Putting Education Reform To The Test


Why Elementary Math Lessons Are Changing In Florida Schools

Frances S. Tucker Elementary Schoo fifth grade math teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar leads her class through an exercise to group data on a line graph.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Frances S. Tucker Elementary School fifth grade math teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar leads her class through an exercise to group data on a line graph.

At dinner tables across Florida, parents and their elementary school children are trying to solve a math problem: What’s going on with my kid’s homework?

Florida is one of dozens of states that has switched to new math standards based on Common Core. The standards outline what students should know in every grade.

Experts say it means big changes to how math is taught. More focus on understanding concepts and solving problems multiple ways. Less memorization of formulas and grinding out worksheets full of similar problems.

Math is a constant conversation for Jessica Knopf and her fifth-grader, Natasha.

They talk about math at the dinner table. They send questions and answers by phone. They sought tutoring in online videos.

“When this Common Core stuff starting coming home,” Knopf says, “it wasn’t something I could just scribble and go ‘Oh, here it is.’ No. I had to stop. I had to think about it. I had to go online to Khan Academy. I had to bring my husband in. It wasn’t logical.”

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VIDEO: Sir Patrick Stewart Talks Arts Education, Shakespeare

Sir Patrick Stewart is the chancellor of a university.

Maria Murriel / WLRN

Sir Patrick Stewart is the chancellor of a university.

The actor Sir Patrick Stewart is best known in the United States for his roles on stage and on screen. But you might be surprised to learn that the man who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard is chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, a 20,000-student university in England.

Stewart was in South Florida this past week for Going Global, an international higher education conference sponsored by the British Council.

Unlike university heads in the U.S., British university chancellors hold more of a representative than an administrative position. It’s a role Stewart takes seriously.

“I made a condition at the time that I was not interested in being a celebrity status symbol for the university, I wanted to be as active as possible,” says Stewart.

Stewart himself finished school at 15 years old. When he later started acting, he found himself surrounded by bright, well-educated artists. He did end up attending drama program, but he was self-conscious about his own schooling—which made the Huddersfield opportunity all the more meaningful.

“This invitation was significant to me because I had no higher education whatsoever,” he says.

Stewart sat down with StateImpact Florida to talk about how one teacher influenced an entire career:

And watch him recite a bit of one of his favorite Shakespearean verses, as well as address what line of the Bard’s Florida is most like: Continue Reading

Marco Rubio Wants To Change College

Sen. Marco Rubio wants to change higher education.

Sen. Marco Rubio wants to change higher education.

When Sen. Marco Rubio was growing up, his parents gave him an edict:

“From a very early age they used to tell us, ‘tu tienes que estudiar,’ which means, ‘you have to study.’ So growing up I don’t ever recall not considering going to college,” Rubio told an audience at Miami-Dade College on Monday.

Rubio talked at length about his education with a crowd of students, advocates and press at a summit presented by The National Journal on Monday. He used his speech to outline what he calls the “growing opportunity gap” and explain what he would do to change higher education.

Rubio described how, once he graduated from the University of Miami’s law school, he was surprised he couldn’t afford the repayments on his $100,000 student loan.

“One of the central problems of our outdated higher education system is that it has become increasingly unaffordable for those who stand to benefit the most,” he said.

And even if students can afford it, Rubio thinks traditional college isn’t a good investment for everyone. Continue Reading

Video: Peek Into A One-To-One Classroom

Adam Redding researches the parts of a plant on his XO laptop.

Adam Redding researches the parts of a plant on his XO laptop.

Earlier this week, we took you to Holmes Elementary School in Miami to get a sense of a one-to-one classroom — where there’s one computer for every student.

As Florida schools prepare for a state mandate that requires half of all learning materials to be digital by fall of 2015. Lawmakers and educators are trying to figure out whether every schoolchild should have a tablet or laptop computer, as a state panel recommends.

At Holmes, the computers are XO laptops from the organization One Laptop Per Child. The two-tone plastic computers—which have not been without their critics—are designed to appeal to kids and get tossed around.

You can see a video of Holmes first grader Adam Redding and his mother, Lyndra Forbes, using one of the computers here: Continue Reading

Florida Republican Party Ads Praise Gov. Scott’s Education Record

The Republican Party of Florida has released two new Web videos to defend Gov. Rick Scott’s record on education.

The first is a compilation of news stories about Scott’s statewide tour celebrating his successful push to include teacher raises for the budget year beginning July 1.

Scott asked lawmakers for $480 million in additional salary for teachers and other instructional personnel. Lawmakers agreed to the amount, though they did make some of the pay raise contingent on teacher evaluations.

The ad picks up on Scott’s slogan — and adds a social media touch — noting “#ItsWorking for Teachers” and “#ItsWorking for Students.”

The ad also states next year’s state budget will add $1.2 billion for K-12 funding.

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A Parent’s Guide To How New Common Core Tests Are Different From FCAT

By now, most Florida parents have heard the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is on its way out. But they might not know a whole lot about what’s replacing the FCAT.

The most likely replacement is known as PARCC, or the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Students are scheduled to begin taking the test in the spring of 2015 (more on that later).

We’ve put together a handy video that lays out the differences between the two exams.

A Parent’s Guide To How New Common Core Tests Are Different From FCAT from StateImpact Florida on Vimeo.

Here are some of the key differences:

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A Florida Math Teacher’s YouTube Lessons Reach People in 100 Countries

About half a million people from around the world have been tuning in online to the math lessons of a Florida teacher, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Rob Tarrou, a teacher at St. Petersburg High School, records lessons on algebra, trigonometry, calculus, statistics and other math subjects under his YouTube channel “Tarrou’s Chalk Talk.”

Some videos have more than 33,000 hits so far.

In this video where the high school teacher is rocking a shirt that reads, “5 out of 4 people have a problem with fractions,” Tarrou gives an introduction to equations of parallel or perpendicular lines.

Below are comments from his grateful viewers.

strfiretiger123 wrore:

Oh gosh, thank you so much! You’re a seriously amazing teacher.

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The 2012 GOP Presidential Field On Education, In Their Own Words

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP

Four Republican candidates for president debated in Tampa Monday.

Yesterday we published a guide to where the Republican presidential candidates stand on education issues.

Today we’ll let you hear from them in their own words.

We’ve selected a few YouTube clips, presented in alphabetical order. Please note that some of these clips are older, and not from the current campaign.

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