Putting Education Reform To The Test

Enrollment in Pinellas County Summer Learning Program Swells

During a time when many Florida counties were cutting back on summer school due to a lack of money, Pinellas County started expanding theirs using a combination of federal and state funds. And attendance over the past three summers has more than doubled

Across Florida more than 288,000 students were enrolled in summer classes in 2014. Nearly 15,000 of them are now enrolled in Pinellas County schools. One of those is Campbell Park Elementary where the Summer Bridge Program is now under way.
In Summer Bridge students in grades one through twelve can retake a class they failed during the school year or improve their reading, math or science skills.

Read more at: wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu

Superintendent Removes Confederate Mascot From Orange County Middle School

Orange County schools superintendent has removed a cartoon mascot depicting Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a middle school. The local school board member says Superintendent Barbara Jenkins also plans to ask the board to rename the school.

Lee Middle opened in 1956, with its sports teams nicknamed the Rebels.

It was one of a number of schools across the South named for Confederate leaders by white-run school boards after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 school desegregation case.

They were part of a “resurgence of Confederate identity” that emerged as part of the South’s resistance to the Brown v. Board of Education, said Bill Link, a history professor at the University of Florida, during a 2013 interview with the Orlando Sentinel.

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

More Florida Students Home Schooling

The number of students home schooling increased by more than 9 percent last year — the largest rate of growth since 2011. The percentage of students home schooling is growing faster than the rate of public school enrollment.

It’s hard to say what, exactly is driving the trend, or what caused the growth spike this year, since the state does not collect large amounts of data on home-school students.

It is worth noting that while the number of home-school students increased substantially, the number of home-school families only increased by 2.6 percent. That suggests that during the 2014-15 school year, a number of children in households that were already home schooling joined older brothers or sisters being taught by their parents.

Read more at: www.redefinedonline.org

Senate Says No To Allowing Parents To Opt Out Of Tests

The Senate voted not to allow parents to opt their students out of annual state tests during debate of the rewrite of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The U.S. House has included the idea, which means the two houses will have to reach an agreement.

The chamber voted 64 to 32 against the amendment, proposed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) amid a backlash against mandated standardized tests. “Parents, not politicians or bureaucrats, will have the final say over whether individual children take tests,” he said.

But Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — the Republican co-sponsor of the carefully crafted bipartisan bill — spoke forcefully against the proposal, saying it would strip states of the right to decide whether to allow parents to opt out.

“I say to my Republican friends, do we only agree with local control when we agree with the local policy?” said Alexander, who has framed the bill as an effort to transfer power over education from the federal government to the states.

The vote sets up an important difference to reconcile between the House and Senate bills to rewrite No Child Left Behind, the nation’s main federal education law.

Read more at: www.washingtonpost.com

Replace The FSA With The Iowa Test And SAT, Superintendent Says

Seminole County schools superintendent Walt Griffin says Florida should get rid of the Florida Standards Assessments and replace it with the Iowa Test and the SAT. Both tests are taken with paper and pencil.

The advantages, according to Griffin:

Both are paper-based exams unlike the FSA, which requires many exams to be given on computer. By eliminating computer-based testing, schools would be free of the disruptions caused by needing to schedule hundreds of students into testing sessions on a limited number of school computers.

The two national exams would take only four hours of testing per year per student. The FSA computer-based exams interrupted 31 days of classes for Seminole high schools.

As national exams, both would provide a way to see how Florida students stacked up to counterparts in other states.

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

Review of Florida’s Standardized Tests Is Just Getting Underway

Two companies hired to review Florida’s public school standardized tests say they are just getting started with their evaluations. Alpine Testing Solutions, one of the companies hired by the state, is being paid nearly $600,000 to validate the tests. The Florida Standards Assessment test, administered in March, was burdened with computer glitches and system problems that hampered testing efforts in some areas.

Alpine Testing Solutions and edCount, the firms selected to determine the validity of the state’s new standardized tests, presented their first status update since beginning their investigation last month..

EdCount and Alpine must validate the tests before the scores can be used for things such as student grades and teacher evaluations, after the Florida Legislature passed a bill mandating the investigation.

Read more at: www.heraldtribune.com

Some School Libraries Increasingly Becoming Testing Centers

As many Florida schools run short on room some are turning to library space to conduct state mandated testing. But librarians and school officials are expressing concern that students are losing too much time with a valuable reading and research asset.

School libraries are increasingly shutting their doors, turning instead into testing hubs as their books sit idle on the shelves, educators say. One in four schools in Palm Beach County that reported their library closures this year were shut down for 40 days or more, records show. Students attend class for 180 days.

Read more at: www.sun-sentinel.com

Meet The New Director Of The Florida School Boards Association

Andrea Messina replaces Wayne Blanton leading the statewide association of school boards. The organization is regrouping after supporting after several members of leadership were defeated in elections last year.

The road to Tallahassee began in Charlotte County. Messina taught in three of the district’s main high schools – Charlotte High in Punta Gorda, Lemon Bay High in Englewood and Port Charlotte High. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, Messina also worked as a teacher in Orange County.

Messina left the classroom after eight years to impact policy at the district level, serving for three terms of office for the Charlotte school board.

In terms of advocacy, Messina took part in a national committee charged with making recommendations to the federal government for its No Child Left Behind policy. From 2006 to 2008, she met with education, business and political leaders across the nation to evaluate how the measure was working and what needed to be done to make it better.

Read more at: www.news-press.com

Why Some State Test Results Are Less Honest Than Others

The difference in passing rates between state and federal tests has been dubbed the proficiency, or honesty, gap.

booleansplit / Flickr

The difference in passing rates between state and federal tests has been dubbed the proficiency, or honesty, gap.

Some states are telling students and parents they are better at reading, writing, math and other subjects than they really are, according to a new website from the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

The website, WhyProficiencyMatters.com, tracks the percentage of students scoring at grade level on state tests — “proficient” in education jargon. The site then compares those rates to how well students perform on the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP. Students take the NAEP every two years and the exam results are considered the gold-standard of education data.

The group has found that many states report a much higher percentage of students are proficient on state tests than are proficient on NAEP. Foundation for Excellence in Education director Patricia Levesque says some states are telling students they’re ready for college or the workforce when they might not be.

“It’s really important to look at what is the gap between how your students are doing on the national test compared to how they’re doing on the state test,” she said, “because that gap tells you, basically, how honest is your state being to parents with how their individual child is doing.

“We’ve been telling parents ‘Oh no, your child is fine.’ But then when they get to college they’re actually not ready.”

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Poll: Strong Support For Requiring Public School Students To Study Spanish

Two-thirds of people surveyed in a University of Florida poll say public school students should have to study Spanish.

Paul Sableman / Flickr

Two-thirds of people surveyed in a University of Florida poll say public school students should have to study Spanish.

More than two-thirds of Florida residents polled say public school students should have to take Spanish, according to a monthly University of Florida economic survey.

You’d expect South Florida residents might see a reason to require students to study Spanish — gateway to Latin America, and all — and they do.

But the University of Florida found the idea was supported by more than 60 percent of those polled in every region of the state — North, Central, Southwest and Southeast.

Christopher McCarty is the director of the University of Florida Survey Research Center at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. He added the question to the university’s monthly economic poll and is surprised by the result.

“Given this is somewhat of a contentious issue, certainly in other states, I thought that this might be more contentious here,” he said. “But there was strong support for requiring Spanish and requiring our children learn to be bilingual.”

POLL: Tell us what language you think Florida students should learn.

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