But the review also found that after problems with computerized testing, “scores for some students will be suspect.” The reviewers recommend that state test scores are not the sole basis to determine whether students graduate or if they are placed in remedial courses.
Lawmakers ordered the review of the Florida Standards Assessments after testing problems this spring. School districts around the state reported students had problems logging into the exam and some students were kicked out while taking the test.
The state hired Alpine Testing Solutions to conduct the review.
“This is welcome news for all of us,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said of the results. “Now all Floridians can share my confidence of the assessment.”
Stewart said any disruptions to testing are unacceptable and the state department of education will work with the testing company, American Institutes for Research, and school districts to try and prevent future problems.
Florida is the first state in the nation to require high school football players watch a training video and acknowledge the risk of concussions.
There’s growing concern about the risks of concussions in young athletes. For years, high school coaches have had to take courses on the dangers of head injuries. This year, for the first time, all high school athletes in Florida are required to educate themselves about concussions before they can compete.
As the George Jenkins High School football team practices in the mid-August heat, senior Gavin Engle takes a knee on the sidelines. He was injured in a helmet to helmet collision three days before, and realized he was feeling the effects of a concussion.
“I kind of laid on the ground for a second,” Gavin says. “It took me a minute to get it together. The light hurts, your head hurts, it hurts your eyes, it just makes everything feel like it’s pounding.”
Gavin stopped playing and saw a doctor — but state officials worry that not all athletes would take themselves out of action.
So, the governing body for the state’s high school sports passed a new rule this summer. The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) has mandated that all athletes have to watch a video about concussions and sign a form saying they understand concussion risks. Florida schools are the first in the country to take this step, and football programs –with their big rosters and summertime practices — are already dealing with the extra paperwork.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”