Putting Education Reform To The Test

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

New Scrutiny Of The Pros And Cons Of Cops In Schools

The recent viral video of a Kentucky deputy handcuffing a 6-year-old elementary school student raised questions about police presence in public schools. Supporters say the presence of a law enforcement officer deters school violence, fosters respect for the police and calms fears of parents. Opponents believe officers inappropriately take on the role of school disciplinarian and often criminalize children.

Take Desre’e Watson. After throwing a tantrum at a central Florida elementary school in 2007, the girl was taken to the police station – handcuffed around her biceps – to be fingerprinted and have her mug shot taken before being taken to county jail. Desre’e was charged with battery, and after a brief stay at the jail was released to her mother.

“Do you think this is the first 6-year-old we’ve arrested?” the local police chief asked The New York Times.

These brushes with the juvenile justice system can have long-term impacts, advocates for reform say. Nance says that even if a student isn’t convicted, her “life changes forever.”

Read more at: www.csmonitor.com

Seminole School Leaders Make Arguments To Replace State Test

Seminole County school leaders want to get rid of the Florida Standards Assessments and replace them with commonly-used national exam. The district lined up some arguments at their school board meeting Tuesday. The state has said the exams are not a suitable replacement.

Deputy Superintendent Anna-Marie Cote framed the discussion Tuesday as making sure Florida’s standardized tests were effective and efficient, so “students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach.”

School Board members also asked questions from representatives from the College Board, which creates the PSAT and SAT, and the Iowa Test, which makes reading and math tests for students. The School Board did not vote on the issue.

@apanda: Ummm, what? This started at the state level, and it’s been a huge moneymaker for some political cronies.
at 7:57 AM August 12, 2015

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Seminole County officials said the FSA typically takes about 20 days to administer, while the Iowa assessment took about five hours, with the results coming in about 10 days and the online scores in about 24 to 48 hours.

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

Assessing The State Of Teaching: Pay, Job Satisfaction And The Economy

The Diane Rehm show spent an hour discussing the state of teaching, and why some districts are struggling to find enough teachers.

Fewer people are becoming teachers than in the past: Enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the U.S. fell by around 30 percent between 2010 and 2014. Some blame the economic recovery, which is giving former teachers, who suffered through years of recession layoffs and poor teacher wages and working conditions, other options.

Read more at: thedianerehmshow.org

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