New Year in education, what might we expect

New Year in education, what might we expect

Learning-Tree-Colour-high-resWith the New Year brings concerns, but also hope, in public education in Florida.

The Florida Legislature begins the 2018 Regular Session on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018. The 2017 session gave us some improvements to Florida education laws, but it also gave us some new challenges. In the end for Citrus County, I feel we have stepped up to the new challenges. I am encouraged about some legislation filed for the 2018 session and hope they lead to continual improvements. First and foremost, I am most encouraged by the Alternative High School Graduation RequirementsHB 311 sponsored by Representative Ralph Massullo, MD (R) along with the Senate companion bill SB 788 by Senator Bill Montford (D). These bipartisan bills may just be the biggest positive improvement in public education in decades. These bills would empower schools to use individual student portfolios when students do not pass high stakes Florida state assessments. It means that students daily work will again mean more than a single test on a single day. (Read more about HB311/SB788 in my blog – Bipartisan Alternative High School Graduation Requirements). I am also most encouraged about, Instructional Personnel and School Administrator Salary SchedulesHB 427 by Representative Rene “Coach P” Plasencia (R) and co-sponsored by Representative Dr. Massullo. This bill would end the state mandate of teacher merit pay, where teacher’s pay is based on student’s test scores. It would instead give local school boards the local control to decide whether to include student’s test scores as part of the teacher evaluation. For the record, I do not and have never supported tying teacher’s evaluation to student’s test outcomes. I do not believe there is any clear evidence that doing so improves student learning.

What concerns me greatly in 2018 is the apparent use of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to politically impact Florida public education. It concerns me that there is a clear effort underway to substantially erode more local control from public education and shift it to the State. I have always believed that public education is best decided at the local level. There are several CRC proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution that target public education and those that represent it. No other single group has been targeted in this way as public education has. The CRC convenes every 20 years to review and recommend any needed changes to Florida’s Constitution. The CRC is comprised of 37 members, including the Florida Attorney General and individuals appointed by the Governor (15 members), Speaker of the House (9 members), President of the Senate (9 members), and Florida Supreme Court (3 members). Any recommended changes to the Florida Constitution will be placed on the November 6, 2018 General Election ballot for consideration by voters, and must pass by 60% of the voters.

I am also encouraged about the positive impact taking place in our local Citrus County high schools. In recent School Board meeting, I talked about challenges students and families struggle with planning and mapping out their high school courses and post-secondary goals. I asked for Board and Superintendent to work with our high schools to develop an easy to understand High School Pathway/Program of study Guides. These guides will provide the expected courses track a student would take to achieve a desired pathway, such as Dual Enrollment, International Baccalaureate, Health Academy, Academy Environmental Science, Computer Academy, WTC, University, job force, etc. I am excited that the high schools are now developing these tools that can greatly empower students and families to know how to plan better for their academy paths. Beginning this fall’s 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. I believe these guides will be even more helpful and relevant during this transition. (Read more about 7-period transition in my blog – 7-Period High School Schedule).

Regardless of the positives or challenges, we have and will face in the coming year, we will continue to put students first and be successful for them, so that they have the tools and environment to be successful for themselves.

I am excited about the coming months and look forward to sharing with you and keeping you informed.

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