Amidst Testing Scandal Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson Resigns

Florida’s education commissioner Gerard Robinson announced his resignation and will leave his post by August 31 of this year. This news comes amid a lot of controversy in Florida surrounding some issues with the state’s standardized test-based accountability system. Robinson has only been in office for a year after being recruited from Virginia where he served as education secretary.

Although the reason cited for Robinson’s resignation is that he missed his family that never relocated to Florida with him, many suspect that he was the fall guy for several scandals associated with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exams, or the FCAT. Some may be thinking that if Robinson is gone the suspicion around the testing scandal will quietly fade away with him. Read the rest of this entry »

Florida Schools Should Quit Focusing on Grades to Evaluate Success

Continuing its streak for not being accountable, the Florida Department of Education recently announced that it incorrectly graded hundreds of schools across the state. In fact, 40 out of 60 school districts in the state were affected by this miscalculation of grades.

This error occurred when the FDOE omitted one part of the newly revised and very complex grading formula that is used to evaluate the schools. Since the error was discovered, the grades have been corrected, resulting in 116 schools seeing their grades increase from a B to an A, 55 seeing their grades increased from a C to a B, and 35 schools seeing their grades increase from a D to a C.

School grades are important to students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, and the community,” said Gerard Robinson, Commissioner of Education. “And, while I am pleased that the continuous review process has resulted in better grades, we will continue to look for ways to improve the grade calculation process.”

The school grades are based mainly on a standardized test that focuses on reading, writing, math, and science called the FCAT. The results of these grades are used for a number of purposes, including determining which schools receive financial rewards. However, many people are saying this test is too rigorous for most students and that students might feel too discouraged after taking it.

Rick Roach, an educator who took the FCAT and did not pass, made his results public.

“It seems to me something is seriously wrong here,” he said about the test. “If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.”

Roach currently has two master’s degrees and is a member of the Orange County School Board.

So, it seems that perhaps the Florida Department of Education should take a look at what it has been doing lately, concerning standardized tests and grading of schools in the state. Perhaps grades are not all they are cracked up to be.

“Moving forward, we need to focus our attention on the quality of the work produced and student achievement, not just a letter grade,” said Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Via The Huffington Post

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Hispanics in Florida are Setting the New Higher Education Trend

For several years now, President Obama has been stressing the importance of higher education levels for all Americans. In order to be internationally competitive – which is becoming more and more important in today’s age – we have to have more people pursuing a college-level education. But where can this trend start? How do we convince parents who did not earn a higher education to encourage their children to further their studies? The answer could be the largest growing minority group in the U.S.: Hispanics.

Hispanics are expected to create the vast majority of our nation’s population growth between now and 2050. Currently, Hispanics comprise a little more than 20 percent of pre-kindergarten students through high school seniors. These students have not been known for pursuing a higher education in the past; in fact, for years they have had lower college graduation rates than the general population.

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Homeless Children Find School to be a Safe Haven

Imagine this: You are an elementary student. You have parents and some siblings, ride the bus to school and back home again, and have friends. Life sounds pretty normal, right? It is, except for one big difference: you are also homeless.

This is everyday life for Brianna, Tamara, and Sydney Collins, daughters of James Collins and Felicia Blue. The couple has six children and the entire family currently lives in a 13′ x 15′ room with three bunk beds at a homeless shelter. Every morning, the girls look forward to going to school at Fern Creek Elementary School, if for no other reason than to escape their cramped space. Surprisingly to many, their story is not unique.

Twenty percent of the students who attend Fern Creek Elementary School in Orange County, Florida, are homeless. For many of these children, going to school is a bright spot in their days.

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Orlando Elementary School Faces Rising Homeless Student Count

HomelessThe American public education system serves nearly 50 million students grades K-12 per year. Of this overwhelming number of students, an estimated 954,914 of them are homeless. Economic conditions of recent years have produced a rising number of homeless youth who are commonly educated in public schools. Financial struggle, transportation limitations, lack of home stability and other obstacles faced by homeless youth negatively influence the probability of their success; as compared to their non-homeless classmates. One elementary school in Orlando, Florida knows the reality of homeless students all too well.

Fern Creek Elementary in Orlando, Florida navigates a unique situation. 20 percent of their students live in homeless shelters. Principal Patrick Galatowitsch responds to Fern Creek’s homeless population with a fresh attitude. Suspensions are not used as punishment. “It makes no sense to remove a child who needs school the most,” Galatowitsch told the New York Times. For students who have unstable living situations, the consistency and support at Fern Creek presents a dependable and safe environment.

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Florida Senate Passes ‘Merit Pay’ Bill for Teachers

TeachingYesterday, the Florida Senate passed the “Merit Pay” bill, which will link pay and lay-offs to a teacher’s effectiveness. If signed into law, new teachers will only be offered one-year contracts, and by 2014 half of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on their students’ test scores. “What this bill says is do your hard work because you are going to be recognized for it,” Senator Anitere Flores, Miami (D) told ABC.

A number of teachers are protesting the new bill, arguing that it penalizes younger teachers. “It’s going to be hard for them to go out and get a car loan or a home mortgage because they’re going to have to tell the bank, well I only have a job this year. I don’t know if I’ll have it next year,” said Barbara Haggerty, a tenured teacher who will not be affected by the bill.

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Students in Florida Attend Virtual Classrooms with No Teachers

Students in Florida can now take many of their core classes in a room with a computer and no teacher. The state of Florida passed an amendment in 2002 called the Florida Class Size Reduction Amendment which allows them to place virtual e-learning labs in schools.

Although this amendment limits the number of students allowed in a classroom, there are no limits to the virtual labs. Unfortunately for students, many of them were placed in these virtual classroom courses without signing up for them. The setup of an e-learning lab is typically a room filled with computers. There is no teacher in this setting, just a facilitator that makes sure students progress in the course and addresses any technical problems.

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Shooter Opens Fire on Florida School Board [VIDEO]

Florida School Board ShootingDuring a public Bay District School Board Meeting this past Tuesday, Clay Duke opened fire at board members, starting with superintendent Bill Husfelt.

The Florida school board meeting had started normally, but things took a violent turn when the floor was opened to the public for comment. Duke stood up, spray painted a red “V” on the wall and brandished a gun, ordering the audience and women out of the room. He then opened fire. None of the remaining board members were hit, but once authorities entered the room the gunman turned the weapon on himself.

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Shooting Threat Puts Florida Schools in Lockdown

Florida School Lockdown

Image Via JustNews.com

UPDATE [11/10/10, 2:05]: The lockdown has been lifted as authorities determined the threat to be “diminished.”

Florida police received a call at 8:40 this morning, threatening that “Something big will happen at a government building, maybe a post office, maybe even a school.” A woman sent in a second warning to a radio station, warning that her husband is planning to go to a school and start shooting. Police believe the threats are related. All public school buildings are in lockdown in Broward County, in addition to other government buildings as a precautionary measure.

“There is currently a credible threat to do harm at a government building, post office or a school, and in fact, we did what we needed to do to keep our students and our employees safe and secure,” said Jim Notter, Broward County Public Schools superintendent. It’s the fifth largest school district in the United Sates. WPLG reports that 231 traditional schools and 69 charter schools.

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Teachers Allowed to Hit Students in 20 U.S. States

the 20 states allowing student hitting

The 20 States in red currently allow teachers to legally hit their misbehaving children

Most parents recognize that even in the most well-respected and established education institutions, their children will inevitably misbehave, which will subject them to punishment in accordance to the school’s disciplinary guidelines.

In fact, in most instances, parents, teachers and administrative professionals understand and agree that negative reinforcement is sometimes deemed necessary when disciplining a disruptive pupil. Most, however, envision a trip to the principal’s office or a missed after school activity an appropriate punishment.

One thing they probably don’t envision is a child being hit with a belt or wooden paddle as an appropriate punishment for misbehavior. Read the rest of this entry »


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