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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.

M.S. Butler

When it comes to children, the definition of homeless includes more children than you may think.

Under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act children and youth who "lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence are considered homeless." That means children who are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds -- or doubled-up with relatives or friends  --are homeless, as well as those who stay in shelters, on the street or in abandoned buildings.

M.S Butler

During a time when many Florida counties were cutting back on summer school due to a lack of money, Pinellas County started expanding theirs using a combination of federal and state funds. And attendance over the past three summers has more than doubled.

Across Florida, more than 288,000 students were enrolled in summer classes in 2014. Nearly 15,000 of them are now enrolled in Pinellas County schools. One of those is Campbell Park Elementary, where the Summer Bridge Program is now under way.

M.S. Butler

Not every high school student wants to or even needs to go to college, but graduating students without a college degree may have a hard time gaining entry or experience at companies hiring for high paying, high skilled jobs. A local program is trying to bring that experience to graduating students.

M.S. Butler

The first time some students learn about finances is during a high school economics class. Others learn by trial and error, but one program in the Tampa Bay area already has a  history of helping  students get an early start on making sense of their finances.

Here in central Pinellas County, just like any community in America, it’s early morning and everyone is beginning to show up for work.

Buses are unloading and students are heading  to  businesses like Verizon, Duke Energy and CVS Pharmacy which are getting ready to open.

M.S Butler

Of the more than 600 charter schools in Florida. Some focus on the arts, some on sciences. Others are high schools that help students who are at risk for not finishing or dropping out completely.

At the crossroads of  busy four lane highway in Clearwater, students have to make their way through the noise and exhaust of heavy traffic to get to their high school classes.

M.S Butler

It's that time of year when thousands of students across the country get ready to graduate from public and private schools. But in St. Petersburg there's a unique group taking a walk across the stage after finishing four years at a local college.

It’s graduation week and there’s a buzz of anticipation in the air at Eckerd College. The ceremony is just about to begin and members of this class are too excited to sit or speak.

But this is not your normal graduating class

It Takes A 'Forest' To Feed An Elementary School

May 4, 2015
John O'Connor / WLRN

Rain is terrible when you’re trying to give tours of your new garden.

But it’s great for the spinach, sweet potato and purple passion fruit rapidly taking root.

On a very rainy day, Kelsey Pharr Elementary third graders Ronnield Luna and Jeffrey Arroyo are showing grownups around what used to be a grass field.

Now the school in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood has several thousand square feet of all kinds of fruit and vegetables.

Some you can find at your supermarket.

Aimee Blodgett / USF Communications and Marketing

When thousands of University of South Florida students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas this week, they will be helping to reduce environmental waste.

USF Student Government voted this year to use caps and gowns made from 100 percent recycled materials. Each set is made from about 23 plastic bottles.

With more than 6,300 students in the USF System graduating this week, that translates into the recycling of 150-thousand bottles.

M.S Butler

A Hillsborough County project to help teens is expanding across the bay with the help of some well known local dignitaries.
 

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Tampa Bay Rays President Matt Silverman and others broke ground Tuesday on what will soon will be a residential facility for homeless teens in Pinellas County.

The project, funded through private donations, comes from the efforts of Start Right Now a program working to end homelessness for area teens.

 Vicki Sokolik  is the founder and executive director.

M.S Butler

A college education is generally considered a student's best shot at getting a good job these days, and it's often assumed most high schoolers are prepared to attend college.

But there's one group that has been quietly excluded from that process.

A program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg  is giving these students college experience that while it's not a traditional degree, it's giving them a head start on their career goals.

StoryCorps

In this installment of StoryCorps Tampa Bay, public school teachers and godsisters Dr. Wendell Norton and Izella McCree talk about the differences, similarities, and challenges in education - dating back to their time as students to becoming teachers of students. 

Dr. Wendell Norton is now retired. 

Music:

“Three is a Magic Number” by Bob Dorough from the album, School House Rock! Rocks.

This week's StoryCorps Tampa Bay was produced by Yoselis Ramos.

AcademyPrep.org

Everyone wants to improve the quality of education in America.

But there are no silver bullets to accomplish that.

Parental involvement, a more challenging curriculum and a longer school year are just some of the ideas regularly suggested for low graduation rates.

But in Midtown St. Petersburg, in one of the poorest and most educationally challenged areas of Pinellas County, a small, little known middle school is getting results that are raising some eyebrows.

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.

M. S. Butler

Gov. Rick Scott was in Tampa Wednesday to talk about  education, particularly his push to expand funding for  STEM programs - or science, technology, engineering and math.

Surrounded by the hum of machinery and the smell of smoldering solder, Gov. Scott touted his plan to expand funding for STEM education and to expand his four-year, $10,000 community college degree program.

But still on the minds of many was the firing of former head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

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.

wral.com

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.

Gov. Scott Proposes 'Historic' School Budget Increase

Jan 12, 2015
www.newgre.org

Making good on a campaign promise, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday he will ask lawmakers to provide the highest per-student funding for education in state history during the legislative session that begins in March.

Scott said his "Keep Florida Working" budget would include $7,176 per student, about $50 above the previous high in the 2007-08 budget year. That spending plan was approved before the financial crisis that caused the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Abuse. Drugs. Mental health issues.

It’s tough enough for anyone to talk about those problems. It can be even harder for teens facing them for the first time.

Courtesy Adam and Jaye Fenderson

Students who are the first in their family to attend college often have a more difficult time finishing their degree.

Research shows those students know less about how to get into and pay for college. And first generation college students are less likely to take tough high school courses needed to be prepared for college.

M. S. Butler

Plenty of kids play in dirt and collect bugs. Maybe you used to bring home bugs in a jar. Maybe you still do.  Deby Cassill does. But, she’s the Associate Professor of biology at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

So, she spends her days getting a microscopic look at something many of us consider a pest and even something to step on.

She says there was a time when it was considered strange for her to play with bugs.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

In September, Alachua County kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles refused to give a state reading test.

She told the parents of her students it was an act of civil disobedience. The Florida Department of Education later suspended the exam for this year.

Earl Lennard Named USF 'Distinguished Alumni'

Oct 9, 2014

Many people know Earl Lennard as Hillsborough County's Supervisor of Elections, a job he retired from in 2012.

But before that, he spent more than four decades with Hillsborough County Public Schools as a teacher, and eventually as superintendent. Lennard is being presented with a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of South Florida's College of Education on Friday.   

There’s a new test in town and it's replacing Florida's long-established FCAT.

The new Florida Standards Assessment will test students on their knowledge of a set of rigorous new state standards based on the now infamous Common Core. But will students be ready?

In part two of a three part series on the issue, WJCT’s Rhema Thompson explains there are some concerns about how the state is rolling out and grading this new test.

When Florida first approved its private school tax credit scholarship program in 2001, Florida Education Association attorney Ron Meyer said education groups questioned the legality, but no one really objected to helping low-income students get out of low-performing schools.

But then the scholarship program started to grow. Lawmakers approved a law that automatically expanded the program each year. Then earlier this year lawmakers raised the income cap. Now, a family of four earning $62,000 can receive a partial scholarship.

Florida Ranks Third in Parents Snooping on Kids Online

Jul 31, 2014

Reasons for the sudden growth are unknown, said Ivory Thompson, operations manager at Retina-X, parent company of Mobile Spy. But one thing the company does know: 95 percent of South Florida parents surveyed said their children regularly access social media sites on smartphones. "In Florida, it just seems like a lot of families are worried about their children on social media sites, and they want to find out what they're doing," he said. "It could be that more kids are coming of age and getting a phone, or more parents are buying their kids phones, or it could just be product awareness."

Students and civil rights activists have asked Gov. Rick Scott to hold black and Hispanic students to a higher standard. The Southern Poverty Law Center and Dream Defenders were in Tallahassee this week to deliver a petition — with 5,800 signatures — protesting Florida’s race-based academic goals.

Florida high school seniors continue to struggle in math and reading, according to the latest report from the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP.

Nathan B. Forrest High — the Jacksonville school named for the Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader — has a new name.

Saying that "zero tolerance" discipline policies at U.S. schools are unfairly applied "all too often," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is urging officials to rethink that approach. The Obama administration issued voluntary guidelines today that call for more training for teachers and more clarity in defining security problems.

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