State Rep. Bob Cortes discusses a bill to urge Congress to convert Title I funding into block grants Tuesday.
For its first bill of the 2017 session, the Florida House Education Committee decided to focus on fighting federal regulations rather than on testing, recess or other matters that have dominated discussion throughout the state.
"We're going to boldly go where no man has gone before," vice chairman Rep. Bob Cortes said, riffing on the fact that the committee bill number 1701 matched the registry number of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.
Cortes observed that the measure, a memorial urging the U.S. Congress to convert Title I and IDEA funds into block grants, would hold no force of law. It would, however, show the strong sense of Florida lawmakers that the federal government has too much influence over the way the state and school districts spend the money aimed at helping low income and special needs students.
The $772 million Florida receives in federal money, compared to its $20 billion overall education budget, "is really not justifying the level of scrutiny we're seeing," Cortes said. …
For her long-term efforts to advance women in higher education, President Judy Genshaft of the University of South Florida System has won a prestigious recognition from the American Council on Education.
The annual Donna Shavlik Award, named for a long-serving ACE director, honors those who make helping women in higher education a priority, through leadership, career development, mentoring and campus climate.
“Judy Genshaft has worked tirelessly and effectively to develop the next generation of women leaders,” ACE President Molly Corbett Broad said in a news release. “She is an inspiring role model and frequent mentor through her own achievements and her sustained commitment to creating paths to success for so many others.”
Genshaft will receive the award in March at ACE’s 99th annual meeting. As the major coordinating body for American higher education institutions, the group represents nearly 1,800 college and university presidents and associations and works to influence public policy.
ACE highlighted USF’s rapid growth under Genshaft’s leadership since 2000, particularly its burgeoning reputation for academics, research and innovation. …
"Our school has gone from meh to excellent in the past four years," parent Lynn Moses said of Seven Springs Middle School. "I'm terribly disappointed that we've been told the borders of our school would be changing and ... we're losing our very fine principal."
School Board members heard the concerns, and suggested the district take a closer look at its rules governing midyear principal transfers. They acknowledged they cannot simply overturn an employee move, barring good cause.
Still, board member Steve Luikart lamented that the district has told teachers they can't change jobs without having a qualified replacement secured, "yet we as district transfer folks from the administrative ranks whenever we want to."
A retired assistant principal, Luikart added that a school leader significantly impacts the campus morale and culture, and removing one so close to testing season might have adverse effects. He asked for staff to study how other school districts deal with principal transfers, for possible ideas to improve Pasco's procedures. …
Concerns that teachers aren't getting enough time to prepare for tougher academic standards and new instructional shifts have prompted Pasco County school district leaders to explore adding regular early release or late start days to the academic calendar.
Still in preliminary stages of review, the idea would go into effect in 2018-19 if district leaders find the potential benefits outweigh the detriments. They'll be surveying principals, teachers and parents, as well as studying districts such as Hillsborough and Manatee that already have early release days in effect.
Assistant superintendent Vanessa Hilton told School Board members that the staff is considering the idea in order to provide common professional development time for teachers, and to reduce the cost of substitutes to get that training done.
"The reason why we would even bother to study this is, we've received lots of inquiries from our schools," Hilton said.
Several issues would need to be resolved before the district could make this move, she noted, including how it would affect student transportation, teacher contracts and other matters. She asked the board for its general support before moving forward. …
High school juniors and seniors who haven't yet passed their exit-level language arts Florida Standards Assessment get another crack at the test at the end of this month.
Their chance to retake any failed Algebra I end-of-course exam comes in March.
They might think hard about if and when they want to take one of the state's approved alternate tests, which they can substitute for the state ones as graduation requirements if they score high enough. Because the Department of Education is taking a look at making the passing "concordant" scores higher.
The state also is studying whether the ACT and SAT remain adequate substitutes for the language arts FSA, and the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test is still a good proxy for the Algebra I EOC.
Until any changes are announced, though, students can still rely on the current rules. That wasn't always the case. A few years ago, the state attempted to hold students in limbo until it could upgrade its "concordant" scores to more closely match newer, tougher requirements and expectations, much as they're doing now. …
Even though he's a freshman lawmaker, Rep. Ralph Massullo hasn't shied from taking on some of the biggest education issues facing Florida's public schools. He's filed bills seeking to change high school graduation test requirements and class size calculations, among other tough topics. Reporter Jeff Solochek spoke with Massullo, who sits on the PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee, about his views.
Nearly all of Florida's evaluated public school teachers continued to receive strong reviews in 2015-16, according to newly released data from the state Department of Education.
As in previous years, about 98 percent of teachers statewide rated either "highly effective" (42.9%) or "effective" (52.0%), with a tiny 0.2 percent receiving "unsatisfactory" marks, 0.7 percent as "developing" in their first three years, and 1.2 percent "needs improvement." Another 28,683 teachers were not evaluated.
For the past five years, these results have been used to guide district decisions on raises and contract renewals, among other key actions. The state also has taken the information into account when determining eligibility for its controversial Best and Brightest bonus.
District leaders, meanwhile, have suggested they would like to see a more meaningful evaluation model that places a heavier emphasis on criteria other than test scores, with an eye toward helping teachers identify areas of excellence and deficits needing more training. Superintendents recently called upon lawmakers to eliminate the value-added model, that incorporates testing results, and allow for more locally driven decisions. …
It took maybe an hour after the news came out Friday for parents to start protesting the reassignment of admired Seven Springs Middle School principal Chris Dunning.
"It goes without saying how much we love Chris Dunning at SSMS...and we, meaning staff, parents and students," community activist Heide Janshon wrote in an email to superintendent Kurt Browning. "The news we all got today is shocking and crushing. We do not want to lose him."
Other messages soon followed, with the words "stunned" and "saddened" prevalent. At least one person suggested the move to Ridgewood High was "politically motivated," noting Dunning and his wife were vocal opponents of the superintendent's plan to rezone their Longleaf neighborhood into different schools next fall.
A petition to keep Dunning at Seven Springs, where he's worked since 2012, quickly appeared online and gained more than 600 signatures by early Monday.
But Dunning told the Gradebook he intends to make the move to Ridgewood, effective Wednesday. …
Florida education news always picks up when lawmakers get to Tallahassee, and this week is no exception. They debated testing and other key issues in another round of committee meetings. But there was so much more. The State Board of Education approved tiny Jefferson County to become Florida's first county charter school district, several leaders with ties to education won spots on the Constitution Revision Commission, and some Palm Beach children and parents learned what pressures they face when they decide to speak out against school district actions.
You can keep up with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. …
Brandon Bracciale, principal of Weightman Middle School, will transfer to the same job at Chasco Middle School, where David Huyck led until his move to Crews Lake two weeks ago. Bracciale had applied for the district's assistant superintendent for middle schools position, and was offered the Chasco Middle job after the district post went to Marcy Hetzler-Nettles.
Angie Murphy, principal of Ridgewood High School since 2012, will take Hetzler-Nettles' old job at River Ridge Middle School. Murphy, who lately has run into problems over dress code issues, requested to be reassigned, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.
Replacing Murphy will be Chris Dunning, principal of Seven Springs Middle since 2012. Dunning did not ask for a move, but "accepted the challenge," Cobbe said. "A strong principal is what they need" at Ridgewood. …
Almost since the creation of the U.S. Education Department, a conservative position has held that education is local, and no federal interference is necessary.
President Donald Trump has suggested getting rid of the department. A Kentucky member of Congress has a bill in committee now to terminate it.
Observers have suggested that the scope of the agency's work, such as enforcing anti-discrimination laws, makes elimination unlikely. But that doesn't mean its influence can't be pared back.
Some Florida lawmakers have that idea in mind.
Through the state House Education Committee, they've put forth Proposed Committee Bill EDC 17-01 calling for Congress to turn Title I funding, used to support low-income children, and IDEA Part B funding, used for programs for children with disabilities, into block grants that states could spend as they see fit for those groups of students. …
Anitere Flores, president pro tempore of the Florida Senate, announces the "Fewer, Better Tests" bill in the Capitol on Wednesday.
This week, some key Florida lawmakers introduced legislation to move the state reading and math tests to the final three weeks of the year, among other changes toward what they're calling "Fewer, Better Tests." A parent proposal to require all elementary schools to offer 20 minutes of daily recess also began to gain traction, but also some cautions along the way. Reporter Jeff Solochek and education editor Tom Tobin talk about these and other Florida education issues making the news this week.
Gradebook features education articles and insights on schools in Florida, focusing on Tampa Bay area schools. What's the latest from the Florida Department of Education? How is the FCAT being used to compare Florida schools? What's going on in Tampa Bay schools? Get an insider's view from the Times education reporting team.