Education

At dinner tables across Florida, parents and their elementary school children are trying to solve a math problem: What’s going on with my kid’s homework?

Florida is one of dozens of states that has switched to new math standards based on Common Core. The standards outline what students should know in every grade.

Experts say it means big changes to how math is taught. More focus on understanding concepts and solving problems multiple ways. Less memorization of formulas and grinding out worksheets full of similar problems.

A Tallahassee Judge is weighing whether to allow a constitutional challenge to the state’s tax credit scholarship program to proceed. Since its inception, the program has been a target for legislative challenges, but the current pending litigation has generated larger, more expansive efforts by supporters to get the lawsuit tossed.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who waged a running battle with Florida's teacher unions during his eight years in office, used a return visit to the state capital to defend education changes he put in place that have come under fire as he mulls a run for president.

Jeb Bush, considered a front-runner in the crowded field of Republican presidential prospects, speaks at a fund-raising luncheon in Tallahassee on TuesdayCredit Reuters/Bill CotterellEdit | Remove

State Asks Judge to Throw Out Tax Credit Scholarship Lawsuit

Feb 9, 2015
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Lawyers for the state and parents whose children use Florida's de facto school-voucher program argued Monday that groups including the state's largest teachers union don't have the right to challenge the program in court.

Performance funding in public higher education is a way for states to hold institutions accountable for certain outcomes. But new research shows it doesn’t do much to keep students enrolled or boost graduation rates.

Advocates Say State Should Spend More on Children in Surplus Year

Feb 8, 2015

Children's advocates say they're "cautiously optimistic" about Gov. Rick Scott's budget recommendations for the coming spending year, which contain relatively few cuts to programs that serve Florida's children.

But they're also wondering why --- with a surplus of more than $1 billion --- Scott hasn't suggested a greater investment in children, one that they say would be more commensurate with his request for $673 million in tax cuts and record spending on K-12 education and Everglades restoration.

Bill Would Limit Testing Time in Fl Schools

Feb 3, 2015
www.jenksps.org

The chairman of a Senate committee that oversees public education filed legislation Monday aimed at cutting back on testing time in Florida schools, opening a debate about how to limit the scope and importance of state assessments.

It’s a midweek school night at Miami Beach Senior High School.

Students, their parents and siblings -- roughly 80 people in all -- are waiting in the school’s library to get on a computer and answer a lot of questions.

Miami Beach Senior High college adviser Maria Sahwell and experienced counselors will walk families through filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says students cannot skip state-required tests, and teachers and schools can be punished for refusing to administer required exams.

Stewart’s letter is a response to questions from senators as they prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Senators wanted to know if students could opt out of state-required exams and how doing so might affect their progress in school.

Lots of people think there’s too much testing going on in schools right now. It’s one of the most contentious issues in education.

Lawmakers want to scale back the amount of time Florida students spend taking tests.

But at the same time, Florida is rolling out a new test tied to new math and language arts standards -- known as Common Core.

NPR education reporter Anya Kamenetz researched the history and use of standardized exams for her book, “The Test.”

Read an edited version of our interview with Kamenetz below.

Senate K-12 Education Committee Chairman John Legg is following through on a plan to revamp Florida’s early learning programs.

The committee unanimously passed a bill Wednesday to overhaul voluntary pre-kindergarten programs. Legg says it’s a starting point for further talks between the House and Senate.

“We’re taking the bill the Senate passed last year and re-filing that as the base bill moving forward to bring a higher level of transparency and accountability to the VPK providers," he said during a conversation about education on WFSU's "It's About Florida” program.

M. S. Butler

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn weighed in on the firing of Hillsborough County School Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia on Wednesday.

Following Gov. Rick Scott's press conference about his education plan, Mayor Buckhorn spoke with reporters and questioned the School Board's  4-3 decision on Tuesday to let Elia go and buy out the remainder of her contract.

MaryEllen Elia’s last day of work will be March 5. “This district means a lot to me,” Elia said after the vote. “I hope the district continues to move forward. I hope for the best for all employees of the district, the students and the team of Hillsborough County.” Board chairwoman Susan Valdes, who requested that the decision be placed on the meeting agenda, said there has been an air of uncertainty and tension felt across the district for months, which was heightened by the November election and recent media reports. “In my mind, this is about buying out the superintendent’s contract, not firing MaryEllen Elia,” Valdes said. “This is a business decision, not a personality contest.” Carol Kurdell, last year’s chairwoman, said she saw no common sense in this vote, adding that the district has the highest financial rating in the state and that students’ test scores are rising, despite tougher standards.

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A House subcommittee has approved a bill that would allow guns on college campuses in Florida.

If legislators pass the bill during the upcoming session, it will repeal a state law that prevents concealed-carry permit holders from bringing their guns on college campuses and universities around Florida.

Marjorie Sanfilippo, a psychology professor at Eckerd College, testified before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. She believes the rates of psychological disorders in college-age students may lead to trouble for students who have access to concealed weapons.

Lawmakers want Florida students to be smarter about their money.

They’ve introduced a bill to make a financial literacy course a high school graduation requirement.

Students would have to take lessons on taxes, compound interest, insurance, and how to weigh the cost and benefits of decisions.

The bill was introduced by Fort Myers Republican Representative Heather Fitzenhagen and Miami GOP Representative Manny Diaz.

The bill says the Florida Department of Education would choose a non-profit group to create the lessons.

Florida Senate

Florida lawmakers say they’re serious about addressing what’s become a testing crisis in the state’s public schools. In addition to testing, they’re also planning to tackle a tech gap. Senator John Legg chairs the chamber's K-12 Education Committee.

Lutz Republican Senator John Legg knows education.

“We have converging lines of opportunity here with teacher evaluations, technology, testing and school grades—all coming to a head in 2015-2016," he says, summing up the current state of Florida's school accountability system.

At first, the kids in the auditorium at Richmond Heights Middle School weren’t sure a they'd hear a voice above the ear-burning static.

Dade Radio Club of Miami president Miguel Garate kept signaling the space station.  

“NA1SS, NA1SS, this is Richmond Heights. Over,” Garate said repeatedly, trying to hail the space station.

They had just minutes before astronaut Samantha Cristoferretti would be out of range.

A voice cut through the white noise.

Photo courtesy of Jihad Saadeh

We first met University of South Florida student Noor Shakfeh after she spent her spring break in Syria helping at a refugee camp along the Turkish border almost two years ago.

Florida’s public school class size limits could be up for reconsideration in the upcoming legislative session. The state’s public school governing board wants lawmakers to consider revising the system.

When lawmakers return to Tallahassee in March for the annual legislative session, they have a lot of questions they need to answer about public school testing.

Senators laid out their concerns about the state testing system last week at a series of meetings.

They don’t know how many tests the state requires or how long it takes to complete those exams.

They don’t know how much the state and school districts spend on testing.

And they’re not convinced they can depend on all the results of those exams.

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