Putting Education Reform To The Test

Sammy Mack

Sammy Mack is the Miami-based education reporter for StateImpact Florida. Sammy previously was a digital editor and health care policy reporter for WLRN - Miami Herald News. She is a St. Petersburg native and a product of Florida public schools. She even took the first FCAT.

  • Email: smack@miamiherald.com

Florida Students Talk About The State’s Race-Based Education Standards

Students and civil rights activists are still asking Florida to hold black and Hispanic students to a higher standard.

It’s been a little more than a year since the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County filed a federal civil rights complaint against the state’s race-based academic goals.

There have since been a number of protests by activists who oppose lower expectations for minorities.

But to understand how the race-based goals play out in the classroom, StateImpact Florida sat down with a panel of high school students to talk about the expectations:

We spoke with a panel of students about Florida's race-based education goals.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

We spoke with a panel of students about Florida's race-based education goals.

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Check Out The Practice Questions For The New FCAT Replacement

The new test has a new look.

Florida Standards Assessments / www.fsassessments.org

The new test has a new look.

The Florida Department of Education has released practice questions for the new assessments that will replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test next year.

The tests, which are aligned to the new Common Core-based Florida Standards, are available at the Florida Standards Assessments website.  Some questions are similar to what students might have seen on the FCAT—asking test-takers to identify main ideas in a text or figure out a percentage in a word problem.

And as promised, there are some new tasks in the design of the test, too. Like a prompt that asks students to drag and drop images as an answer to a question about a reading passage: Continue Reading

Florida’s Education Commissioner Says FCAT Replacement Is On Track For Next Year

The Orlando Sentinel reports Florida’s Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, has promised the FCAT replacement is trundling along on schedule for next year:

Florida’s work on FCAT’s replacement is “on time and on schedule,” and educators will get more details about the new exams, including sample questions, on June 30, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said this morning. Stewart, speaking at the State Board of Education meeting in Nassau County, said the state’s public schools have lots of resources to implement the new “Florida Standards.”

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

Sign Comes Down On School Once Named For KKK Leader

This summer, Jacksonville’s Nathan B. Forrest High is officially becoming Westside High after a decades-long fight over the school’s name.

Forrest was a confederate general, slave trader and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. But in the most recent round of arguments over the school’s namesake, supporters of Forrest said it would be too expensive to replace the signage.

Ultimately, the school board voted to change the name to Westside. And Jacksonville education reporter Rhema Thompson reports the new signage is being donated:

Nathan B. Forrest High School’s physical transformation into Westside High School has begun.

Read more at: news.wjct.org

Fill In The Blank: The First Day Of Summer Is Like _____.

This is what the first day of summer feels like for some folks.

chrisroll / freedigitalphotos.net

This is what the first day of summer feels like for some folks.

School’s out for summer across Florida.

In honor of the much-anticipated break, we asked teachers, students and administrators to describe that first day out of the classroom by filling in the blank: The first day of summer is like ____.

For some, it’s a welcome respite.

For others, it’s the beginning of the next school year.

Check out the responses in the Storify below. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.


The Sunshine Economy: Common Challenges, Changing Classrooms

Our partners at WLRN put together a special education hour of the Sunshine Economy this week. The conversation ranged from a talk with Broward County’s superintendent about Common Core to a chat with a group of high school students about diversity in the classroom:

School's out for summer.

stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net

School's out for summer.

In this edition of The Sunshine Economy:

The school year may be over, but the next chapter in public education begins in less than three months: Common Core State Standards.

However, Florida public school kids won’t follow Common Core, at least not in name. The state has dubbed the standards “Florida Standards.” Still, the principles of Common Core remain: more rigorous education standards to better prepare students for college and careers.

The employment stakes of education are huge. In May, the U.S. job market marked a milestone. The number of jobs created since the recession ended is now equal to the number of jobs lost during the economic collapse. But the recovery is lumpy to say the least. The job gains are concentrated among those with at least some college education. The number of people who have solely a high school diploma or less and a job remains well below what it was before the recession. Continue Reading

Working This Summer For College? It’s Probably Not Going To Cover What It Used To

A summer job used to cover more of college than it does now.

stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net

A summer job used to cover more of college than it does now.

A summer job for a college student isn’t what it used to be.

Anya Kamenetz from NPR’s education team explored the economics of rising college costs over the years—and the comparatively creeping change in minimum wage. What she found is that a summer job just doesn’t cover what it used to:

“Let’s look at the numbers for today’s public university student. They’ve all changed in the wrong direction. In 2013-2014, the full cost of attendance for in-state students was $18,391. The maximum Pell Grant didn’t keep pace with that. It’s $5,550. That leaves our hypothetical student on the hook for $12,841.”

You can read the full story here and listen to the conversation from All Things Considered:

Gov. Rick Scott Signs In-State Tuition Bill For Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented immigrant students, who were brought to Florida by their parents when they were younger, will now be eligible for in-state tuition. Gov. Rick Scott signed the “Dreamer” bill into law:

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed legislation that allows students who are undocumented immigrants to qualify for less expensive in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities. The bill (HB 851), sponsored by Rep. Jeannette Nunez, R-Miami, was one of the most intensely debated during the 2014 legislative session in Tallahassee.

Read more at: miamiherald.typepad.com

Anatomy Of A Charter School Conversion Fight

Michael Vasquez of the Miami Herald has an interesting profile of an attempt to convert a Broward County school to a charter. The school is for students with special needs–and parents are upset about county plans to close and consolidate it:

Mellissa Butler-Smith remembers feeling powerless a little more than a year ago – the Broward school district was closing her son’s special-needs school, and the protests of parents seemed to be falling on deaf ears. “In the beginning, we were downtrodden,” Butler-Smith said. “Just felt, like, abandoned.”

Read more at: www.miamiherald.com

Examining ‘Re-Segregation’ In South Florida Schools

It’s been 60 years since the Supreme Court ruled that separate is inherently unequal. But today, it’s hard to see the impact of that decision in some classrooms. The Miami Herald looked into the demographics of Miami-Dade County Public Schools:

“A Miami Herald analysis shows that tens of thousands of black and Hispanic students attend class in schools that would have fit the definition of “segregated’’ during the three decades that the federal courts monitored Miami-Dade’s integration efforts.”

As the first all-white school to be integrated in Florida, Orchard Villa Elementary was once a symbol of progress in race relations. Today, it’s an example of other powerful social changes: Dramatic demographic shifts that have changed the face of Miami-Dade County’s population – and of the students that fill its classrooms. In 1959, four black kids broke the color barrier in at Orchard Villa.

Read more at: www.miamiherald.com

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