Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Teachers to See Bonuses Based on Their Own Past ACT and SAT Scores

During its most recent session the Florida Legislature approved a plan to tie teacher bonuses to ACT and SAT scores, the teachers themselves took in high school. But some teachers are questioning how their pay can be tied to something they did before they became teachers.

The new Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarships could give teachers up to a $10,000 bonus if they scored at least a 26 out of 36 points on the ACT or at least a 1210 on the 1600-point SAT. They would also have to be rated as “highly effective” under the state’s new teacher evaluation guidelines.

Read more at: www.heraldtribune.com

What Jobs Skills Are Florida Students Learning?

Adobe Photoshop is the top job skill Florida students are learning in school.

reinis / flickr

Adobe Photoshop is the top job skill Florida students are learning in school.

Earlier this week we told you about AMskills, a program bringing German-style apprenticeships to Tampa-area students.

Another way Florida has tried to help school prepare students for jobs is the Career and Professional Education Act. The law helps businesses create academies within public schools to train students and help them earn professional certifications. Those certifications can help students find a job or earn college credit.

Improving CAPE was a top priority of legislative leaders in 2013.

So what kinds of certifications are Florida students earning?

Computer skills are a top choice, with students learning how to edit and manipulate images, create web sites and use basic office software. Food protection is the top career-specific certification, followed by several medical certifications.

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Congress Starts Debate On Revamped Federal Education Law

An update to the federal No Child Left Behind law is finally hitting the Senate floor for debate. The bill has support of Republicans and Democrats, but there is still much disagreement over what the federal government’s role in education should be.

Congress is making another run at rewriting the Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law, even as the White House urges changes that the administration says would ensure that schools be held accountable when their students are seriously lagging their peers in other better-performing elementary and middle schools.

Read more at: abcnews.go.com

Tampa Bay Counties Partner with Germany for Student Apprentice Program

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is briefed on AMskills.

M.S. Butler / StateImpact Florida

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is briefed on AMskills.

Not every high school student wants to or even needs to go to college, but graduating students without a college degree may have a hard time gaining entry or experience at companies hiring for high paying, high skilled jobs. A local program is trying to bring that experience to graduating students.

Seven years in the making, AMskills was designed to be a German style apprenticeship program where tenth grade students apply to get in, just like applying for a job, and train on the job while earning good money. After graduation, they have experience and sometimes a job waiting for them.

“We’re always looking for a skilled workforce,” Juergen Borsh, general consul for Germany,  said.  ”This is one of the big obstacles when a decision is being made in a German company- where do we want to go and invest?”

Borsch said German businesses in the US want to expand their operations but they can’t find enough workers who have the skills they need.

“I have learned here in Florida, I have been here for two years now, that many companies say we would love to expand,” Borsch said, “We could expand– we need the people, and I hear this in so  many different fields.”

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Who’s Been Giving To Jeb Bush’s Education Group?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told business leaders gathered in Michigan that education can pull kids out of poverty.

National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA)/flickr

The education foundation started by former Gov. Jeb Bush has released a list of donors.

This week, the education advocacy group started by former Gov. Jeb Bush released a detailed list of donors for the first time. The Foundation for Excellence in Education posted the list on its website.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education conducts research and advocates for states to adopt education policies, including expanding school choice, measuring student, teacher and school progress and adopting the Common Core math and language arts standards. The group has raised $46 million since 2007.

The donor list does not reveal exact amounts, but lists each gift within a range — such as from $10,000 to $25,000. Gifts of more than $1 million did not have an upper range. More than 180 donors have given to the group.

Foundations were the biggest givers, with the Walton Family Foundation donating between $3.5 million and more than $6 million. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave between $3 million and more than $5 million over five years.

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Algebra Isn’t Enough: Make Precalculus A Bright Futures Requirement

Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle.

Florida State University

Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle.

While Florida’s Bright Futures scholarships no longer pay the entire tuition bill at the state’s public universities as they once did, they are still a valuable source of financial support for thousands of students.

Recent increases in the minimum scores on SAT and ACT college entrance exams required for Bright Futures eligibility have sparked some discussion and an investigation – now closed – by the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

But aside from the test score requirements, the only high school courses required for Bright Futures eligibility are those required for high school graduation.  In math, that means that only Algebra 1 and Geometry are presently required to earn a Bright Futures scholarship.

The conventional wisdom among education policy-makers and scholars has been that Algebra 2 is the high school math course that makes a student “college-ready,” and by that standard the math course requirement for Bright Futures falls short.

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Financial, Education Firms Big Donors To Jeb Bush’s Foundation

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has disclosed donors to the education-focused non-profit for the first time. It’s part of Bush coming clean with tax returns and other records as part of his presidential campaign.

After leaving the Florida governor’s office in 2007, Bush formed the Foundation for Excellence in Education, with a mission “to build an American education system that equips every child to achieve their God-given potential.” With Bush serving as president, the group attracted $46 million from donors through 2014.

That donor list shows the circular connections as Bush moved from governor to education advocate to corporate board member. Supporters in each of those stages of his career contributed to his educational foundation — which, in turn, sometimes supported causes benefiting its donors. They include Rupert Murdoch’s media giant News Corp., GOP mega-donor Paul Singer’s foundation, energy companies such as Exxon Mobil, even the Florida Lottery.

The voluntary release of the donor names comes less than 24 hours after Bush took the unprecedented step of releasing 33 years of personal tax returns.

Read more at: bigstory.ap.org

U.S. Supreme Court Will Again Review College Race-Based Admission Policies

Colleges around the country are preparing for the possibility of changing their race-based admissions policies. The United States Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider a challenge to affirmative action at the University of Texas at Austin that could mandate such changes.

Eight states now ban race-based affirmative action, and their top public universities have different approaches to ensure racial and economic diversity.

Some give preference to working-class students, those from troubled high schools and those whose parents did not attend college. Others have increased financial aid.

The flagship public universities in Texas and Florida — and other states, to a lesser extent — began offering admission based primarily on how high students ranked within their own high schools, rather than statewide, which often meant that poor and minority students competed with others from similar backgrounds.

Read more at: www.nytimes.com

Tampa Bay Program Helps Fifth Graders Make Sense of Their Financial Futures

Enterprise Avenue contains the banking, shopping and dining destinations for students visiting Enterprise Village.

M.S. Butler / StateImpact Florida

Enterprise Avenue contains the banking, shopping and dining destinations for students visiting Enterprise Village.

The first time some students learn about finances is during a high school economics class. Others learn by trial and error, but one program in the Tampa Bay area already has a  history of helping  students get an early start on making sense of their finances.

Here in central Pinellas County, just like any community in America, it’s early morning and everyone is beginning to show up for work.

Buses are unloading and students are heading  to  businesses like Verizon, Duke Energy and CVS Pharmacy which are getting ready to open.

But here on Enterprise Avenue all of these businesses are being run by fifth graders.

The students line up and shuffle their way impatiently into a building where the inside looks like a cross between a small town Main Street and a shopping mall. There’s a city hall decorated with patriotic bunting at one end and the local newspaper office at the other.

This is all part of Enterprise Village, a self-contained small town. It’s where elementary students get first-hand experience as business owners, employees and consumers.

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After Veto, State May Not Be Able To Spend $60 Million On School Technology

Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of $3 million to study school technology may prevent the state from spending $60 million set aside in the budget for technology.

A $3 million veto by Gov. Rick Scott might become a $63 million budget cut that affects one of the governor’s celebrated priorities – improved technology for Florida’s schools. “We’re in a little bit of a pickle here,” said state Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity. “I have requested a definite clarification.”

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

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