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Chronicle: State meddles in local control of schools

44382-10Chronicle: State meddles in local control of schools

New State law creates new challneges and cost for disticts.

Chronicle shares concerns of ever changing state laws governing curriculum selection in schools.
Parents very much should (and do) have a voice and choice in students’ curriculum. We must be careful about laws that over empower special interest on either side of issues, and of those trying to control the curriculum vital for our students to learn. While it is important to have public input, new statutes are costing some school boards and taxpayers as they are being tied up with numerous appeal processes and records requests. As exampled in this editorial, in Nassau County, Florida, a resident has challenged the teaching of evolution– the resident claims life was created by and possibly planted by SPACE ALIENS.

Read Chronicle Editorial Board’s Column publiched 12/11/2017 – ‘State meddles in local control of schools

7-Period High School Schedule

7-Period High School Schedule

This column was published in the Citrus Chronicle on 12/10/2017

imageRecently the principals from all three high schools in Citrus County released letters to all students and their families explaining that beginning with the 2018-2019 school year, Citrus County high schools will transition from a block schedule to a traditional 7-period school day.  The move to a 7-period day follows a trend by a majority of high schools in Florida to move away from block schedules or other alternative schedules.

To understand this decision, it may help to know the history behind our county’s scheduling. For over a decade our Citrus County high school students have taken their high school classes based on a 4×4 “block” schedule.  This meant a high school student took four high school classes/credits for the first semester (from Aug-Dec) and then four other high school credit classes in the second semester (from Jan-May). (Each of the four classes in a block schedule are 90 minutes in length for approximately 90 days.  This is similar to a college schedule.)  The only Citrus County program that did not follow the 4×4 block schedule was the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Lecanto High School.  The IB students took their eight classes over 180 days on a “A-day” and then “B-day” rotation.  This meant IB students took four classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and then four different classes on Tuesday and Thursday. This schedule existed because the IB organization mandates that IB courses be taught with concurrency not be divided into separate sets of “block” courses each semester.

From the beginning there have been pros and cons to the block schedule.  While there were opportunities for students to take extra credits, to accomplish this classes had to be compressed into a single semester.  This meant classes moved fast which was challenging for many traditional learning students, but especially for ESE and educationally-challenged students.  To accommodate yearlong learning under the block some courses needed to “double up” (e.g., taking two classes of the same subject area such as Calculus Honors in semester one and AP Calculus in semester two or US Government Honors in semester one and AP US Government in semester two). It also meant that students would take state-mandated assessments or Advanced Placement (AP) tests (which are often required to be taken in May) months after the students had completed the courses and were no longer attending the class.    In other situations, there was as much as a year and a half between a sequenced course which is particularly challenging for subjects like mathematics and foreign languages. In addition, in order to have the block schedule, it takes more teachers (approximately 10% more) than the 7-period schedule; it takes even more teachers to have a “A-Day/B-Day” schedule.

This past year, several issues made it necessary to take a serious look at whether the block was best serving our students.  This fall the High School Directions Committee included moving to a 7-period day as one of its items to address. This committee is made up of every high school principal, head guidance counselor, curriculum assistant principal, directors from secondary/elementary education/ESE/technology curriculum/Research and Accountability, district subject area curriculum specialists, a teacher from the Citrus County Educational Association, Assistant Superintendent, a School Board member, and other curriculum personnel.  I serve as the School Board representative on this committee. During the decision-making process I couldn’t have been more pleased as a Board Member and as a parent of a high school freshman at the amount of work and thought that went into this review.  The committee agreed that a 7-Period schedule tended to be more effective for our traditional students and struggling learners. The 7-period schedule still provides our students with additional options for elective credits in such things as dual enrollment, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate while providing needed yearlong instruction for all students in Citrus County schools so they can be more successful. This schedule also provides that each of the 7-periods classes would gain approximately 1,000 minutes of additional instructional time.  This time would be of great benefit to those students having to take a state-mandated high-stakes assessment.  Furthermore, the committee reviewed the impact of the current teacher shortage on Citrus County high school classrooms.  Because of this situation, there are classes across the district where a long-term, non-certified teacher is the only individual available to serve as the instructor.  Student assessment results have shown that this has significantly influenced student learning and success.  We must maximize the number of certified teachers in our most critical and hardest to find areas of English Language Arts, mathematics and sciences. A 7-Period schedule would improve this challenge.

The committee discussed whether it should be an option for one high school or program to have a separate schedule different from the other district high schools.  It was unanimously agreed that all the schools and programs should be under the same schedule.  There were too many disadvantages and challenges to have different schools on different schedules.  As part of the process principals gathered input from high school teachers and School Enhancement Advisory Councils. The overwhelming consensus was that while the block schedule provided some benefits in the past, going to a 7-period high school schedule at this time was in the best interest of our students today and into the immediate future.

The most important question we must always ask when making tough decisions in educational leadership is, “What is best for the students?”  I am grateful that the dialogue and decision regarding the move to a 7-period schedule in our high schools was centered on the needs of our students.  I support this decision as I believe the best education experts and stakeholders have spent a great deal of time analyzing this issue from every angle.

Change is never easy.  High school administrators, guidance counselors and program coordinators are available to address students’ and families’ questions regarding the transition to the 7-period schedule. We encourage you to please reach out to them to find specific information about your students’ academic plans.  In addition, soon our high schools will send out next year’s course request forms that lead to the 2018-19 student class schedules. This is the critical first step in developing next year’s high school schedule and is why this decision needed to be made when it was.  We again encourage students to get with their individual guidance counselors to begin this planning process.  My personal experience has been that these family meetings with high school counselors and teachers have been invaluable and go a long way to easing concerns.  I know our family will be scheduling one soon.

Additional Resources on High School Scheduling

Chronicle gives thumbs up to HS graduation bill HB 311

Chronicle gives thumbs up to HS graduation bill HB 311

Chronicle Editorial BoardChronicle editorial board this week smartly endorses State Representative Dr. Massullo’s new alternative graduation options bill (HB 311).

We all need to encourage Florida Representatives and Florida Senators to support this essential new legislation. 

The editorial shared;

If this program allows people to capitalize on their own potential and not be stifled, it is worth serious consideration, because the facts are clear that obtaining a high school diploma is a critical factor in both job opportunities and earnings. To the extent this program helps more young people legitimately earn that diploma, it is worthy of being at least tried in our state’s schools.

Please take time to read the entire column: http://www.chronicleonline.com/opinion/editorials/bill-could-boost-young-people-s-opportunities/article_b8018844-bf3f-11e7-b325-ff0116b425ea.html#tncms-source=article-nav-next

FSBA Sets 2018 State Legislative Platform

FSBA Sets 2018 State Legislative Platform

​​22814176_1627422943987324_5222948548378835019_nToday I attended the 2018 Florida School Board Association’s Legislative Platform Committee meeting in Gainesville. I am truly encouraged by the meeting and the final platform. I am grateful to represent Citrus County School Board on this committee. Click here for FSBA 2018 Legislative Platform!

Five items were approved and I am pleased with the items that did make it on to the final platform, in particular those that support School Board’s local control and alternatives to high stakes testing (and reduced mandated testing), an issue which I have been actively working and lobbying to improve since before becoming a school board member.

I am encouraged that this group of caring local school representatives (School Board Members) have together developed a platform that puts children first and supports our public education.

Bipartisan Alternative High School Graduation Requirements

This is s a major step in the right direction.  Thank you Rep./Dr. Massullo for again running common sense legislation that put students first!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Bipartisan Alternative High School Graduation Requirements

10/19/2017

Massullo-Montford File Bill

IMG_6975Representative Ralph Massullo, MD (R) filed along with Senator Bill Montford (D), a bill (HB 311) that gives students who completed the minimum high school graduation credit requirements, but did not pass the grade 10 ELA assessment or the statewide, standardized Algebra I EOC assessment eligibility to complete an alternative pathway to a standard high school diploma.

This bill provides common sense alternatives for students to demonstration mastery of Florida’s high educational standards that are necessary to be competitive in our students’ future academic and career needs. “The current system mostly tests for college readiness but hinders students who are headed for more vocational fields. With a growing need for vocationally trained students, this bill allows additional pathways to graduation through different avenues of competency testing; avoiding the one size fits all Montfordgraduation requirements that are now in place.”-Ralph Massullo, MD. “Florida has been on the forefront of choice in education. Creating an alternative pathway for students who may not meet the traditional state testing requirements for a myriad of reasons, but who can show competence in other ways is just good common sense. Teachers and parents need a tool box to ensure the success of their students, not a one size fits all mode”, said Senator Bill Montford about the proposed legislation.

Currently, competent students are denied diplomas because of a single requirement (grade 10 ELA assessment or Algebra I EOC) that can be met by other means such as:

  • Receive an industry recognized credential or certification AND a combined level score of 13 points on the ACT WorkKeys Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information assessments
  • Master the academic standards not met, as indicated by not passing the standardized test, in a portfolio containing quantifiable evidence of mastery

Today, other states such as Ohio and North Carolina have similar pathways to graduation models in place. Demonstrating students’ academic mastery of standards through portfolios has been an effective alternative for Florida’s third-grade students. A student’s lack of a test taking skills or their failure to demonstrate mastery of the subject on a standardized test should not be a lifelong penalty. This bill expands alternative assessment of portfolio to demonstrate mastery to now include 10th grade ELA assessment or the statewide, standardized Algebra I EOC.

Massullo states, “It’s our hope that this bill will improve graduation rates, give plenty of opportunity for those who are not initially college bound and improve work force readiness as a state by improving skills training.” “Upon graduation they can be more competitive in obtaining a rewarding career.”

CRHS foreign exchange student swimmers honored at The Villages

CRHS foreign exchange student swimmers honored at The Villages

“plavat rychle” … “schnell schwimmen”

karinkaexchangestudentOur Foreign Exchange students are always a treat for the schools, district, teachers and most of all the other students.  Tonight I attended the Crystal River High School vs. The Village High School swim meet in The Villages, and at the meet the Village’s head Coach took time from the meet to introduce and honor three exchange students that were competing in the meet, two from CRHS and one from VHS.

Crystal River high school students; Sonja Luedemann from Germany and Alexandra Brezinova from Czechoslovakia, and The Village’s, Karinka Halikova from Czechoslovakia were welcomed.  The girls instantly clicked. It was marvelous to see the excitement and cheers from the other students as they were honored.  The ladies welcomed each other in the native languages and we enjoyed hearing the girls speaking in their Czech language. Friendship immediately developed and before leaving the girls exchanged swim caps as a memento of the meet!

You can watch the event by visiting this link: https://youtu.be/sYv5aoomOlA