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Education

We're dedicated to telling you stories about policy and public spending, and how they affect students in Florida schools. Our WUSF News reporters team up with our public media partners across Florida to bring you a more comprehensive look at learning.

To see coverage from our prior StateImpact Florida project, visit here.

It was with great fanfare in 2009 that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it was giving $100 million to Hillsborough County schools for a program called Empowering Effective Teachers -- one of just three public school districts in the country awarded the grant.

At the time, it was at the forefront of the movement to pay teachers for performance, rather than seniority.

Now, the district won't be getting a fifth of that money. And the consequences to the school district's budget are coming clear. Increases in teacher pay and bonuses haven't been matched by the Gates Foundation money or other revenue, forcing the school district to dip into its financial reserves.

University of Central Florida president John Hitt delivered the State of the University address this afternoon to what is now the nation’s second largest college student body.

Hillsborough County Public Schools

Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins brought the latest data on school suspensions to the Hillsborough County school board on Tuesday. He said out-of-school suspensions were down 53 percent from the same time period last year. Eakins said there were several reasons why.

"There is strong advocacy for kids," Eakins said. "There are increased interventions at school sites prior to suspension.  There is increased communication between our principals and our area superintendents." Eakins said he was "very proud" of the numbers.

More than 80 colleges are creating a website where students will be able to apply to dozens of them and get help along the way.

Superintendents Issue Rebuke Of School Accountability System

Sep 27, 2015
Flickr

Less than a month after the Department of Education touted the validity of a new standardized test, Florida school superintendents issued a statement saying they have "lost confidence" in the state's public-school accountability system.

"We have witnessed the erosion of public support for an accountability system that was once a model for the nation,'' the Florida Association of District School Superintendents said in the statement released Friday.

Wikimedia Commons

Know the joke about how many college students it takes to screw in a light bulb?

Probably not, since it’s not a real joke. Nor is the decision some comedians are making to avoid college campuses where they say students today are too easily offended.

The State University System of Florida’s Board of Governors is asking state lawmakers to give them funding for more law enforcement and mental health counseling positions.

Proponents said the roughly $20 million would make state campuses safer.

Florida’s Board of Education wants to set a high bar for student performance in the state’s new standardized test, and it's calling for  higher cut scores beyond what a review committee has recommended.

Board Members Push For Higher Standards

Sep 22, 2015

State Board of Education members are pushing for Florida officials to use the transition to a new standardized test as an opportunity to boost how well public school students have to do on the exam to be judged "proficient."

stanfordtech / Flickr

Last week the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released the results of a global study looking at the effect of technology on 15-year-olds test scores.

The group oversees one of the most important international exams, so their research matters.

Florida authorities on Wednesday closed a six-month investigation into a cyberattack that created delays and widespread problems for students trying to take the state's high-stakes standardized tests.

MGN Online

A bill that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns on state university campuses is advancing in the Legislature.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 3-2 on Wednesday in favor of the bill.

The vote came after testimony from people with strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

Opponents said allowing guns in an atmosphere that is often stressful is a mistake. They also said campuses are among the safest places in the country, so there's no need to add guns.

Robin Sussingham

A magnet program in Tampa that prepares students for careers in the maritime industry is celebrating the start of its third year tonight with an event at the Sheraton Riverwak. The program now hopes to attract more business support.

There are nine juniors enrolled in the Maritime Honors Academy at Jefferson High School in Tampa. And several of them say they completely changed direction after learning about the shipping industry for the first time. Ashley Hallaian is one such student.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

For weeks now, Palm Beach County schools have struggled to get students to classes on time.

Bus routes have been redrawn. And the district sent up flares, looking to hire anyone who wants to drive a bus.

Florida State University football fans who go to the game this weekend can bring their guns — if they have a concealed weapons permit and they keep them locked in their cars, the school said Wednesday, the day after being sued for a policy that bans guns on campus.

  A Florida State University student who wants to bring her gun to this weekend's football game sued the school Tuesday over a policy that bans legal gun owners from locking their firearms in their cars while in the stadium cheering on their team.

George Jenkins High School

There's growing concern about the risks of concussions in young athletes. For years, high school coaches have had to take courses on the dangers of head injuries. This year, for the first time, all high school athletes in Florida are required to educate themselves about concussions before they can compete.

Wikipedia Commons

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is joining those who are calling for federal review of Pinellas County’s use of Title I funds for education.  

Robin Sussingham / WUSF

As schools open for a new school year, they'll also start encountering student poverty and homelessness. At last count -- the 2013/2014 school year --  the number of homeless students had risen to more than 71,000 in the state's public schools. For many of these children, a brand new school uniform may be out of reach, though school officials say it makes a big impact on their attitude. One longtime charity in Lakeland is quietly helping to fill that need.

Pinellas Teachers Make Back-To-School House Calls

Aug 24, 2015
M.S. Butler

At the beginning of each school year, making new students feel welcome and building a rapport with them is a big part of getting off to a smooth start. And at one Pinellas County middle school, teachers and staff aren't waiting for the students to come to them.

It's no secret that not every student is excited about going back to school at the end of summer.

On the first day of school some will be waiting at the bus stop with a backpack of new notebooks and a stomach full of butterflies.

Wikipedia Commons

A new study says Florida students who use federal Pell grants to pay for college are graduating at about the same rate as their peers.

The Hechinger Report  gathered data on students across the country getting these grants and how many of them graduated within six years. 

Albuminarium

 

 

A day after the Pinellas County Schools Superintendent announced changes to five failing St. Petersburg elementary schools, the U.S. Department of Education has been asked to review county programs serving poor children. 

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.

Pinellas County Schools

The Pinellas County School District has issued a response to a Tampa Bay Times investigation into the district's lowest performing schools -- saying, " the road to transformation begins with solutions, not blame."

Graphic courtesy of Tampa Bay Times

The Tampa Bay Times just completed an investigation into a group of low-performing elementary schools in black neighborhoods of southern Pinellas County -- schools that they're calling "Failure Factories." WUSF's Robin Sussingham spoke with reporters Michael LaForgia and Cara Fitzpatrick... and asked what they discovered about those schools that made them want to dig deeper:

'Community School' Concept Takes Root in Florida

Aug 10, 2015
Photo courtesy 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 double-F to a B school - in one of Orlando's most troubled neighborhoods. Now, the "community school" concept is spreading to other Florida cities.

Photo courtesy Tampa Bay 2-1-1

Students who are considered homeless by Florida schools can be living in hotels, trailer parks, in campgrounds or doubled up with friends or relatives. And with as many as 71,000 or more homeless students in the state the challenges can extend beyond the kids and families to include the schools.

For most kids school is a place of achievement and learning, or just a place to socialize with friends. But for kids without stable living arrangements it can mean much more than that.

A Beginning Teacher Boot Camp Tries to Educate

Aug 3, 2015
Jo-Ann Johnston / Saint Leo University

The new school year starts up soon and teachers are already preparing.

A beginning teacher boot camp at Saint Leo University recently brought together 20 recent graduates who will take over a classroom this year. The idea is to give the new teachers a final low-down before students sit at their desks ready to learn.

The Beginning Teacher Boot Camp started at Saint Leo four years ago to provide new teachers advice and tips that aren't usually part of a college course or not be learned during an internship.

AFT Removes Orange County Teachers Union Leaders

Jul 30, 2015
Orangecta.com

The American Federation of Teachers is removing the president and other leaders from the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. 

According to a report by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Orange County union leaders, particularly the president, Diana Moore, were not following the rules that provide checks and balances, like ignoring the number of signatures needed on credit card purchases. There were also issues with internal elections. 

The Schultz Center

At one point, the Schultz Center had state funding and a big, multi-million dollar contract with Duval County schools to help teachers improve their craft.

The Schultz Center has trained thousands of teachers since it was founded in Jacksonville in 1997. But when state revenues declined, the Schultz Center funding was cut.

“The recession happened,” said Deborah Gianoulis, president of the Schultz Center. “That [state budget] line-item was never restored.”

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