Organizations that represent black and Hispanic Floridians released a joint statement Monday declaring their opposition to legislation that would let high school students count computer coding as a foreign language class.
The measure passed the Senate, 35-5, last week, and its companion bill awaits consideration on the House floor.
The groups who joined in Monday's statement were the NAACP's Florida Conference and Miami-Dade branch, the Florida chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD).
"Our children need skills in both technology and in foreign languages to compete in today's global economy," the joint statement reads. "However, to define coding and computer science as a foreign language is a misleading and mischievous misnomer that deceives our students, jeopardizes their eligibility to admission to universities, and will result in many losing out on the foreign language skills they desperately need even for entry-level jobs in South Florida. …
Rufus Smith-Jones, a star of Pasco County's Special Olympics award-winning soccer team, recently snagged an interview for his "Rufus Show" with district superintendent Kurt Browning. A Pine View Middle student, Rufus is a regular contributor to his school news.
His second question to the superintendent: "Are you going to do it until you die?"
Browning, who so far is unopposed in his bid for a second term, smiled and responded, "I'm not going to do it, I don't think, until I die -- unless it kills me. But I plan on doing it for at least another four years, I hope."
Hillsborough peer evaluators at a training in August. The district plans to "reclassify" 110 for an anticipated savings of $6 million.
Major changes are happening to Hillsborough County's teacher evaluation system, directly affecting more than 100 employees.
The School Board will vote Tuesday on Superintendent Jeff Eakin's plan to name a General Manager of Performance Evaluation. Reporting to that person will be instructional mentors and teacher talent developers. Employees in the second group will spend half their time teaching and the other half helping other teachers.
While it is not yet clear how many people will hold these jobs, Eakins' agenda item says the district can save more than $6 million by eliminating 110 existing peer and mentor positions. The document used the term "reclassification," raising the question of where the savings will come in if all 110 people will be absorbed into the new positions. …
As legislation to make permanent the "Best & Brightest" teacher bonus program remains in limbo this session, Florida House and Senate leaders are floating the possibility of a one-year extension by including the program -- once again -- in proviso language for the annual budget.
The controversial program predictably surfaced as a point of leverage between House and Senate education leaders this weekend as they started hashing out the 2016-17 budget.
The bonuses are a priority for House Republicans, but senators in both parties are especially reluctant to buy in to the idea.
The rest of the education budget remains unresolved.
The House rejected the first and only offer from the Senate, which included -- among a host of issues -- a proposed compromise on funding for the "Best and Brightest" program. The bonuses award "highly effective" teachers who scored in the top 20 percent on their high school SAT/ACT exams. …
Legislative leaders were close to hashing out a deal Saturday evening to provide record-level K-12 education funding next school year -- without forcing businesses and homeowners to shoulder hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding through local property taxes.
The proposal is a gesture of significant compromise by the Florida House.
But by using a greater share of state dollars instead, the $458 million proposed increase for 2016-17 is far less than what Republican Gov. Rick Scott or House or Senate leaders had originally sought.
Scott's recommendation to the Legislature was for a $507 million increase, almost 90 percent of which would have come from property taxes that homeowners and businesses pay.
Both initial legislative budget plans mirrored Scott's funding formula, but Senate leaders have, for weeks, argued that increasing K-12 funding through the "required local effort" -- as Scott proposed -- would constitute a "tax increase." …
Florida's spring testing season approached this past week, with opt-out families scrambling to figure out exactly what procedures their schools will follow. Lawmakers scrambled, too, to push education bills closer to the finish line as the end of their 2016 session neared. Out in the districts, school boards fought among themselves, with their constituents and about their records. Visit the Gradebook daily for the latest Florida education news.
Parents, school officials tussle over kids opting out of Florida tests, Jeffrey S. Solochek [Pasco superintendent Kurt] "Browning and many other Florida superintendents consistently reject such overtures by parents. And their anti opt-out policies are pushing families, already upset with the state's beleaguered assessment system, to go beyond "minimal participation" as their children decline the tests that begin Monday."
Strawberry Crest High School tweeted this photo of their SpringBoard plaque on Thursday to show support for the College Board curriculum, which endured harsh criticism from the Hillsborough County School Board this week.
College Board, the New York organization that also oversees Advanced Placement and SAT college entrance exams, designates "national demonstration schools" for its SpringBoard curriculum, a competitive process that conveys extra training, prestige and recognition. Such schools receive decorative plaques, educators are invited to College Board conferences and visitors tour their classrooms to observe SpringBoard in action. In recent years Bloomingdale High School, Strawberry Crest High School and Martinez Middle School earned that distinction.
Jason Pepe is the Hillsborough school district's manager of communications.
Hillsborough County public school officials want to do a better job keeping the public informed.
And they're poised to pay a corporate public relations firm $30,000 to help them.
Tucker/Hall, one of Florida's largest PR firms, had the winning bid for a one-year contract that can be renewed if district leaders like what they get.
The firm, which offers a host of service including crisis management and issues management, would help the district pull together a strategic communications plan, subject to a School Board vote Tuesday.
Superintendent Jeff Eakins pointed to communication as a weakness the self-evaluation he turned in earlier this year.
"Although the communications staff has done a terrific job during the first six months, I must do a much better job of proactively communicating information to all stakeholders, including the board," he wrote. He did not list any examples.
Hiring outside firms for public relations is not unheard of in the public schools, although it often happens in small school districts, and in times of crisis. …
By now you've heard that the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee this week strung together a variety of education proposals that were struggling to get to the finish line, and put them into two previously tiny and barely related bills that had to be renamed to encompass their new, broader scope.
Some of the issues have received a great deal of attention in the new SB 524 (state university system performance based funding), and the revamped SB 1166 (education funding).
The Best and Brightest teacher bonus, for one, dropped into SB 524 after facing must criticism in other forms when heard in other Senate committees. Even after landing in the new bill, that measure has an uncertain fate, with some key Republican senators still questioning the program's value.
A bill to mandate elementary school recess, already adopted by the House, came and went as an amendment without a vote but also could resurface on the floor.
What else got looped into these two pieces of legislation, which still must win approval in the full Senate and agreement in the House? Here's a rundown. …
Maynard largely remained quiet, though he did encourage his backers through social media to speak out on his behalf. Now, he's offered some insights into his approach. While he might have made some missteps, Maynard said via email, he had his students' best interest at heart: …
Criticized for hiring late, and therefore missing out on top candidates, the Pasco school district is holding a teacher job fair at 4 p.m. today to get a jump on hiring for next fall.
Interest in the event has been higher than expected. Nearly 500 people have signed up to attend the fair. The candidates include college graduates and soon-to-be graduates with and without education degrees who are interested in becoming a teacher.
"It's part of our new approach to get to them early," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.
The district anticipates as many as 300 vacancies, based on a teacher survey asking their intent to return. The preliminary offers could begin as early as today.
One week after his suspension for inappropriate comments to students, Pasco County high school English teacher Michael Maynard won high praise from the Florida Department of Education.
Maynard was one of 240 Pasco teachers deemed a "distinguished Florida educator" on Wednesday, based on the consistently strong performance of his students on state tests over the past three years. Pasco has nearly 5,000 teachers.
"Whether in a classroom where students arrived already high achieving, or a classroom in which students were underperforming, your efforts provide inspiration and opportunities to young people that may have been otherwise inaccessible," state education commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a form letter to the designated teachers.
That assessment falls in line with the view that Maynard's supporters have put forth since learning of his removal from River Ridge High School and his subsequent leave of absence in lieu of a three-day unpaid suspension. While district officials have argued that students deserve better, noting the teacher's string of reprimands for language and comments, many of his students have lauded Maynard for challenging them to think in new ways and find success. …
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 are state tests 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.