questions weren’t testing Florida standards. That’s because Florida hired a contractor, the American Institutes for Research, which repackaged test questions originally written for a Utah exam.

Standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade.

“Teachers taught Florida standards,” he said, “but kids were not assessed on Florida standards.”

Carvalho says that and other problems identified by an outside reviewer, Alpine Testing Solutions, are enough reason for the state to not issue A-to-F school grades this year. Carvalho was backed by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. The group issued a press release saying it still had “serious concerns” about the Florida Standards Assessments.

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Florida Standards Assessments Passes Review, FLDOE Says

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will answer questions about the Florida Standards Assessments review.

FLGOVSCOTT/flickr

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will answer questions about the Florida Standards Assessments review.

A review of Florida’s new statewide test has found the exam is valid and the results can be used to judge teacher and school performance, the Florida Department of Education announced.

But the review also found that after problems with computerized testing, “scores for some students will be suspect.” The reviewers recommend that state test scores are not the sole basis to determine whether students graduate or if they are placed in remedial courses.

Lawmakers ordered the review of the Florida Standards Assessments after testing problems this spring. School districts around the state reported students had problems logging into the exam and some students were kicked out while taking the test.

The state hired Alpine Testing Solutions to conduct the review.

“This is welcome news for all of us,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said of the results. “Now all Floridians can share my confidence of the assessment.”

Stewart said any disruptions to testing are unacceptable and the state department of education will work with the testing company, American Institutes for Research, and school districts to try and prevent future problems.

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Florida First State To Require Concussion Training For High School Athletes

Florida is the first state in the nation to require high school football players

nholiver / Flickr

Florida is the first state in the nation to require high school football players watch a training video and acknowledge the risk of concussions.

There’s growing concern about the risks of concussions in young athletes. For years, high school coaches have had to take courses on the dangers of head injuries. This year, for the first time, all high school athletes in Florida are required to educate themselves about concussions before they can compete.

As the George Jenkins High School football team practices in the mid-August heat, senior Gavin Engle takes a knee on the sidelines. He was injured in a helmet to helmet collision three days before, and realized he was feeling the effects of a concussion.

“I kind of laid on the ground for a second,” Gavin says. “It took me a minute to get it together. The light hurts, your head hurts, it hurts your eyes, it just makes everything feel like it’s pounding.”

Gavin stopped playing and saw a doctor — but state officials worry that not all athletes would take themselves out of action.

So, the governing body for the state’s high school sports passed a new rule this summer. The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) has mandated that all athletes have to watch a video about concussions and sign a form saying they understand concussion risks. Florida schools are the first in the country to take this step, and football programs –with their big rosters and summertime practices — are already dealing with the extra paperwork.

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Lawmakers Consider National Tests To Replace State Exams

Following the controversy and technical difficulties associated with administering the Florida Standards Assessment exam some state lawmakers are looking at replacing the test with existing national exams. Although the move to a national test was originally nixed by the state education commissioner the idea is gaining traction with some legislators.


State education commissioner Pam Stewart rejected the idea when it was originally proposed by Seminole County Public Schools, a high-performing district neighboring Orlando. The district’s leadership has argued the move would decrease the amount of time students spend taking tests and help prevent administrative problems like the technical difficulties that plagued state exams this spring.

Read more at: www.capitalnewyork.com

Florida May Have A Rocky Path To Education Reform

In other states the transition to new standards has been met with parent and teacher complaints as well as drops in test scores. If those experiences are any indication Florida may be in for a rocky roll out of new academic standards, especially following the technical errors that occurred with computer-based testing last spring.


Criticism of the state’s performance has already begun.
“There’s no doubt that anytime standards are raised, or even if testing methodology is changed, there is going to be an effect on results. I don’t believe that our Department of Education did as effective a job as they should have in preparing schools and students and educators and parents for that natural result,” said State Sen. Don Gaetz, a Republican from northwest Florida who chairs his chamber’s education appropriations committee. “When there are technological issues also with a statewide online assessment, that just exacerbates the problem.”

Read more at: www.capitalnewyork.com

Florida Gets Waiver On No Child Left Behind But Changes Are Ahead

The state of Florida has been granted a waiver on federal No Child Left Behind requirements. The waiver allows schools to wait to count students who are learning English. But upcoming changes in Florida’s waiver request will likely mean the state will agree to include these students in education counts by year’s end.


The federal government wants those youngsters’ test scores counted after they’ve been in American schools for a year.

Florida wanted them counted only after they’ve been in school two years. State and local educators think counting students before then — when they are almost sure not to pass state reading tests — unfairly makes both the students and their schools look bad.

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

Charity Helps Florida Students Get Dressed To Head Back To School

Lizbeth Engle packs boxes of clothing

Robin Sussingham / StateImpact Florida

Lizbeth Engle packs boxes of clothing

As schools open for a new school year, they’ll also start encountering student poverty and homelessness. At last count — the 2013/2014 school year –  the number of homeless students had risen to more than 71,000 in the state’s public schools. For many of these children, a brand new school uniform may be out of reach, though school officials say it makes a big impact on their attitude. One longtime charity in Lakeland is quietly helping to fill that need.

Lady Wolverton started the Needlework Guild in England in 1882, when she asked her friends to knit clothes for orphans of a Welsh mining disaster.   Reports of the group’s good works filtered back to the States, and a few years later, an American woman in Philadelphia reproduced the Needlework Guild there.

There are only two branches in Florida, both in Polk County. One is in Bartow, and the Lakeland branch — founded in 1935 — is celebrating its 80th anniversary. Many of the volunteers have mothers or grandmothers who raised money for Needlework Guild.

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Explaining The 2016 Presidential Field’s Ties To For-Profit Colleges

Higher education is poised to be a bigger issue in the 2016 presidential race than K-12. And as presidential candidates pledge to make college more affordable, many of them has ties to for-profit colleges which tend to charge much more to earn a degree.


Higher education has long been intertwined with the American dream, but with student debt now topping $1.3 trillion, there is growing public frustration about the cost of college. And the scandals surrounding some for-profit colleges have fanned the fire.

In Florida, nearly one in five students attend a for-profit college. But it is unclear if candidates’ stances on for-profits will become a factor in the 2016 campaign. In general, the complexity of higher education means candidates can stick to talking points — like complaining about rising tuition — without having to get into policy specifics.

Read more at: www.miamiherald.com

How Miami-Dade Schools Balances What Kids Want To Eat Vs. What They Should

A tray of guavalitos before baking. The breakfast treats are locally-made in Miami-Dade County and have just 100 calories.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

A tray of guavalitos before baking. The breakfast treats are locally-made in Miami-Dade County and have just 100 calories.

For the first time in decades, the majority of U.S. school children come from low-income families.

Florida has one of the highest rates in the country — federal data shows just seven states have a higher percentage of low-income students.

That means more students qualify for — and depend on — free meals provided by school districts. And meal service is now a year-round job instead of just when school is in session.

Ever planned Thanksgiving for a dozen relatives? Now imagine planning 200,000 lunches daily.

In Miami-Dade County schools, those meals starts in the district’s test kitchen, where Donna Drummond demonstrates how she makes spinach lasagna, a new addition to menus this year.

She ladles sauce into a pan. Then she places the frozen lasagna rolls — made with whole grain pasta and mozzarella cheese — into the pan.

The dish is designed to be easy and quick to make for hundreds of students. It comes with a salad and a breadstick spiked with low-fat mozzarella cheese.

A new breakfast choice is the guavalito, a lower-sugar version of Miami’s ubiquitous guava-and-cheese pastry. It’s just 100 calories.

These new choices are part of a menu this year featuring more vegetarian options.

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The Absence Of Test Data Leaves Schools In The Dark

Many of Florida’s 2.7 million public school students are already back in class but their schools still don’t have the results of last year’s state assessment exams. The inability to access the scores leaves schools guessing on how to promote students and evaluate teacher’s performance.


After technical problems disrupted this spring’s computer-based state exams, the first administration of tests based on Florida’s version of the Common Core standards, Gov. Rick Scott and the state Legislature ordered a costly review of the assessments’ validity.

Under the law, the results must be released on or before Sept. 1, at which point all of the state’s 2.7 million students will have started the school year.

School stakeholders say they’re in uncharted territory until then.

Read more at: www.capitalnewyork.com

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