Putting Education Reform To The Test

Explaining The 2016 Presidential Field’s Ties To For-Profit Colleges

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.

Read more at: www.miamiherald.com

How Miami-Dade Schools Balances What Kids Want To Eat Vs. What They Should

A tray of guavalitos before baking. The breakfast treats are locally-made in Miami-Dade County and have just 100 calories.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

A tray of guavalitos before baking. The breakfast treats are locally-made in Miami-Dade County and have just 100 calories.

For the first time in decades, the majority of U.S. school children come from low-income families.

Florida has one of the highest rates in the country — federal data shows just seven states have a higher percentage of low-income students.

That means more students qualify for — and depend on — free meals provided by school districts. And meal service is now a year-round job instead of just when school is in session.

Ever planned Thanksgiving for a dozen relatives? Now imagine planning 200,000 lunches daily.

In Miami-Dade County schools, those meals starts in the district’s test kitchen, where Donna Drummond demonstrates how she makes spinach lasagna, a new addition to menus this year.

She ladles sauce into a pan. Then she places the frozen lasagna rolls — made with whole grain pasta and mozzarella cheese — into the pan.

The dish is designed to be easy and quick to make for hundreds of students. It comes with a salad and a breadstick spiked with low-fat mozzarella cheese.

A new breakfast choice is the guavalito, a lower-sugar version of Miami’s ubiquitous guava-and-cheese pastry. It’s just 100 calories.

These new choices are part of a menu this year featuring more vegetarian options.

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The Absence Of Test Data Leaves Schools In The Dark

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.

Read more at: www.capitalnewyork.com

New Scrutiny Of The Pros And Cons Of Cops In Schools

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.”

Read more at: www.csmonitor.com

Seminole School Leaders Make Arguments To Replace State Test

Seminole County school leaders want to get rid of the Florida Standards Assessments and replace them with commonly-used national exam. The district lined up some arguments at their school board meeting Tuesday. The state has said the exams are not a suitable replacement.

Deputy Superintendent Anna-Marie Cote framed the discussion Tuesday as making sure Florida’s standardized tests were effective and efficient, so “students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach.”

School Board members also asked questions from representatives from the College Board, which creates the PSAT and SAT, and the Iowa Test, which makes reading and math tests for students. The School Board did not vote on the issue.

@apanda: Ummm, what? This started at the state level, and it’s been a huge moneymaker for some political cronies.
at 7:57 AM August 12, 2015

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Seminole County officials said the FSA typically takes about 20 days to administer, while the Iowa assessment took about five hours, with the results coming in about 10 days and the online scores in about 24 to 48 hours.

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

Assessing The State Of Teaching: Pay, Job Satisfaction And The Economy

The Diane Rehm show spent an hour discussing the state of teaching, and why some districts are struggling to find enough teachers.

Fewer people are becoming teachers than in the past: Enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the U.S. fell by around 30 percent between 2010 and 2014. Some blame the economic recovery, which is giving former teachers, who suffered through years of recession layoffs and poor teacher wages and working conditions, other options.

Read more at: thedianerehmshow.org

Why ‘Community Schools’ Are Taking Root In Florida

Part of the curriculum at Evans High School

Evans High School

Part of the curriculum at Evans High School

Evans High School in Orange County used to be known as a dropout factory. But since 2007, it’s gone from a two-time F-rated school to a B-rated school – in one of Orlando’s most troubled neighborhoods. Now, the “community school” concept is spreading to other Florida cities.

Evans is in a neighborhood called Pine Hills, where homes and businesses have bars at the windows. One student, found carrying a Taser, said it was due to her dangerous route home. The neighborhood has exceptionally high rates of juvenile crime and referrals to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

“We have long said at the Department of Children and Families that if we’re ever going to get our arms around neglect and abuse, it has to be a community-wide effort.”

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll. He says Evans has succeeded by becoming what’s called a “community school” — addressing the barriers to student success in a high-risk neighborhood.

“Everything from getting a child to school when they need to be there to making sure they’re fed when they arrive at school to making sure it’s safe going back and forth to school. If there are issues at home that may impact the child’s ability to learn when they get to school, that there’s assistance to do that…”

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Why Brevard County Teachers Are Leaving The Classroom

More Brevard County teachers left their jobs during the past school year than any other year in the last five. And more than 2,000 teachers had left their position or retired during the last six years. School district officials say those numbers aren’t alarming.

FLORIDA TODAY spoke with five teachers who decided to resign over the past year. Disrespect, pay, health and planning time were among the reasons they decided to pull the trigger.

Kim Hunt, a former Space Coast Jr./Sr. High math teacher, left in August 2014 after she said her doctor found the stress she was facing from work was adversely affecting her health.

“My blood pressure was way up and the doctor told me that I had to be on anti-depressants to be able to do my job,” Hunt said, who had been teaching since 1983. “At that point, I decided I could not have a career that I had to be medicated in order to do.”

Read more at: www.floridatoday.com

Computer Coding For Kindergartners To Begin In Central Florida

Using kid-friendly robots that look like bees, kindergarteners in Central Florida will begin learning basic computer coding skills this coming school year. The plan is designed to help students understand the science of writing programs that tell computers what to do. Seminole County Schools Superintendent Walt Griffin says the ultimate goal is to offer computer coding education in each grade by 2020.

The program that is unique to Central Florida begins with every kindergarten class receiving coding lessons this school year. A voter-approved property tax hike is paying for the $145,000 for the teachers’ training and equipment.

The plan stands out nationally at a time when there is a need for people who understand computer science in the workforce, experts say.

Read more at: www.orlandosentinel.com

Duval Schools Will Get Tough With Students Who Fight

Duval County’s school board voted for stricter penalties for students who get in multiple fights during school. But the board was divided about consequences for students who defend themselves.

The code changes will streamline the process for removing persistent brawlers and other troubled students and assigning them to one of Duval’s two alternative learning centers, Mattie V. Rutherford or Grand Park.

Before, it was possible for students to fight three times in one year and still come back to their home school but with the proposed changes a third fight would automatically land a middle-schooler or high school student in Grand Park for months at a time.

Currently both alternative schools receive students for a variety of repeat infractions, everything from cursing out a school employee to selling drugs.

Now the most violent middle and high school students and those involved in sexual offenses, drugs or weapons, will go to Grand Park, whlie Mattie V. Rutherford would handle fourth through ninth-grade students with, at most, one fighting offense.

Read more at: jacksonville.com

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