Articles tagged with Florida

The Week in Blogs

1386-0902-0318-0632The announcement that Delaware and Tennessee won the jackpot — $100 million and $500 million, respectively— in the first round of the federal Race to the Top program was this week’s big news. As could be expected, ED’s picks (which Duncan explained was predicated on each state’s willingness to draft new legislation to support federal goals and accompanying statewide support for those changes) naturally elicited some commentary and criticism.

Another big issue brewing this week, which Washington Post‘s Answer Sheet advises everyone to pay attention to, even if you don’t live in Florida, is the furor state legislators have sparked with a proposed bill that would revamp the way teachers are compensated, tying evaluations, salary, and job security to student performance. The bill goes to the state’s house education policy council on Monday, when the series of organized protests that have go on throughout the state will reach a fever pitch, with groups planning to line U.S. 1 from Miami to Fernandina.

Staying on the subject of high expectations, blogger Robert Pondiscio leads us out with an intriguing riff on a new study published in the latest American Sociological Review that asks the question: Is there a downside to shooting for the stars? Look for it on our Facebook page.

Naomi Dillon|April 2nd, 2010|Categories: Week in Blogs, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |

Today’s cuts hurt academic gains in the future

As local school districts attempt to deal with declining revenues, school officials are working to keep the pain of budget cuts out of the classroom. But that’s almost impossible.

Consider Volusia County Public Schools, which is the subject of an article on school finance in April’s ASBJ.

More than 500 teaching positions have been eliminated as the school system responded to nearly $50 million in budget cuts over the past two years. Foreign language instruction took a hit, and enrichment and remedial programs were scaled back.

Despite their budget struggles, Volusia school officials say with pride that the district’s core mission is largely untouched, and I believe them. Math, science, reading, and even music and fine arts were spared serious damage by budget cuts.

But make no mistake-some damage was done.  Cuts in professional development, for example, won’t show up in test scores this year. But if teachers aren’t improving their skills, will they be as capable to handle the academic challenges of tomorrow’s students?

“I used to say with great confidence that the next graduating class will be our highest academically yet, but I don’t make that guarantee today,” says Chris Colwell, deputy superintendent for instructional services. “We have some residual damage, and it will take several years to get back to where we want to be.”

And that’s assuming the budget damage doesn’t get worse. Last I heard, early projections suggested the district could lose another $40 million in state and local revenue next year.

There’s nothing unique about Volusia County’s situation. Across the nation, school districts are raising class sizes, cutting back on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, delaying textbook purchases, or cutting back on social workers and counselors.

Naomi Dillon|March 26th, 2009|Categories: Student Achievement, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

Economic crisis galvanizes board, community in Florida town

I’ve often said that school board members aren’t active enough in lobbying state and federal officials on matters of education policy-or  in reaching out to local citizens as the community’s education leaders

I’ve also said that I know darned well that it’s not really fair to criticize board members for that fact-because we all know how many hours they already devote to school business.

How much more can we ask of them?

I can’t answer that. But I can suggest you read the April issue of American School Board Journal and look at the recent work of school leaders in Volusia County, Fla.

They’re speaking out. They’re working with their state associations to support statewide lobbying efforts to stop any further deep cuts in education funding, and they’re meeting with county officials and citizens to rally them to the cause.

Admittedly, their efforts are spurred by a crisis-the school system has lost $50 million in revenue in the past two years, and some predict another $37 million to $44 million could be cut next year.

That’s too much,” warns Superintendent Margaret Smith. “We’re at the breaking point. We have nowhere to go if we’re to maintain our quality of instruction.”

But what’s noteworthy is that school officials aren’t sitting back and accepting whatever budgetary fate is decreed by state leaders. They’ve been holding public hearings for citizens to explain local budget decisions and the need to lobby state lawmakers, and they’ve convinced county leaders to set aside their lobbying priorities and make education funding the central message they send to the state capitol this year.

Such efforts are paying off. City mayors in the county agreed to rent buses to take community members to the state capital to make themselves heard. School board Vice Chair Candace Lankford remembers sitting at one public meeting when a county leader spoke passionately about protecting public education.

Naomi Dillon|March 12th, 2009|Categories: Governance, Leadership, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |
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