Bennett looking for partners in Common Core rollout

National and state business leaders gathered in Orlando on Wednesday to discuss Florida’s implementation of Common Core Standards in the public school system. In welcoming remarks, Marshall Criser III, president of AT&T Florida and chairman of the Florida Council of 100, told the group that by combining their voices they will help keep Florida committed to achieving excellence in education. Businesses and colleges complain that many high school graduates do not show up prepared for either work or higher education. “A skills gap costs us dearly,” said Criser, who noted that businesses report spending on average $459 to train new hires. That extra training adds up to more than $3.5 billion annually. Education Commissioner Tony Bennett delivered the keynote address of the gathering, a business-sponsored summit called "Breaking Through Mediocrity -- Implementing the Common Core State Standards." Forty-five states have signed onto the Common Core initiative that creates a single set of academic standards for K-12 schools to follow in teaching core subjects such as English and mathematics. The change involves, for example, students no longer being able to guess correct answers on multiple-choice questions. The new tests will require critical thinking and problem-solving essays. The National Governors Association began promoting Common Core in 2010. Bennett said that if implemented properly Common Core will enable Florida to build upon a series of reforms imposed in recent years.   “It will do what we’ve always wanted to do in education reform: transform the way children learn, teachers teach and the way we assess and analyze learning,”  Bennett said, referring to a school accountability measures, teacher evaluations and standardized tests. He said Florida shouldn't delay the new academic standards despite looming obstacles. Florida Education Association President Andy Ford said during a subsequent panel discussion that the statewide teachers' union supports the new standards but is worried they're being implemented too quickly. He said it may take more time and money to properly train teachers but agreed the new standards would be transformative. They'll require critical thinking and problem solving rather than simply learning information, are keyed to international education standards, and intended to make sure students are ready for college or work.


State teacher evaluation review draws small gathering at FGCU


Seminole: New evaluations imperil good teachers' jobs (Mark Pudlow quoted),0,2212156.story


All eyes on charter fallout in Sarasota

Democrats seek to cushion expected changes to charter school law
Majority Republicans in the Florida House and Senate have made no secret of their desire to expand the reach of charter schools in the state, with legislation filed to give charters more access to construction funds and to allow even more growth of the publicly funded, privately run schools. Democrats might not have the votes to stop the initiatives. But that isn't preventing them from filing bills of their own to limit the impact of the proposals on the traditional public school system, particularly if the new ideas fail. They've put forth three bills this week to protect districts from financial stresses associated with charter schools closing midyear, something that isn't a fantasy fear as it's happened more than once this year already. Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Palm Beach Co., is proposing that if charters are non-renewed or terminated, their capital funds and federal charter grant funds be distributed to the sponsor -- not to the state as has been the case to this point. (SB 1230) Sen. Geri Thompson, D-Orange Co., meanwhile is seeking to require charter schools to create plans for where their students would go if their charter school fails or if the students withdraw before the end of the school year, and further mandate that the students' prorated state funding follow them to whatever school they transfer to. (SB 1092) Rep. Karen Castor-Dentel, D-Polk Co., has filed a related bill in the House (HB 1001), giving charters shorter time limits to create such plans than the Senate version and also requiring charter schools to file certified lists of students on waiting lists to their district sponsors each year. These measures aim to give districts a little more time to prepare in the case that charters do shut down, while also offering some added transparency to their operations. GOP leaders have said they back full accountability for the charters they support. Time will tell if they will back these bills, which have yet to be assigned to committees.


Education is the work of teachers, not hackers


Ed reform movement becoming “truly Orwellian”


Survey finds gap in Internet access between rich, poor students


Florida Poly can't make it on its own, Weatherford says


Changing to 401(k) plan will cost Floridians, public employees
A key Florida House committee didn’t wait for facts and figures before moving ahead with a plan to bar new state employees from enrolling in the Florida Retirement System’s most popular pension plan. Now, the consultant’s report that was supposed to provide those facts and figures is flawed and must be reworked. That didn’t stop Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, in an interview Tuesday with The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board, from generally supporting the plan to make teachers, many county workers and all court personnel who are hired after this year enroll in a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan instead of a defined benefit plan that pays a guaranteed pension. Gaetz said the state this year will “write a $500 million check” to “prop up” the FRS. He warned that Florida could have to raise taxes to keep the FRS solvent because it is “a pension system that doesn’t stand on its own.” In fact, it is standard for public employers --meaning taxpayers -- to contribute to pension plans. The FRS does not have a scary “unfunded actuarial liability,” a wonky term for a theoretical shortage. The FRS is one of the soundest public pension systems in the country. Because it would severely reduce new money coming into the system, the plan to bar new employees actually would increase what the state -- or school districts, or counties, or the employees -- would have to contribute over the next three decades to keep the system sound. Because of errors in the study prepared for the House, we can’t yet to compare the cost of keeping the current system with the cost of switching to a new one. But it’s clear that ideology is the prime reason for the change.


Our election laws should be smart, efficient, fair


Interest groups identify “Champions of the Middle Class”


Business lobby lays out session goals


Bill to shrink hurricane fund would make homeowners pay more


Scott needs help from skeptical legislators


Billboards trump trees when you have powerful pals


Scott pitches $5 million per year to retain spring training teams


White House counts on Republicans to bend as cuts’ effects are felt


Republicans are losing the spending argument


GOP’s history of demanding Obama identify the spending cuts they’d support


AFL-CIO: Time to repeal the sequester


Unions target GOP with sequester ads (NEA mentioned)


Voting rights law draws skepticism from justices (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Vulnerability of the vote


Incarceration rates for blacks have fallen sharply, report shows


AFL-CIO backs Keystone oil pipeline, if indirectly






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