Putting Education Reform To The Test

Bilingual South Florida Students Can Now Earn A Special Diploma

South Florida school districts will start adding a seal to high school diplomas of students who prove they are fluent in English and another language. Ten states have approved the designation, and six Florida districts are certifying bilingual students. Advocates want Florida to pass a law as well.

The new program, which will recognize students with an award presented at graduation, was approved last month by the school boards in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. It’s still in the works in Broward County, with administrators planning to have it available by the end of the school year.

In a region that often attracts global companies, it could help boost students’ resumes, said David Coddington, vice president of business development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Broward County’s economic development group.

“I think to a certain extent, it’s just what international companies are going to expect,” he said. “And the fact that the school system is doing it is fantastic. It’s another tool in the toolbox for a student when they go into a competitive market to try and land a job.”

Read more at: www.sun-sentinel.com

Few Urban High School Students Are Taking The SAT And ACT

Less than one in three students in the 50 largest U.S. cities take the SAT or ACT college entrance exams. In Tampa, it’s 18.5 percent, Jacksonville 16.7 percent and Miami 14.1 percent of students. The report from the Center for Reinventing Public Education highlights a number of disparities between schools in cities and schools elsewhere.

In 50 of the largest U.S. cities, examined in a new report from the University of Washington Bothell’s nonpartisan Center On Reinventing Public Education, fewer than one in three students takes either of those tests.

The rate of taking the SAT or ACT in those cities topped out in Memphis, at just 30 percent. In three-fifths of the cities it was less than half that. While there’s a trend toward test-optional admissions at some colleges, the majority of four year institutions in the country still require one or the other.

The findings are including in a broad report by the researchers, gathering a variety of publicly available information on school performance in those 50 cities.

Read more at: www.npr.org

Education Could Be A Potent Issue For Both Right And Left In 2016 State Races

Florida education policies, including Common Core-based standards, testing and school grades, could be big issues in both Democratic and Republican state legislative races next year. The field could also be expanded, with all 160 up fro grabs depending on how the redistricting process works out.

And a lot more could happen to further enrage parents and teachers before they head to the polls next year.

By late 2016, the state will have released the 2015 test scores, issued school grades and calculated the component of teacher evaluations that’s based on the exams. The state also will have administered the spring 2016 exams and likely released students’ performance on those tests.

The issues are potent on both sides of the aisle. Republicans, particularly conservatives or tea party members, reject the Common Core standards as federal overreach and a threat to local control of schools. On the left, teachers’ unions and parents argue high-stakes exams have created test-centric classrooms.

Heading into next year’s legislative elections, local parent-led groups on both sides of the political spectrum plan to promote and endorse candidates who oppose the standards, tests and the use of scores to evaluate students, teachers and schools.

Read more at: www.capitalnewyork.com

Read: The First Results From Florida’s New Statewide Test

The first results from the Florida Standards Assessments have been sent to school districts.

The first results from the Florida Standards Assessments have been sent to school districts.

Florida school districts received the first round of test results from the Florida Standards Assessments this week.

The results show what percentage of students in each district scored within each quartile of all Florida students taking the exams. Parents can expect more detailed scores for their students next month.

The state is now setting cut scores for the the exams, which will determine what percentage of students are meeting state goals. Eventually, the state plans to issue A-to-F grades for every public school that will include Florida Standards Assessments results.

State superintendents have objected to those grades, arguing problems during spring testing and a recent review of the exam make the test results unreliable.

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Dad Challenging Laws Loosening Class Size Limits

For years, lawmakers have chipped away at a constitutional amendment limiting class sizes. They’ve added exemptions and loopholes. But a Boca Raton dad has filed a lawsuit because his son’s kindergarten class has too many students.

Kunz’s lawsuit may end up being the first test of those exemptions’ legality, education law experts say. Florida’s teachers union said Tuesday that it knows of no other case in which a parent has tried to challenge any of the various class-size loopholes in court.

But Kunz said he is focused less on the broader implications than on his own son’s classroom, where he believes both the teacher and students suffer from the larger class.

“Class sizes are important for instruction at younger ages,” he said. “(Larger classes) are bad for both the teachers and the students. All I want is to have the class size that’s provided for in the constitution.”

Read more at: www.mypalmbeachpost.com

Palm Beach School Board Challenging State Law On Charter Decisions

The Palm Beach County school board is challenging a state law after the State Board of Education overruled a decision to reject a new charter school. The Palm Beach school board argues they have the exclusive right to establish and oversee charter schools in the district.

Currently, state law allows charter schools whose applications are rejected by a local school board to appeal to the state.

In the brief filed this week, the school board argues that that law “invalidly delegates to the State Board of Education the authority to approve charter applications even though the School Board has the exclusive power to establish, ‘operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district.’”

In its brief, the school board argues that it has the authority to reject charter schools that are insufficiently “innovative.” As proof, it points to a state law that says that school boards that oversee a charter school “shall ensure that the charter is innovative and consistent with the state education goals.”

Read more at: extracredit.blog.palmbeachpost.com

Florida Teachers Say Deadline To Apply For New Bonuses Is Unfair

Miami teacher Brigette Kinney qualifies for a new state bonus program, but may not be able to compete the paperwork in time.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami teacher Brigette Kinney holds copies of her GRE scores and the state law creating the new teacher bonus program. She qualifies for the bonus -- up to $10,000, depending on how many teachers qualify -- but may not be able to compete the paperwork in time.

Miami teacher Brigette Kinney said she doesn’t always hear about school news when classes are out for the summer.

So Kinney missed the word that lawmakers set aside $44 million for bonuses based on SAT and ACT scores during a special summer budget session. Teachers who scored in the top 20 percent the year they took the exam and earned a “highly effective” teacher evaluation are eligible.

But Kinney said she didn’t learn about the bonuses until she returned to school in August — and that may have been too late.

The deadline to apply for the scholarships is Thursday. Kinney meets the requirements, but she’s not sure if her scores will arrive in time.

“I was told it would take two to four weeks to get my score, which I knew was going to be very tight” said Kinney, who teaches English and design in the International Baccalaureate program at Ada Merritt K-8 center.

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Advocates Say Collier County Schools Denying Immigrant Students

Groups who work with immigrants say they are having a tough time enrolling in Collier County schools. The school district has been accused of denying immigrant students their right to an education guaranteed by state and federal laws.

One Cuban student with an immigrant visa was denied enrollment in August after a Golden Gate High School administrator referred the 16-year-old to English instruction at an adult education program, the boy’s parents said in an interview last week. But Collier school officials told The Naples Daily News on Friday the student was always eligible to enroll, but his father wanted the child in vocational training instead. The child’s father, in an interview, denied that he insisted his son be enrolled in vocational school.

Read more at: www.naplesnews.com

Lawmakers Want To Streamline Testing

Students might not have to take as many exams testing the same material if legislative leaders get their way. The bill wouldn’t eliminate the Florida Standards Assessments, but could let schools substitute other test scores.

The lawmakers say they don’t seek to get rid of the FSA, as some school boards have proposed, but rather to supplement it with local testing flexibility.

The future of Florida’s education accountability program could rest in the balance, said Senate Education Appropriations Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who finds it wasteful to require students to take the FSA in a subject area where they have strong scores on Advanced Placement, industry certification and other tests.

“If we can’t pass a bill that says that … that’s the point at which we will lose the debate,” Gaetz said, noting confidence in the system already is precarious.

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

Political Correctness Challenges Campus Free Speech

Some top comedians say they're not performing on college campuses because students are too easily offended. A group is now tracking speech policies on campus.


Some top comedians say they're not performing on college campuses because students are too easily offended. A group is now tracking speech policies on campus.

Know the joke about how many college students it takes to screw in a light bulb?

Probably not, since it’s not a real joke. Nor is the decision some comedians are making to avoid college campuses where they say students today are too easily offended.

Back in June, comedian Jerry Seinfeld told ESPN radio that he was joining Chris Rock, Larry the Cable Guy and others who won’t play college campuses because they’ve become too politically correct.

“I hear that all the time,” Seinfeld told ESPN Radio.  “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me don’t go near colleges — they’re so PC.”

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