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.

How Florida Kids Learn About Sea-Level Rise

Nov 12, 2013
Daniel Rivera, Student

Standing at the water’s edge on Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus, Nicholas Ogle shows a crowd of teenagers what looks like a giant, rotten green bean.

“We don’t want any mushiness anywhere, especially at the top,” he says, then chucks the specimen to the side.

Breakthrough Miami

Florida student scores improved on a key national standardized test, including some of the largest eighth grade reading and math gains in the country.

But Florida eighth graders still trail the national average in math, according to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as The Nation’s Report Card.

Florida eighth graders scored an average of 281, on a 500-point scale, in math and 266 in reading. The national average was 284 in math and 266 in reading.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

Florida’s legislative session is months away, but educators and politicians are already talking about making early childhood education a priority.


“Early childhood is viewed as childcare, and not early childhood education, which it really is,” says Dr. Susan Neimand, director of the School of Education at Miami Dade College, which runs a nationally recognized early learning center called Education Station.

“We know that the brain starts developing from the time the child is in the womb—and the proper attention for that is not given,” says Neimand.

genesisgroup / Google image search

Khadejah Gilbert found out she wasn’t quite ready for higher education when she enrolled in Hillsborough Community College.

She's one of many students who had to take brush up in basic subjects before starting her associate of arts degree in liberal arts.

The classes cost money, but don’t come with any credit

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

The conversation about Common Core standards hit a fever pitch in Florida last week.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Lory Baxley said she drove two hours to discuss her complaints about Common Core standards after checking out her son’s math assignments.

Baxley’s son earned top scores on the FCAT, but now he’s worried if he’ll pass fourth grade. She blamed Common Core.

Rapper Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez) is the latest in a long list of celebrities lending their star power to the flourishing charter school movement. Alicia Keyes, Denzel Washington, Shakira, Oprah — all support or sponsor charter schools.

draml / Flickr

The Florida Department of Education will hold the first of three public meetings to discuss multi-state math, literacy and English standards known as Common Core in Tampa this evening.

Florida is one of 45 state to fully adopt the standards. The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade, and to emphasize critical thinking skills, ask students to show what they know and prove how they know it with evidence.

Steve Rhodes / Flickr

The Florida Department of Education is holding three public hearings this week to gather criticisms and support of Florida's new math and English standards known as Common Core.

Kitsu / Flickr

A StateImpact Florida analysis of jobs in Florida public schools shows that while full-time staffing is almost back to pre-recession levels, one group of employees hasn’t come back: the support staff.

A Q & A About Florida's New Online University

Sep 30, 2013
gainesville-apartments / Flickr

Last week the Florida State University System Board of Governor's approved the business plan for a legislatively-created online university at the University of Florida.

Starting in January, students who have graduated from a Florida high school in recent years can skip non-credit remedial classes, even if tests show they may not be ready to perform at a college level. The state this year mandated the move to keep students from getting stuck in non-credit classes. But some worry it could also cause students to enroll in classes they have little chance of passing. "It's like saying to a beginning pilot, 'Why don't you fly in a big jetliner. It will get you there faster than a light aircraft," said Ginger Pedersen, dean for curriculum and educational technology at Palm Beach State. "You have to learn the basic fundamental skills first."

Yesterday Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order stating his desire that Florida ends its role handling the money for a consortium of states developing a new test tied to Common Core State Standards.

The test is known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Gov. Rick Scott says the state will pull out of a national test for school children to see if they are reaching standards in certain subjects.

Scott on Monday called for Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and other state officials to take steps related to the ongoing controversy surrounding the new Common Core State Standards.

Those include holding public hearings and possibly altering the standards.


The State Board of Education removed the first word from interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart’s title last week.

But Board member Kathleen Shanahan had a strange question for a job interview: Tell me again who you work for?

“And I just want to make sure from Pam, that she understands – with full clarity – who she reports to?” Shanahan asked.

“Kathleen, I think that we all know that we serve many masters,” Stewart responded. “But, ultimately, this board is the boss of the commissioner of education and I am fully aware of that and understand that.”

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday tapped a former public school teacher to take a spot on the panel that oversees the state's public schools.

Scott appointed Rebecca Fishman Lipsey to a four-year term on the State Board of Education.

e2reneta / Flickr

The chairman of the Senate education committee is asking residents to send him their questions about Florida’s new math, English and literacy standards, known as Common Core.

Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, has posted the Common Core standards to the Senate website and wants to hear questions and complaints before lawmakers return to Tallahassee next year.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Pam Stewart twice stepped in to replace departing Florida education commissioners. Today she got the job long-term.

The State Board of Education unanimously chose Stewart to be the state's education commissioner. She follows Tony Bennett, who resigned from the post last month.

A Scott/Bush Split On State Board Of Education

Sep 17, 2013
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said Sunday that he was never told by Homeland Security officials in 2016 when he was Florida's governor that Russian hackers had gained access to voter databases in two Florida counties ahead of the presidential election.

Two State Board of Education members criticized Gov. Rick Scott's leadership on education issues Tuesday, highlighting a rift between Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Board members Kathleen Shanahan and Sally Bradshaw -- who served as former Bush chiefs of staff -- said Scott needed to show more leadership on Common Core State Standards and other education issues.

The board is meeting in Palm Beach County today.

LaCrai Mitchell / StateImpact Florida

The last time lawmakers all gathered in Tallahassee, the opposition to Florida's new math and English standards was just getting started.

stack of money

The Florida Department of Education wants to spend an additional $126.77 per student and $40 million on school technology, according to the agency’s preliminary budget request.

The draft budget is one item on a busy State Board of Education agenda tomorrow. The board will also discuss what’s next in hiring a new education commissioner and a new rule for determining residency for in-state tuition.

Documents show former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett kept donor lists on Indiana Department of Education computers while leading schools in the Hoosier State. Bennett also asked staff to parse speeches by his Democratic opponent. The Indiana inspector general is investigating Bennett.

A Q & A With House Speaker Will Weatherford

Sep 11, 2013
John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

We caught up with House Speaker Will Weatherford at yesterday’s meeting of the Suncoast Tiger Bay civic club.

Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican, took questions about Obamacare, Stand Your Ground and requiring power customers to pay the cost of new nuclear plants up front.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

It’s a Wednesday morning and the waiting room is already starting to fill up at the North Miami Beach Senior High School clinic.

The school-based health clinic at North Miami Beach Senior High School is a full-service clinic.

A 16-year-old girl with an enormous red bow pinned above her ear approaches the appointment window. A beveled glass pane slides open. The woman behind the desk doesn’t ask for insurance information -- she asks to see a hall pass.

“Go ahead and have a seat.”

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

An Indiana report has found that school grading formula changes former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett made in 2012 while the elected superintendent of Hoosier State schools were “plausible” and “consistently applied” to all schools.

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF

The USF Tampa Library is going back to its round-the-clock hours Sunday through Thursday, perhaps as soon as next week, university officials say.   

biologycorner / Flickr

One of the big questions as Florida and 44 other states transition to new education standards and new tests over the next few years is how much time will teachers have to spend teaching to the test?

Teachers complain that they can only spend classroom time on items which will appear on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. In addition, another complaint is that class time is used to teach kids how to take a test rather than imparting more important knowledge.

What We Learned At Gov. Scott's Education Summit

Sep 3, 2013
John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Last week Gov. Rick Scott asked three dozen parents, educators, lawmakers and business leaders to take a look at state education policies at a three-day summit in Clearwater.

They were asked to review four things: New Common Core standards which take full effect next year; Florida's next standardized test; the state school grading formula; and teacher evaluations.

USF and Other Universities Struggle with Budget Woes

Sep 3, 2013

Federal stimulus money has run out, and the government's automatic budget cuts have tightened the competition for grants. States still fragile from the recession are not funding universities like they used to — the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found every state but North Dakota and Wyoming are spending less per student than before the recession. At USF, a prolonged period of state cuts totaled more than $120 million, including $50 million in one year. From 2008 to 2011, the full operating budget went from comfortably black to severely red. USF leaders turned to cash reserves, which dropped 42 percent from 2011 to now. Students filled the void the state left. At USF in Tampa, the yearly tab for undergraduate, in-state students rose from $3,990 to $6,410 in five years — still among the nation's lowest. Other Florida universities imposed similar hikes.

Nan Rich is a former state Senator who was the first Democrat to announce she’s challenging Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.

Rich stopped by the WUSF studios this week for a Florida Matters interview with Carson Cooper.

Here’s what she said about education. You can hear the full interview Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on Florida Matters.