Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Schools Report Testing Problems, Suspend Exams For Some Students

School districts around the state report students had trouble logging in or experienced slow loading time with the Florida's new online writing exam.

Ann Douglas / Flickr

School districts around the state report students had trouble logging in or experienced slow loading time with Florida's new online writing exam.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

School districts across the state said students had trouble logging in to the state’s new writing exam Monday. And the test is running slowly for many who do manage to sign in.

Miami-Dade schools said they’re suspending all online testing for 8th through 10th graders until the state can prove the new system can handle the traffic.

Schools in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties suspended testing for students who couldn’t log on Monday.

It’s unclear why students are having trouble with the new exam. Florida Department of Education officials said they were investigating.

Students had plenty of other days to take the test, said spokesman Meghan Collins.

“This is a 90-minute test;” Collins said in a statement, “students have a two-week window, plus a makeup window, to complete the test. Commissioner Stewart is looking into any reported issues to determine the cause and will work to immediately resolve it.”

At least 35 districts reported problems with the exam, according to The Orlando Sentinel.  Miami-Dade school officials said the problem appeared to be the test vendor, American Institutes for Research, couldn’t handle the number of students attempting to log in to the test.

School superintendents repeatedly said they expected technological problems with the exam. Parents and educators have worried the exam has been rushed into replacing the FCAT.

Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Monday’s issues are a symptom of bigger problems with the test.

“You have not field tested this exam in Florida,” Carvalho said. “You have not developed a baseline.

“But you’re willing to run with what you have. Seems like you simply want to get it done rather than getting it right.”

Carvalho is one of many superintendents asking that this year’s test results not be used to calculate public school grades or teacher evaluation. They also don’t want the results to determine which third graders are held back for low reading scores.

Here’s what education writers around the state are reporting:

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Ready Or Not, Students, New Florida Exam Is Here

The new Florida Standards Assessments begin today. Most students will take the exam online, though some students will take a paper and pencil version of the writing exam.

Extra Ketchup / Flickr

The new Florida Standards Assessments begin today. Most students will take the exam online, though some students will take a paper and pencil version of the writing exam.

At Miami’s iPrep Academy, getting ready for the state’s new standardized test includes rapping.

Two students are recording the daily announcements, telling classmates when and where they need to be starting today.

“Monday is ninth graders, with last name A to G,” one student raps, in a rhyme that’s no threat to Miami’s Rick Ross.

“On Tuesday, it’s ninth graders with last name H through Z,” his partner continues.

“All testing is in room 2 – 0 – 4!” they conclude together, Beastie Boys-style.

Today marks the start of testing season for Florida schools. Students have state exams scheduled every few weeks from now until the end of the school year.

It’s the first time students will take a new test called the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSA, which replaces most FCAT exams.

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Teacher Warns Students Are Set Up To Fail New Florida Test

A Marion County teacher wrote an open letter to students and parents telling them why she think students will fail the new Florida Standards Assessments math exam.


Here’s what I did to you: I taught you three different ways to divide multidigit numbers except the one way everyone else in the world was taught. I tried my best to teach it to you, but since I was never taught this way, I know I confused you quite a bit. When you went home to your mom and dad confused as to how to solve a division problem with pictures and partial quotients, your parents — out of desperation — showed you how they were taught. We call that the standard algorithm, which in Common Core is a dirty word in fifth grade.

The next day, you came back to school so excited because you got it! You weren’t confused anymore. All your answers were correct because you checked them using multiplication.

And then, I did the unthinkable. I gave you a zero because you didn’t do it my way, the Common Core way.

Read more at: www.ocala.com

Job Market Improving For Recent College Grads, But Pay Is Not

Recent college graduates are more likely to find work since the end of the Great Recession, but pay is not yet increasing.

dsb nola / Flickr

Recent college graduates are more likely to find work since the end of the Great Recession, but pay is not yet increasing.

New college graduates are finding it easier to land their first job  – and unemployment rates are dropping for most degree holders.

But paychecks are still getting smaller for most recent grads, according to a study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

The study shows that unemployment was down for nearly every category of majors in 2012, the only exception being communications and journalism.

Science and engineering grads had the lowest unemployment rate — most around five percent.

Architecture and social sciences had the highest unemployment rates — around 10 percent. Those rates are almost the same as for experienced workers with just a high school diploma.

But while the job market is recovering from the Great Recession, salaries are not. The Georgetown researchers say pay won’t fully recover from the recession until 2017.

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Gov. Scott Signs Paperwork Suspending 11th Grade Test

As he promised last week, Gov. Rick Scott has signed an executive order suspending Florida’s new 11th grade reading and writing exam this year. He’s asked lawmakers to make that change permanent.


The governor last week said that there was too much testing going on in Florida’s schools.

He said then he planned to use his executive power to stop the administration of the English language arts test for high school juniors. The test is based on new standards drawn primarily from Common Core standards.

But some school districts said they would not suspend the test without an official order from state officials.

Read more at: www.gainesville.com

How A Private Middle School Is Preparing Students For High School Success

Academy Prep in St. Petersburg is a private middle school that only enrolls low-income students.

AcademyPrep.org

Academy Prep in St. Petersburg is a private middle school that only enrolls low-income students.

It’s 7:30 a.m. and the fifth through eight graders at Academy Prep in midtown St. Petersburg are lined up outside to recite the school pledge. It’s a cool February morning and they’re a little fidgety until Head of School Gina Burkett raises two fingers above her head and all goes quiet.

The pledge starts with “ Standing in this room are the greatest, most committed, most responsible people this world has ever known.”

That may sound slightly immodest but getting these kids to believe they are capable of great things is a big part of the curriculum here.

You see, Academy Prep is a private middle school exclusively for children whose families live below the poverty level and it is paid for entirely with corporate and private donations. It’s in one of the poorest areas of Pinellas County.

The school was started 17 years ago when the owners of a local resort overheard their employees talking about the problems their kids were having in the local public school.

So, using their own money and private donations they, along with some retired educators started this not-for-profit school in the heart of one of St. Petersburg’s most troubled neighborhoods.

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Why Do-It-Yourself Charts Help Students Remember Math Lessons

Frances B. Tucker Elementary School 5th grade math teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar stands in front of an example of a line plot.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Frances B. Tucker Elementary School 5th grade math teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar stands in front of an example of a line plot.

The 5th grade math lesson at Frances S. Tucker Elementary School asked students to do a lot of things.

They were learning how to use a line plot to organize and visualize data.

They had to add fractions to find a total for the amount of cake or glasses of apple juice students consumed.

Then, they had to divide the total to find the average.

Along the way, the students frequently took a peek at charts hanging around the room. Called anchor charts, these diagrams were drawn by students in the other 5th grade class and laid out each of the steps they used to create a line plot.

As Miami-Dade schools have switched to Florida’s Common Core-based math standards anchor charts are an important addition to classrooms, said Michelle White, who directs math instruction for the school district.

“It tells a learning story,” White said. “When you walk in I can look at anchor charts and see what concepts have been covered.”

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Miami-Dade Classrooms Using Computerized Math Lessons

Frances S. Tucker Elementary students use the i-Ready software during class.

John O'Connor

Frances S. Tucker Elementary students use the i-Ready software during class.

On one side of Yaliesperanza Salazar’s math class at Miami’s Frances S. Tucker Elementary School, students were learning to group data and draw conclusions using a line plot.

But another lesson was happening on the other side of the class, one tailored for each student using i-Ready computerized instruction.

i-Ready tests each student, identifies the concepts which he or she is struggling with and then delivers lessons, games and other activities to help the student master them. And this can all happen without the teacher’s help.

Salazar divided her class in half. While students worked in groups on line plots, the rest of the class worked by themselves on i-Ready lessons.

Working with just a dozen students — instead of 24 — allowed Salazar to spend more time with each on the complicated line plot lesson, which included more math concepts than usual. Salazar planned to switch the two groups the next day.

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Education Commissioner Recommends Eliminating Some State Tests

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Florida Department of Education / Flickr

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has recommended eliminating a high school exam, making another optional and asking state lawmakers and local school districts to cut back on the amount of testing.

Stewart’s recommendations are the conclusion of a statewide review of standardized testing requested by Gov. Rick Scott.

“There is, without a doubt, an excess of testing in Florida schools,” Stewart said in a statement, saying she’ll work with Scott, lawmakers and school districts to “strike the appropriate balance between accountability and instruction.”

Stewart says lawmakers should eliminate an 11th grade English language arts exam that was added this year as part of Florida’s adoption of Common Core-based standards. Florida’s 10th grade reading exam is a high school graduation requirement, prompting some lawmakers and schools to ask why an eleventh grade exam was needed.

Students are scheduled to take the new Florida Standards Assessments starting next month.

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Opinions On Common Core Mixed In Early-Voting States

A new poll checks the temperature of how early-voting states feel about the Common Core math and language arts standards. The poll shows support is stronger among potential Democratic voters than Republican ones. Of the three early-voting states, Common Core is least popular among Iowa Republican voters.


An NBC News/Marist College poll of the common core in the three states with the earliest presidential primaries shows that at this early stage, the standards appear to be in good political standing among both Democrats and Republicans in Iowa, but it’s a different story in New Hampshire and South Carolina on the Republican side. And the views of self-identified members of the tea party might also surprise some veteran observers of common-core politics.

The poll focused on registered voters; registered Republicans or unaffiliated voters who prefer to vote in a GOP primary or caucus; and registered Democrats or unaffiliated voters who prefer to vote in a Democratic primary or caucus.

Read more at: blogs.edweek.org

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