Today's news -- March 24, 2017





Orange teacher: 37 days lost yearly to “test prep”

An Orange County teacher told lawmakers earlier this week that her students lose 37 days of instruction to test preparation each year. Peggy Dominguez, who teaches English at Timber Creek High School, spoke during a Senate Education Committee hearing Tuesday. She said the time spent preparing her students for the Florida Standards Assessment included walking them through the instruction and showing them what the testing platform would look like. The lawmakers heard from school district employees and parents on several matters, including SB 926, which would move most state testing to the last three weeks of the school year and shorten the testing window. The proposal requires students’ test scores to be given to their teachers for the current and subsequent school year, along with reports detailing their strengths and areas for improvement. The bill also calls on Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart to review the SAT and ACT college admissions exams to determine whether they test students on the content covered in high school English Language Arts and math courses. Representatives from school districts in Orange and Seminole counties, which are on spring break this week, spoke during the hearing. Dominguez told lawmakers about three-quarters of her English 1 and 2 students in her mainstream classes have disabilities, while the rest are “low learners” who neither read nor write on grade level. Her students typically start the school year reading at the third- to fifth-grade level. Dominguez said she provides accommodations to her students and tailors her instruction to their abilities. For hearing-impaired students, she provides visual elements and speaks directly to them. She’s not allowed to do this during the Florida Standards Assessment.  She said the state’s standardized tests do not capture her students’ abilities or the skills they’ve gained during the school year. “It is not an authentic assessment of what my students can do,” Dominguez said. Lobbyist Allison Liby-Schoonover also spoke on behalf of Seminole schools. The district has long urged lawmakers to allow high school students to take the SAT or ACT college admissions tests, which many students already take, in lieu of the FSA. “We feel like this double testing is a waste of classroom time and student time and waste of taxpayer dollars -- parent dollars as well,” she said.


Bill to limit guarantees for annual contracts advances

Since lawmakers eliminated annual contracts for public school teachers, a majority of the state's school districts have guaranteed yearly renewals to those educators who earned an "effective" or "highly effective" evaluation rating. The Florida House Education Committee on Thursday moved to end that authority. On a split vote, the committee favored a bill (HB 373) prohibiting school boards from awarding any contractual terms beyond what's provided in law. Committee chairman Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, said the measure simply solidified the Legislature's intent from 2011, when it ended professional services contracts. Hats off to the unions that were able to negotiate tenure back into the contracts of about 95 percent of their teachers, Bileca said, but that was not the goal. Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, agreed that the bill clarified existing statute, saying the bill "just makes sense." Not every member took that stance. Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, is a teacher who remembered getting his first non-renewal notice. He called the negotiated job guarantees "genius" as a way for districts to offer some stability to their well-regarded teachers, noting that evaluations are based 70 percent on administrator reviews. "This isn't an automatic renewal," Plasencia said of the deals that the districts and unions have hashed out. "This is a performance measure, a merit based system where we are rewarding teachers for the work they do in the classroom." Teachers who spoke against the bill shared that view. They noted that some educators have left the state because others do not limit contract terms as Florida does. That's particularly relevant, they said, as Florida faces a teacher shortage. Joe Minor, representing United Teachers of Dade, said the bill cuts to the very heart of local discretion on how districts retain their top teachers. If teachers are well evaluated by their administrators, Minor said, "Why wouldn't we want to keep them? ... It's a local decision that is being made." "This bill, what it largely comes down to is taking away local control," added Sean Ashby, an Orange County teacher. Spencer Pylant, lobbyist for the Pasco County school district, noted his district is one of three that has gone to impasse in contract negotiations over this issue this year. The United School Employees of Pasco has pressed for annual contract protections over several years, without success. An identical bill in the Senate has not been considered in any of its three committees of reference.


A new way to teach: Altruism favors kids over test scores (by Tanner Jesso)


Public, charter schools should not be totally equal when it comes to state funding


Teacher test scores not improving, new state numbers show


Even with high scores, many minority students passed over for AP classes


Senate endorses religious expression in public schools


House advances bill allowing guns in private religious schools


State ax targeting students of military families


L.A. charter school network defends its founder's income of $471,842,amp.html


Tensions rise as vouchers pick up traction across Wisconsin


Negron warns against Florida universities overusing online classes


TCC president says college's faculty senate will disband (UFF mentioned)


DeVos raises fees for collectors of student debt, including a former adviser


Senate advances bill that tries to limit “gotcha” public records lawsuits


Negron would “prefer” to use gambling money in budget


Corcoran: Scott’s focus on Enterprise Florida is misdirected


Corcoran criticizes Constitution Revision schedule


Immokalee Workers' Return to Human Rights Tour stops in Tampa


Vote-by-mail ballots fix passes House


Black lawmakers slam Scott for death penalty decision


Does murder rate go up without the death penalty?


On race and criminal sentencing, prosecutors escape blame


Richardson asks Scott to take control of privatized women's prison in Gadsden


With help from investor Scott, Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline looks to open in June


State senator's friends got $1 million from state, but their firm fell short of goals


Trump delivers ultimatum: Pass health-care bill today or he’ll move on


CBO: Latest House GOP health-care bill would mean as many uninsured


A postponed health-care vote, a big GOP embarrassment and no good options


Trump the dealmaker projects bravado, but behind the scenes, faces self-doubt


Trump bows to conservatives; agrees to cut rule for basic health benefits


With no carrots to dangle, cajoling recalcitrant lawmakers is hard


A key problem on health care for Republicans: Opposition from across the caucus


The health-care bill embraces the GOP’s scariest state-level experiments


Late GOP plan could mean plans that cover aromatherapy but not chemotherapy


As repeal vote nears, Obama pleads to preserve Affordable Care Act


Health-care overhaul faces an even bigger challenge in the Senate


Yes, senator, you wouldn’t want to lose your mammograms — or women voters


Florida activists urge Republicans to reform, not replace ACA


Scott still won't give GOP healthcare bill his backing


Loss aversion, Trump and the new opening for Medicare for all


The scammers, the scammed and America’s fate


Trump’s cascade of false claims in Time’s interview on his falsehoods


GOP panel chair apologizes for withholding Trump data from Democrats


Nunes puts credibility of House panel he leads in doubt


Nunes shows why he’s incapable of running an investigation


Nunes is a lapdog in a watchdog role


Trump’s FISA paranoia


Trump’s longtime lawyer is defending Russia’s biggest bank


Trump's commerce secretary oversaw Russia deal while at Bank of Cyprus


If team Trump and Putin colluded, any money trail likely involves oil


Following the Russian money


Biden weighs in on Russia probe: “Need select committee”


Days before his death, Putin critic said in interview he knew he was in danger


Trump administration orders tougher screening of visa applicants


By not taking refugees, the U.S. may make them more dangerous


Trump casts immigrants as dangerous criminals, but the evidence shows otherwise


From field to truck to plate: How undocumented workers feed a city


Jewish leaders welcome arrest of threat suspect


Democrats plan to filibuster to thwart Gorsuch nomination


Gorsuch completes his 20-hour test. So how did he do?


One rationale for Voter ID debunked, GOP has another


Senate votes to undo landmark rules covering your Internet privacy


Nelson, Rubio split votes as Senate moves to kill Internet privacy rules


Trump administration approves Keystone XL pipeline




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