Gradebook

Gradebook

Podcast by Tampa Bay Times ... Show More

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By their very nature, school board meetings are public. They're held in an open room. Anyone can attend. They exist specifically to deal with the public's business. Yet in the nation's eighth largest school district, the board chairwoman has led the fight to keep residents' comments to the board largely outside the public eye. She argues that some people wish to address the body privately, but in public. Plus, the ... Read more

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The tiny Jefferson County school district, about 25 minutes outside Florida's state capital, turned out poor student performance for more than a decade. Its finances were in peril, too, as the racially divided community battled politically over the flailing school system of about 800 students. About three years ago, the state stepped in, declaring the district in financial emergency, and then pushing an academic turnaround plan... Read more

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School districts across Florida have long lists of construction, maintenance and repair projects with price tags that far exceed the revenue they anticipate getting from the state. Dozens have gone to their voters asking for sales tax increases to bolster the amount available to spend. Several more are looking that direction. Why are the local officials feeling forced to seek local solutions? The state has given what little capital... Read more

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Teachers have contracts with their school districts for a reason. The agreements detail what their employers can expect of them, and what they're required to do. But what about when a principal 'suggests' that something more needs to get done, and requests volunteers? There's no mandate to do the work, but the pressure certainly exists, along with the message, ignore at your own risk. At least, that's what Hil... Read more

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Over five years, the Pinellas County, Florida, school district has seen the number of student disciplinary actions drop by almost half. You might think that means kids are behaving better, and schools are running more smoothly. District leaders like to credit the decline to new programs aimed at dealing with problems before they get out of control. But some teachers say that's not necessarily what's happening. Hear Tampa B... Read more

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4,000 door locks. 97,000 wrist bands. Hundreds of hires. Millions in upgrades. Summertime offers a break from school to students and teachers. But it's the busy season for districts' maintenance, purchasing, security, transportation and other employees who use the time to prepare for when everyone returns, expecting a smooth start to the learning process. Betsy Kuhn, the Pasco County school district's assistant superint... Read more

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London Eaves is excited to have her very own classroom for the first time. A Florida International University graduate, Eaves said she couldn't have imagined going into any profession other than teaching — despite all the concerns about increasing state mandates, low pay and other woes that many veteran educators have voiced in recent years. Why? Teachers supported and encouraged her as a child, and and she looks forward to mak... Read more

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With demands growing and respect from some declining, many teachers talk about leaving their profession. Not Dre Graham, Florida's 2020 Teacher of the Year. Dr. Graham, a music instructor at King High in Tampa, says whenever the logistics and the mandates drag him down, he remembers the "why" that attracted him to teaching in the first place: Making a positive difference in students' lives. For the next year, Graham... Read more

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The Hillsborough County school district has struggled to boost some of the lowest performing schools in the state of Florida. Despite several efforts, including cash infusions and outside expert assistance, progress has been slow going. Reporter Marlene Sokol, who covers the nation's eighth-largest school district, discusses the initiatives taken, their pros and cons, and the future of the improvement attempts with assistant su... Read more

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Growth in contributions to Florida's tax credit scholarship program slowed to the point where supply no longer met the growing demand for assistance to attend private schools. State lawmakers responded by putting millions of taxpayer funds into a school voucher program, to help bridge the gap. And they show no signs of stopping their efforts to expand initiatives aimed at providing alternatives to traditional public schools. Do... Read more

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Megan Harding began the 2018-19 academic year as a classroom teacher in her Pasco County, Florida, elementary school. Within four months, she had won a seat on the local School Board. After having touted herself as best for the job because she understood what goes on in schools, Harding next had to make the transition to policy maker and figure out what exactly that meant. She quickly became a force on the board, convincing colleag... Read more

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In Florida, a high school student's official grade-point average cannot exceed 4.0. Not so in Hillsborough County, the state's third-largest district and the eighth biggest in the nation. Its students can earn an extra 0.04 points for each district-approved honors course in which they receive a C or higher, and an added 0.08 points for every AP, IB, AICE and dual enrollment class. Many students take advantage of the opportunity to ... Read more

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Several Florida school district leaders lined up to reject the idea of letting classroom teachers carry guns in schools as part of a guardian program even before Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law. Bay County superintendent Bill Husfelt was not among them. Husfelt welcomed the initial guardian plan a year ago, and said the expansion of the model would help keep his county's students, employees and schools safe. Already, ... Read more

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After 18 months of review and debate, the Hillsborough County school district — the eighth largest system in the nation — has decided to do away with the Indians, Chiefs and Warriors as mascots at elementary and middle schools, while easing away from the names and connected traditions at its high schools. Some places have welcomed the news, while others have balked at any change. Shannon Durant, who chaired the committee leading th... Read more

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With leaders’ attention on issues like immigration and health care, 2019 looked like it might not provide too many education-related fireworks for a change. But just as in years past, the subject matter elicited some of the most heated and passionate debates of the session, with some of the specific ideas taking lawmakers down to the wire before they could adjourn for the year. Many of the bills that grabbed the most attention ca... Read more

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Jackson Francis failed his junior year classes at his high school in Pasco County, Florida. His dad was diagnosed with cancer, and the news "changed my whole who I am." He got moody and emotional, didn't pay attention in class or complete any work. "I literally stopped caring," he recalls. Then Francis got his senior year to-do list from his counselor, detailing what he needed to finish to get his diploma. He thought about dropping... Read more

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Many conservatives in Florida contend that parents should have a greater say in the education and care of their children. Schools have a role to play, they say, but should not be allowed to substitute their judgment for that of parents — even when children attempt to assert their own rights to privacy. Florida lawmakers have proposed a new section to state statute outlining the rights they believe parents should have enshrined in l... Read more

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Thousands of students in Hillsborough County schools — the nation's eighth largest district — struggle to read at grade level, despite years of effort and millions of dollars directed at helping them. Why isn't the system seeing improvement? After talking with dozens of students, teachers and other experts, reporter Marlene Sokol has some insights into what drives the problem. One key takeaway: Reading has become a requirement rath... Read more

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Florida lawmakers face term limits. Now they’re trying to impose limits on school board members, as well. An effort by the Constitution Revision Commission to place the idea on the 2018 ballot failed. So the Legislature is working to get the idea on the 2020 ballot, instead. If approved, the measure would require board members to leave office after completing two consecutive four-year terms. After a break, they could again seek e... Read more

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