Podcast: State Impact Florida Archives

New Transfer Rules For High School Athletes
Within the massive education bill awaiting Gov. Rick Scott's signature is a provision that says that parents will be able to enroll their child in any school they choose, as long as there's space available. If there's room on the roster, those students also can immediately start playing a sanctioned sport. Many high school coaches and athletic directors are worried this could create a kind of high school "free agency," with students leaving neighborhood schools for sports powerhouses.
Parlez-Vous Java? Computer Science Proponents Look For Ways To Attract Students
Computer coding is the language that tells a computer what to do, but is it a foreign language? The Florida Senate has approved a bill saying yes; if it passes into law, high school students could substitute computer coding for required foreign language credits. It's an attempt to get more of the state's students into computer science classes. But while that effort is being debated, a computer science advocate in the Keys isn't waiting for the state to pass a law. He's putting his own money into the push for computer literacy.
Education Bills Moving Ahead In The Legislature
The Florida House of Representatives last week wrestled with key education proposals. Robin Sussingham of StateImpact Florida spoke with Kristen Clark, a Tallahassee reporter for the Miami Herald, who said the most hotly debated bills include ones that would give students more school choice by doing away with zoning, school construction, recess and a bill that rewards teachers for getting top scores on their own college assessment exams.
The Anemic State Of High School Physics In Florida
Physics is the most fundamental of sciences; it's an essential stepping stone for careers in engineering or science. But around the country, fewer than 40 percent of high school students take a physics class. In Florida , that number is much lower -- only about a quarter of high school students take physics. Experts say that the trend affects the future earning potential of the state's students.
State Senate Education Leader Talks About Upcoming Session
State Senator John Legg heads the education committee in the Florida Senate. State Impact Florida's Robin Sussingham sat down with Legg recently, and asked him to sum up the most important education issues that will be in front of the legislature this year.
Parents Fight For School Recess
Remember recess? When you knew that if you just sat still for a couple more hours, you and your friends could go racing out to the merry go round or the hopscotch court for a daily dose of fun. In many public elementary schools in Florida, recess has become a thing of the past. And parents are not happy.
Despite Losing Grant, Choral Group Still Teaching Miami Students To Sing
Natural Bridge Elementary has maintained its music classes even as schools across the country have eliminated them. In Miami-Dade those decisions are made by each school. For this school in North Miami, music is important. Many of the students are Haitian or Caribbean immigrants and still adjusting to school in the U.S. And principal Frank MacBride says he can connect with almost every student through song.
International Baccalaureate Programs Finding A Home In Middle and Elementary Schools
International Baccalaureate programs are growing in popularity. It started in Switzerland in 1968, and the curriculum is the same in schools all over the world. The Florida League of International Baccalaureate Schools says students in the Sunshine State are more likely to have access to IB classes than any other school system in the world. Florida has pushed students to take more challenging courses to make sure they are ready for college or the workforce.
Tampa Academy Introduces Students to Maritime Industries
Florida is a state that juts out into the water and is home to 14 ports -- but still the maritime industry is a mystery to most teens. Now, a rapidly aging workforce in one of the state's major economic engines is behind a push to reach a younger generation and teach them about sea-going jobs. In Tampa Bay, maritime interests have teamed up with the Hillsborough School district to create the Maritime Honors Academy at Jefferson High School In Tampa.
Obama’s Call For Less Testing Might Not Change Much
Recently, President Barack Obama admitted he’d made a mistake when it comes to public schools. Like many people with big news to share – he posted it on Facebook. “I also hear from parents who, rightly, worry about too much testing,” Obama said in a video posted to the White House’s Facebook page.For more than a decade, the federal government has required schools to test students every year and use those results to force changes in schools. And since the late 1990s Florida has used tests the same way. The president now says he wants less testing in schools.
Deciphering Dueling Stats on Graduation Rates
It sounded like a story guaranteed to irritate taxpayers: a national study out of Rutgers university says more and more public high school students are taking longer than four years to graduate. Instead, they're in school for five or six -- or more -- years! But Florida school officials say that's not a problem here. And experts say, they both may be right -- the difference may lie in some good news from the last several years.
New Florida Teacher Bonus Program Draws Complaints
There's a new program called the “Best and Brightest Scholarships.” It’s not not actually a scholarship. It’s bonuses for teachers based on how they did on the SATs and ACTs. And they could get as much as $10,000.To get the money, teachers need to have scored in the top twenty percent when they took the college placement exams. They also have to earn the state’s top teacher rating – “highly effective.”
New Florida Teacher Bonus Program Draws Complaints
There's a new program called the “Best and Brightest Scholarships.” It’s not not actually a scholarship. It’s bonuses for teachers based on how they did on the SATs and ACTs. And they could get as much as $10,000. To get the money, teachers need to have scored in the top twenty percent when they took the college placement exams. They also have to earn the state’s top teacher rating – “highly effective.”
Hillsborough Superintendent: Deficit Spending "Can't Continue"
It was with great fanfare In 2009 that the Gates Foundation granted 100 million dollars to Hillsborough County schools for a program called Empowering Effective Teachers -- one of just three public school districts in the country awarded the grant. At the time, it was at the forefront of the movement to pay teachers for performance, rather than seniority. Now, the district won't be getting a fifth of that money. And the consequences to the school district's budget are coming clear. Increases in teacher pay and bonuses haven't been matched by the Gates Foundation money or other revenue -- forcing the school district to dip into its financial reserves. HIllsborough Superintendent Jeff Eakins has been in his job just a little more than three months. WUSF's Robin Sussingham asked him about the state of the school district budget.
Political Correctness Challenges Campus Free Speech
Some comedians are deciding to avoid college campuses where they say students are too easily offended.Comedians who won’t perform at college campuses is not one of the most burning issues facing education today. But since universities are seen as places where students are challenged with new ideas, and new ways of thinking, this political correctness may be threatening other kinds of free speech.
5 Things We Learned From An International Study On Technology In Schools
Last week the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released the results of a global study looking at the effect of technology on 15-year-olds test scores. And the research matters even more to Florida because state law requires schools spend half of their instructional budget on digital lessons. Here's five things we learned from their study.
New Palm Beach County Schools Chief Wants To Shake Up Florida Education
For weeks now, Palm Beach County schools have struggled to get students to classes on time. Bus routes have been redrawn. And the district sent up flares, looking to hire anyone who wants to drive a bus.It’s the first crisis new superintendent Robert Avossa has had to face since taking over the job in June. And he says it could have been avoided if district leaders had listened.
Florida Mandates Concussion Training for High School Athletes
There's growing concern about the risks of concussions in young athletes. For years, high school coaches have had to take courses on the dangers of head injuries. This year, for the first time, all high school athletes in Florida are required to educate themselves about concussions before they can compete.
Needlework Guild in Lakeland Marks 80 Years of Charity
As schools open for a new school year, they'll also start encountering student poverty and homelessness. At last count -- the 2013/2014 school year -- the number of homeless students had risen to more than 71,000 in the state's public schools. For many of these children, a brand new school uniform may be out of reach, though school officials say it makes a big impact on their attitude. One longtime charity in Lakeland is quietly helping to fill that need.
Pinellas Teachers Make Back-To-School House Calls
At the beginning of each school year making new students feel welcome and building a rapport with them is a big part of getting off to a smooth start. And at one Pinellas County middle school, teachers and staff aren't waiting for the students to come to them.
'Community School' Concept Takes Root in Florida
From a 50-percent graduation rate in 2007, Evans High School in Orlando now graduates 80 percent. From an enrollment of 1600, it's now more than 2400. The secret? Evans principal Jenny Gibson-Linkh says it's understanding what keeps students from arriving at school ready to learn. Like abscessed teeth.
Florida Schools Strive To Identify And Help Homeless Students
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.
Jacksonville Group Connecting Teachers To Improve Training
At one point, the Schultz Center had state funding and a big, multi-million dollar contract with Duval County schools to help teachers improve their craft. The Schultz Center has trained thousands of teachers since it was founded in Jacksonville in 1997. But when state revenues declined, the Schultz Center funding was cut. “The recession happened,” said Deborah Gianoulis, president of the Schultz Center. “That [state budget] line-item was never restored.” And Duval schools decided to provide their own staff development.
Enrollment in Pinellas County Summer Learning Program Swells
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. In Summer Bridge, students in grades one through twelve can retake a class they failed during the school year or improve their reading, math or science skills.
Why Some State Test Results Are Less Honest Than Others
Some states are telling students and parents they are better at reading, writing, math and other subjects than they really are, according to a new website from the Foundation for Excellence in Education. The website, WhyProficiencyMatters.com, tracks the percentage of students scoring at grade level on state tests — “proficient” in education jargon. The site then compares those rates to how well students perform on the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP. Students take the NAEP every two years and the exam results are considered the gold-standard of education data. Foundation for Excellence in Education director Patricia Levesque says some states are telling students they’re ready for college or the workforce when they might not be.
Tampa Bay Counties Partner with Germany for Student Apprentice Program
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.
Tampa Bay Program Helps Fifth Graders Make Sense of Their Financial Futures
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.
StateImpact Florida: How Jeb Bush's Education Record Will Change The 2016 Republican Primary
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush became a Republican presidential candidate Monday. Education has been a signature issue for Bush. He helped start Florida’s first charter school. He says schools and teachers should be judged on student performance. He pushed for vouchers for private schools. And he spent most of his time since leaving the Florida governor’s office advocating for his brand of school reform.
Fine Arts Museum Bringing Students, Ancient Worlds Together
A study by the American Association of School Administrators in 2010 found that leaders worried that time away from the classroom meant time lost preparing for standardized tests. That year, 30 percent of administrators said they were eliminating some field trips. Still, the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts two years ago created a program that turns its galleries into an up-close history lesson. It invited every single Pinellas County public school sixth graders to come visit what to most is an unfamiliar, cultured world.
StateImpact Florida: How The Internet Is Helping Fl Students Pay For Their Education
Like a growing number of college students, Ashley Jean is turning to crowdfunding sites to help her raise money for college. The sites let users search by location or topic and donate directly to causes they like. Jean is using a gofundme page to help her raise money for school. She’s set a goal of $2,200 to pay for tickets, visas, health insurance and other expenses of studying abroad. It’s just a fraction of the total cost of the program – but every bit helps. She says gofundme lets her make the pitch her way.
Charter Schools Take Aim at At-Risk Students
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.
StateImpact Florida: As Florida Reduces Testing, Teacher Evaluation Questions Remain
Several large Florida schools districts say they will use state test scores to evaluate those teachers. That means some art, music or gym teachers will be judged based on their students’ scores on the state reading test.
StateImpact Florida: It Takes A 'Forest' To Feed An Elementary School
Students at ten other Miami-Dade elementary schools also will soon be eating kale, tomatoes and guava they grow themselves. In a couple of years, the banana and jackfruit trees will be ready too. The gardens -- dubbed “food forests” -- are part of a program to teach kids to eat more healthy and to teach them the science of farming and nutrition.
StateImpact Florida: New College Program Wants To Train Young Artists And Designers
A new program at Broward College has just eight students and seeks to train the next generation of South Florida artists and designers. The school hopes to earn a national certification for the Visual Arts and Design Academy this spring – becoming the first community college in the South to have that. Florida’s higher education system has put a focus on training workers for health care and other high-demand fields in recent years. And lawmakers have encouraged school districts to start career-training programs.
StateImpact Florida: Required Financial Literacy Course Gets Second Chance in Florida Senate
Bills filed in the Florida House and Senate would require high school students to take a one-semester financial literacy course. But with just three weeks left in the legislative session, the proposals haven’t been discussed by committees. Now, there’s another option in the Florida Senate to get the class into high schools if the legislative proposals fail. An alternative is now part of the Senate budget plan for the state starting in July. It would create a required financial literacy pilot project in Broward County schools and a grant program that would enable other districts to participate.
StateImpact Florida: Testing, School Choice, PE: A Town Hall Conversation About Florida Education
This week, PBS is launching a new documentary series “180 Days." One of the films focuses on Hartsville, S.C., a rural and poor district which has managed to become one of the highest rating school districts according to South Carolina’s ranking. WUSF hosted a town hall meeting at Artz 4 Life Academy in Clearwater last week to screen a portion of the movie and to discuss education issues. Artz 4 Life is an after-school arts and life coaching program.
StateImpact Florida: Despite Problems, Experts Say Computerized Testing Is The Answer For Florida Schools
Testing experts say so far Florida's problems with its new statewide exam, the Florida Standards Assessments, are likely not serious enough for the state to consider throwing out this year’s test scores.
StateImpact Florida: Ready Or Not, Students, New Florida Exam Is Here
Today marks the start of testing season for Florida schools. Students have state exams scheduled every few weeks from now until the end of the school year.

It’s the first time students will take a new test called the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSA, which replaces most FCAT exams.
StateImpact Florida: Private Middle School Preparing Low-Income Students for Brighter Future
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.
StateImpact Florida: Why Paperwork Is Worth Millions To Florida College Students
Miami Beach Senior High college adviser Maria Sahwell and experienced counselors will walk families through filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. By this time of year many high school seniors have already sent in their first college applications. Now, the question is how to pay for it. And for most that means the FAFSA. But half of Florida high school graduates don’t complete the form, losing out on at least $100 million dollars for college each year.
StateImpact Florida: Study: Performance Funding Doesn't Improve Outcomes In Higher Ed
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. A study co-authored by Dr. David Tandberg, Florida State University assistant professor of higher education, shows little difference in outcomes between institutions that receive performance funding and those that don’t.
StateImpact Florida: Why Elementary Math Lessons Are Changing In Florida Schools
Florida is one of dozens of states that has switched to new math standards based on Common Core. The standards outline what students should know in every grade. Experts say it means big changes to how math is taught. More focus on understanding concepts and solving problems multiple ways. Less memorization of formulas and grinding out worksheets full of similar problems.
StateImpact Florida: Class Size Versus School Size
It’s been 12 years since Florida voters passed the class size amendment, limiting the number of students in certain classes to between 18 and 25, depending on the grade. Now, a new report suggests focusing on smaller schools - instead of classes - might be more effective.
StateImpact Florida: Fewer And Better: How Lawmakers Want To Change State Testing
When lawmakers return to Tallahassee in March for the annual legislative session, they have a lot of questions they need to answer about public school testing. Senators laid out their concerns about the state testing system last week at a series of meetings. They don’t know how many tests the state requires or how long it takes to complete those exams. They don’t know how much the state and school districts spend on testing. And they’re not convinced they can depend on all the results of those exams. Sen. David Simmons – and his colleagues -- want to change that.
StateImpact Florida: New Book Looks At The History And Future Of Testing In U.S. Schools
Lawmakers want to scale back the amount of time Florida students spend taking tests. But at the same time, Florida is rolling out a new test tied to new math and language arts standards -- known as Common Core. NPR education reporter Anya Kamenetz researched the history and use of standardized exams for her book, “The Test.”
Why First Generation Students Find It Tougher To Earn A College Degree
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. Documentary filmmaker Adam Fenderson spent three years following a group of first generation students through high school as they prepared for college.
StateImpact Florida: Why Miami-Dade High School Students Are Teaching Their Classmates About Health
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. That’s why the Health Information Project (HIP) trains high school juniors and seniors to lead freshmen through a year-long health education program. The program is in 37 Miami-Dade public high schools, plus one private school. It has trained more than 1,000 juniors and seniors on how to teach and talk to younger schoolmates about health issues
StateImpact Florida: The Education Year In Review -- And What To Expect In 2015
2014 was a big year for education in Florida. Activists in Lee County convinced the school board to ditch state testing -- before the board reversed the decision a couple of days later. Florida schools pushed ahead with new Common Core-based math and language arts standards in every grade, despite rising opposition to Common Core across the country. And education was a top issue during the governor’s race. Barry University political scientist Sean Foreman sat down with StateImpact Florida to talk about what we learned in 2014, and what’s next in 2015?
StateImpact Florida: Florida Teachers Consider 'Civil Disobedience' To Say No To Testing
Some teachers say they believe too many tests are bad for students. Around the state, students, parents, teachers, superintendents and school boards are discussing how to voice their opposition to testing. But is the classroom the right place to raise those questions? Educators disagree about the best way for teachers to speak up.
StateImpact Florida: Meet Florida's New Statewide Test
This spring, Florida students will take a brand new test tied to the state’s new math, reading and writing standards. This is the test that replaces the FCAT. It's known as the Florida Standards Assessment, and it’ll be online. What’s on the test won’t be the only thing different about the exam. Students will also find new types of questions.

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