Putting Education Reform To The Test


Map: How Full-Time Support Staff Jobs Have Changed In Your County Schools

At the start of last school year there were about 15,000 fewer full-time jobs in Florida public schools than there were in 2007. Almost all of those jobs — 99.5% — are support staff positions like custodians, secretaries and classroom aides.

StateImpact Florida has been reporting on the changes in staffing at Florida public schools.

Want to know how your school district compares? You can see a map of county-by-county changes in full-time support staff here:


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PARCC: Florida’s Departure Won’t Sink Next Generation Test

Massachusetts education commissioner Mitchell Chester, right, says PARCC is in good shape even if Florida leaves the partnership.

Mark M. Murray / The Republican/Landov

Massachusetts education commissioner Mitchell Chester, right, says PARCC is in good shape even if Florida leaves the partnership.

Florida Legislative leaders left no wiggle room in last week’s letter to Education Commissioner Tony Bennett: They want Florida to pull out of a multi-state partnership developing a next generation standardized test to (mostly) replace the FCAT.

Florida is not the first state to consider withdrawing from the group, known as the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. But Florida is the most significant state so far.

That’s because Florida is managing the money for the new test, which is tied to Common Core State Standards fully adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Florida is also a national trendsetter in education policies, such as evaluating teachers based, in part, on test scores and assigning schools and districts A through F letter grades for their performance.

Florida’s potential departure means other states might follow — and whether enough states will remain to allow PARCC to finish its work. PARCC is funded with a $186 million federal grant, which requires at least 15 states remain PARCC members.

“I don’t think any single state is going to make or break the PARCC project,” said Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and chairman of PARCC. “It doesn’t surprise me that there are states that are questioning their commitment.”

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How School Zero Tolerance Rules Turn Bad Behavior Into A Crime

Malcolm Calvert was in 7th grade when he got into an argument with his 6th grade friend on a school bus and hit him with a Tootsie Pop.  “I hit him with it on his head,” recalls Malcolm, who was a student at Lanier James Alternative School in Hallandale Beach, Fla., when the Tootsie Pop incident happened in 2011. “They handcuffed me and took me off the school bus.” Continue reading

Grading Florida Schools: Opportunities Lag for Rural Students

Jessica Pupovac / StateImpact

Click on the map to see which school districts have the most students taking advanced courses.

Florida high schools are being judged by the number of students enrolled in college-level classes. It’s tied to bonus money from the state.

But in Florida’s rural counties, small schools say they can’t compete with the opportunities at large urban schools.

Ashley Carr, a senior at Sneads High School in rural Jackson, Fla., is worried about how her course schedule will look to college admissions counselors.

“My senior year looks really ridiculous because I have 3 PE classes,” she said.

“But it’s not that I’m lazy, there’s just not anywhere else to put me.”

You can search for the opportunities at your school here.

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Why Florida Schools Want the Right to Paddle Misbehaving Students

Sarah / Gonzalez

The wooden paddle sits on the principal's desk at Sneads High School in Jackson County, Fla.

Spanking in school may seem like a relic of the past.

But in Florida, students from preschoolers to high school seniors are still being paddled by teachers and principals.

In parts of the state, mostly in the rural north, getting spanked at school, on your butt, with a wooden or fiberglass board, is just part of being a misbehaving student.

“I been getting them since about first grade,” said Lucas Mixon, now a junior at Holmes County High School in Bonifay, Fla.

“It’s just regular. They tell you to put your hands up on the desk and how many swats you’re going to get.”

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Mapping Charter School Gaps

Matt Stiles / NPR

This map shows charter school attendance in every Florida county. Click on the image for an interactive map.

More than two dozen counties did not have a  charter school during the last school year, despite a rising percentage of Florida students attending charter schools.

These interactive maps show the counties without charters and the percentage of students in each county that attend charter schools.

Click on the image to view the interactive maps.

School Boards Getting Tough on Charter Applications

Matt Stiles / StateImpact Florida

More than one-third of Florida school districts did not have a charter school during the 2010-2011 school year.

Seminole County school board chairwoman Dede Schaffner admits it — her county is tough on people wanting to open new charter schools.

But Schaffner said the district isn’t asking anything more than the state asks of Seminole County.

Last month the school district rejected three applications for new charter schools.

In one case, district officials argued they already offered the online courses proposed by a virtual charter school.

In another, they rejected a plan from a for-profit company to replicate its ‘A’-rated South Florida charter in Seminole County. It’s a direct challenge to a new state law that makes it easier for high-rated charter school to expand.

Schaffner said Seminole County has had to close charter schools in the past and knows how to identify red flags in an application.

“We just felt like the ones that applied did not live up to the expectations of Seminole County,” Schaffner said. “We have to be sure that we improve student learning.”

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