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.

Rocky the Bull Wants Twitter Votes for Shorty Awards

Jan 28, 2013

Rocky the Bull- USF's mascot, is asking people to cast their votes on Twitter for the university. USF is nominated for a Shorty Award which honors those who produce real-time short content across social media websites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr. USF is ranked fifth out of 174 nominated schools.

Private schools in Florida are coming together to share their resources in case of a school emergency.

Dana Markham is the president of Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. She says private, independent schools don’t have a support network the way public schools do.

Public middle and high schools, for example, share School Resource Officers — police officers who visit school campuses every day. Markham says if private schools want a police officer on their campuses, they have to pay an off-duty officer and hire them through a law enforcement agency.

Pinellas County's elected officials have been quietly discussing whether to place armed officers in the county's 72 elementary schools, but the idea is opposed by the county's largest law enforcement agencies, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

Across the United States, college administrators are poring over student essays, recommendation letters and SAT scores as they select a freshman class for the fall.

If this is like most years, administrators at top schools such as Harvard and Stanford will try hard to find talented high school students from poor families in a push to increase the socioeconomic diversity on campus and to counter the growing concern that highly selective colleges cater mainly to students from privileged backgrounds.

Schools in the Tampa Bay area are re-examining their security in the wake of the shooting today at a Connecticut elementary school.

The Chief Operating Officer for Sarasota County Schools says he's not sure they can do anything differently, other than conducting a mental checklist of where holes could be in their security. Scott Lempe says security is never going to be perfect.

Transcript of President Obama's speech on Dec. 14 following a deadly mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Source: White House

This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families.

Special Ed Dept. Head Leaving after Scrutiny

Dec 12, 2012
Bay News 9

Changes are coming to Hillsborough County School District's Special Education department. It's under scrutiny after the deaths of two special ed students.  It starts with a transfer for the department head.

Ellie Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Citing his experience at many levels of education and his work on new, national Common Core standards, the State Board of Education unanimously chose Tony Bennett as Florida's next education commissioner.

Board members said there will be no learning curve for Bennett when he takes over in Florida.

"I think Tony's experience in being a teacher, a superintendent, a coach and a statewide elected leader brought a lot more real-time, real recent experience in terms of where we need to get to," said board member Kathleen Shanahan.

Florida 4th Graders Top Readers in the World

Dec 11, 2012
Tampa Bay Times

The report, Trends in International Mathematical and Science Study, ranks fourth-grade reading skills. Florida had among the best scores, performing at the same level as Hong Kong, Russia, Finland and Singapore.

The Foundation for Florida's Future Executive Director Patricia Levesque says now that reading levels are improving, it's time to put more focus on math and science.

Wendy Pedroso has never liked math, but for most of elementary school and middle school she got B’s in the subject.

It wasn’t until ninth grade at Miami Southwest Senior High School, when Pedroso took algebra, that she hit a wall. In particular, she struggled with understanding fractions.

“I kept getting stuck in the same place,” Pedroso, 20, recalled recently. She failed the class, and worried that she’d never get to go to college. Pedroso sought help from tutors, took algebra again over the summer and passed. She went on to graduate from high school in 2011.

Shakira Lockett was a pretty good student in elementary, middle and high school. The Miami-Dade County native says she typically earned As and Bs in English classes.

Math was always something of a struggle for Lockett. Still, she got through her high school exit exam with a passing grade and went on to graduate from Coral Gables Senior High School in 2008.

She went straight to Miami Dade College. Then, something unexpected happened: She flunked the college placement exams in all three subjects – reading, writing and math.

A group of state university presidents gathered at the state Capitol today to try to strike a bargain with state lawmakers. Their message is "Give us more money, and we won't raise tuition this year."

Gov. Scott Proposes $10,000 Degree Challenge

Nov 26, 2012

Governor Rick Scott is challenging state colleges (or community colleges) to offer students a $10,000 bachelor's degree.

Scott wants higher education to be more affordable and for graduates to able to find a job.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Scott made his announcement this morning at the St. Petersburg College in Clearwater. SPC is the first of 28 state colleges to take on the challenge.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have signed on to implement new school curriculum and standardized tests.

It's called Common Core, and it'll replace Florida's FCAT.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a big supporter of Common Core - and has been pushing this and other reform efforts around the country.

Education reporter Sarah Gonzalez with our StateImpact Florida team sat down with the conservative education advocate to talk about his national agenda.

Courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says 13-year old Andrea Bower was running late this morning to catch the bus to take her to Giunta Middle School in Riverview. 

She missed the bus at her usual stop and decided to cross busy Bloomingdale Avenue to get on the bus at a different stop.  That's when she was struck by an SUV driven by Stephanie Akins.  Authorities say Bower is now in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital.  And they say at this time speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash. 

The Harlem Globetrotters Bullying Prevention program came to Tampa's Pizzo Elementary School.

The ABCs of Bullying Prevention program is coordinated with the National Campaign to Stop Violence to help reduce bullying in schools.

Hammer Harrison of the Harlem Globetrotters showed off some of his ball handling skills while talking to students about taking Action, being Brave, and having Compassion.

Vice Principal Angela Fullwood says the students are able to see a variety of people expressing the same message about bullying.

Over the past decade, hundreds of men have come forward to tell gruesome stories of abuse and terrible beatings they suffered at Florida's Dozier School for Boys, a notorious, state-run institution that closed last year after more than a century.

Known as the "White House Boys," these 300-some men were sent as boys to the reform school in the small panhandle town of Mariana in the 1950s and 1960s. They have joined together over the years to tell their stories of the violence administered in a small building on the school's grounds they knew as the White House.

In honor of today's Twitter Education Forum (#npredchat) at 11 a.m. (Eastern) hosted by NPR's midday-talk program Tell Me More with Michel Martin, here's a closer look at the StateImpact Florida team.

NPR's show Tell Me More opened up a conversation this morning about education reform. It was heard here on WUSF and it included two people at the very core of the issue.... students.

One of those students is Shakira Locket, student at Miami Dade College.

Locket graduated from Coral Gables Senior High school but once she reached college, she realized she wasn't prepared.

We won't just get to elect the next president on the November ballot. In Florida, eleven amendments to the state constitution will be up for vote - and they all were put there by lawmakers in Tallahassee. A group of teachers are opposing one of the amendments, saying it would hurt public schools.