Florida schools roundup: Charter and magnet schools, Common Core & more

Charter schools: Charter Schools USA plans to fight to add schools in Orange County, where district officials are critical about the chain’s outcomes locally. Orlando Sentinel. Since August, 69 children have withdrawn from University Prep in St. Petersburg, and four teachers and the curriculum director have quit. Tampa Bay Times.

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools: Hernando County school leaders push for more accountability in schools with special learning themes. Tampa Bay Times. This Hillsborough County high school’s Robotics Club has grown from 15 students to more than 80 in eight years. Tampa Bay Times.

Ed reform: The Lake County school district uses a Gates Foundation grant to push innovation that includes everything from changing school start times to freezing staff pay. Orlando Sentinel. More Collier County students are ditching the printed textbook for the Techbook,  an online resource that provides videos, music, and spoken word along with traditional text. Naples Daily News. Farm to School puts fresh produce, grown locally, on school lunch plates and emphasizes to students the nutritional value of fruits and veggies. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. STEM grants help schools support afterschool programs. The Tampa Tribune.

Common Core: Soon-to-be the Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist criticizes Gov. Rick Scott on education and throws his support behind Common Core, telling the Florida Education Association “we should continue to push higher and never settle.” The Buzz. Florida’s latest Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart, should stay true to the state’s goal of preparing students to compete globally by giving the standards her vote of confidence, writes the Orlando Sentinel. The new state standards win support from educators as a way to give students a competitive edge. The Tampa Tribune. We must send a clear message that we embrace world-class standards that prepare our students to compete — and succeed — in the workplace of the 21st Century, writes Hillsborough schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia for The Tampa Tribune. Common Core will rip the cover off the inadequacies of the students of our state and others by setting the bar high and ruthlessly measuring each child against the competition, writes Paul Cottle for the Tallahassee Democrat. Common Core has pushed instruction away from the pencil-on-paper mode and promotes our students to debate why and how they solved a problem, but it’s just another tool, writes Alva Swafford Striplin for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher pay: There’s hope that most Miami-Dade’s teachers might reap the entire $2,500 bonus pledged by Gov. Rick Scott. Miami Herald.

Early Ed:The Florida House Education Committee looks at tightening health, safety and teaching standards for the state’s school-readiness programs. Naples Daily News.

Finance 101: High schoolers should be required to take personal finance courses, but they need to go much further than the Legislature calls for, writes Beth Kassab from the Orlando Sentinel.

School grades: The Lee County school district puts less emphasis on standardized tests and exam scores and more weight on homework, class assignments, quizzes and projects created by individual teachers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Federal fallout: Since the federal government partially closed on the first of the month, Miami-Dade schools has stopped placing new hires in positions. Miami Herald.  Here’s what the shutdown could mean for Florida’s schools and students. StateImpact Florida.

Kids chorus: Two Palm Beach County school choruses will sing with the African Children’s Choir. Sun Sentinel.

Performance: In his first evaluation, superintendent Mike Grego receives near-perfect marks and glowing praise from the Pinellas County School Board. Tampa Bay Times.

Homecoming: Two Orange County high-school seniors with Down syndrome are elected homecoming king and queen by their classmates. Orlando Sentinel.

Special needs: Florida’s Special Olympics athlete of the year wins teachers’ hearts. Miami Herald. Hillsborough administrators say they have come a long way with the special needs program — boosting the ESE work force by stepping up training, working to raise pay and creating better career paths for front-line workers. Tampa Bay Times.

Challenging  odds: For the 49 percent of African-American students from Escambia County who don’t graduate from high school, this young man represents those who finish at the top of their class, writes Rhema Thompson for the Pensacola News-Journal.

Conduct: A recent investigation into the conduct of key Manatee County school administrators and staff depicts an alarming culture. Bradenton Herald.

Bullying: Volusia and Flagler county students sign a pledge to keep their schools bully-free. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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BY Sherri Ackerman

Sherri Ackerman is the former associate editor of redefinED. She is a former correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times and reporter for The Tampa Tribune, writing about everything from cops and courts to social services and education. She grew up in Indiana and moved to Tampa as a teenager, graduating from Brandon High School and, later, from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications/news editing. Sherri passed away in March 2016.