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OUR TOWN: Goodbye to Mary Brogan Museum

our town email logoThe Leon County Schools’ Spring Break next week signals the end of an era of sorts here in Tallahassee. The Mary Brogan Museum will hold its final spring break camp, which is also likely its final offering for our community…ever.  The museum’s camps had become quite popular among local families; however, their revenue alone can’t sustain a facility that has long struggled financially.  As of February 11, the Brogan Museum is officially on its path to permanent closure, since the museum Board voted unanimously to halt efforts to try to reinvent and revive it.  Many within the local community have long spoken highly of the museum, but when it came time for financial support and regular attendance, the numbers just weren’t there.

This has been an emotional, controversial issue for our town with a wide range of opinions, recommendations and proposed solutions coming from various sectors of the community.  So what’s next for this prime piece of downtown real estate?  The Leon County School Board and Tallahassee Community College will soon propose a plan for its future, which according to a 50-year lease agreement must be education related.

Check out The Village Square‘s discussion on the topic in our “Get Local” Tallahassee section of our “We the Wiki” website. Feel free to add to it, too — additional sources, fact checks, even write an op-ed. Remember, the content of our Wiki is made greater by factual, civil, diverse contributions from people like you.  So, go ahead — check it out.  And if you’re a first-time user, be sure to check out the Tools & Tips page, too.  If you have trouble with the site using Internet Explorer, try switching over to Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Then you can switch over to the fully editable Tallahassee Wiki to take a look at the various educational and cultural offerings in our town, and even add a page/info for your own favorite local gem.  Just search the topic or phrase you’re looking for to get started.  If it’s not already there, you get to create it.



FAMU struggles continue, Join the discussion

In light of the just-released State of Florida Auditor General’s operational audit of Florida A&M University, we’d like to share with you The Village Square‘s “We the Wiki” page on FAMU’s accreditation struggles.  The school’s more than 125-year history is full of progress and achievements, making it a leader among the more than 100 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the U.S.  FAMU’s rich history, however, has not been without its struggles — most recently and most seriously related to its accreditation status.  The institution was first accredited in 1935, and most recently reaffirmed in 2009, by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges.  Although FAMU remains fully accredited, the school has been put on probation twice within the past 6 years.  In the words of Frank Brogan, the Chancellor of the Board of Governors of the State University System, “The common threads you continue to find [at FAMU], which cross over to financial to athletics to leadership oversight, are inescapable and undeniable. To see this occur twice in just a couple of years is deeply troubling.”  FAMU’s current probationary status is effective until a follow-up review by SACS in December 2013. Read all »



FCATs heading out, Common Core moving in: What does it mean for Florida students?

Florida’s public schools have already begun phasing in the newly adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with kindergartners this school year, signaling an end to the FCATs within the next few years for students at all levels.  This news has many parents, educators and students rejoicing; however, others are skeptical and wonder if this isn’t just going to be continued standardized testing under a new acronym.  The only way to find out if students are learning what they’re expected to learn is to test them in some way, so testing will still exist.  However, supporters of the CCSS say these tests will be “tests worth teaching to.”

The CCSS is a K-12 state-led effort (not a government mandate) coordinated by the nation’s leading experts in education and developed in collaboration with teachers and school administrators “to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.”  The goal of the CCSS is to raise the bar in education nationwide, making our children better able to compete at the international level and providing consistent benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live.  Could it really be true that Florida’s public education system may soon no longer have to suffer the burden of being in the lower ranks compared to its counterparts nationwide? 

How could Florida’s parents and educators not want this hope for our children?  Are there other issues within our public schools that will ultimately prevent these new standards from achieving all that they propose?  Check it out for yourself at The Village Square‘s discussion on the topic in our “Get Local” Florida section of our We the Wiki website. Feel free to add to it, too — additional sources, fact checks, even write an op-ed. Remember, the content of our Wiki is made greater by factual, civil, diverse contributions from people like you.  So, go ahead — check it out.  And if you’re a first-time user, be sure to check out the Tools & Tips page, too.  If you have trouble with the site using Internet Explorer, try switching over to Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Then you can switch over to the fully editable Tallahassee Wiki to take a look at the various schools around town and even add a page/info for your favorite school.  Just search the school or type of school you’re looking for to get started (here are our pages on elementary, middle, high, private and charter schools).



OUR TOWN: Schooling options give parents choices

For families with school-age children, summer camps are quickly beginning to be a distant memory, and the back-to-school excitement is already morphing into the daily routine again.  And for those with young children who will be eligible to start kindergarten next year, this time of year may trigger the question of “where will my child go to school next year?”  In the past, this wasn’t really even a question for most parents — children simply attended their zoned public school.  For many families, this is still norm; however, there’s a growing awareness of and interest in our schooling options.

Florida law states that children between the ages of 6 and 16 are required to regularly attend a public, private, or parochial school — and that this requirement may also be achieved through a home education or private tutoring program.  In Leon County, we have the public school system, charter schools (publicly funded, privately operated public schools), private schools, home schooling and virtual/online schooling.  The options can be overwhelming to parents researching the best choice for their child. There’s no single option out there that’s right for every child or family, and each one carries with it some pros and cons.

Take a look at the range of schooling options in Our Town.  Check out The Village Square‘s discussion on the topic in our “Get Local” Tallahassee section of our We the Wiki website. Feel free to add to it, too — additional sources, fact checks, even write an op-ed. Remember, the content of our Wiki is made greater by factual, civil, diverse contributions from people like you.  So, go ahead — check it out.  And if you’re a first-time user, be sure to check out the Tools & Tips page, too.  If you have trouble with the site using Internet Explorer, try switching over to Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Then you can switch over to the fully editable Tallahassee Wiki to take a look at the various schools around town and even add a page/info for your favorite school.  Just search the school or type of school you’re looking for to get started (here are our pages on elementary, middle, high, private and charter schools)



OUR TOWN: The future of OUR public schools is in voters’ hands

Election Day is now fast-approaching, so it’s time to make some educated decisions – rather than be stuck scratching our heads in the voting booth trying to sort out all the verbage in front of us.  One such decision is whether to continue Leon County’s half-cent sales tax for public education.  It may seem like a “no-brainer” to some, but surely all of our votes are worthy of our due diligence to take a closer look at the facts.  Here’s a quick summary to get you started: This half-penny sales tax has been in place for 10 years and is a substantial lifeline for our public school system.  Voters will get the chance to decide this November whether to keep it for another 15 years or do away with it come January.  If the half-penny were not extended, Leon County public schools would suddenly be operating with $18 million less per year.  They may not be perfect, and some families do choose to home school or send their kids to private schools, but the fact remains they are the institutions that are responsible for educating the majority of our county’s families.

Whether or not you have children/grandchildren/future children in our local schools, be a responsible voter and check out The Village Square‘s discussion on the topic in our “Get Local” Tallahassee section of our We the Wiki website.  Feel free to add to it, too — additional sources, fact checks, even write an op-ed.  Remember, the content of our Wiki is made greater by factual, civil, diverse contributions from people like you.  So, go ahead — check it out.  And if you’re a first-time user, be sure to check out the Tools & Tips page, too.  If you have trouble with the site using Internet Explorer, try switching over to Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.



Elena Novak: The Vice President’s Visit to FSU and Other Musings

 

Credit to fsunews.com

Monday was a momentous day in FSU history. The university was visited by Vice President Joe Biden, who gave an impassioned speech on education and its rising costs.

He attacked the issue without a party slant, choosing instead to reach the audience through personal anecdotes and appeals to parenthood. He did, however, make light reference to “the other team,” without malice but with slight complaint.

He discussed the “domestic priority” that education holds for the Administration, despite receiving criticism for a misplaced focus. He defended making education a priority by stressing the pivotal role that good education plays in maintaining America’s security and freedom. He proudly quoted his wife, who once said, “Any nation that out-educates us will out-compete us.” Read all »



Justice O’Connor on civility and civics education

“I believe that we are at a critical point in our nation’s history. We face difficult challenges at home and abroad. Meanwhile, divisive rhetoric and a culture of sound bites threaten to drown out rational dialogue and debate. We cannot afford to continue to neglect the preparation of future generations for active and informed citizenship.” –Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, The Sacramento Bee

(Thanks to Tanja for sending this our way.)



Empowering Effective Teachers

I just returned from United Way of Florida’s Empowering Effective Teachers Power Lunch. It was a fascinating and constructive discussion (one of seven that will take place across the state, along with a State Summit on February 1).

To learn more about the project (and contribute your thinking, your opinion, your resources) go to EET on We the Wiki.



FloridaThinks: A little too much free speech?

Apparently the Florida House passed a bill this session as a response to a consent decree the ACLU got Santa Rosa County school system to sign prohibiting prayer and religious activities by students and staff at school events. FloridaThinks has a fascinating story today on the potential unintended consequences of the bill:

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Association in Washington, D.C., says the legislation may unshackle student newspapers from the usual oversight of school administrators, effectively putting Florida among seven states – none in the Southeast – that have passed laws endorsing free expression for students. Student papers running frank discussions of sex on campus, drug-use, and other provocative topics usually face few restrictions in the states that have approved such laws, LoMonte says.

Read the whole article HERE.



Florida Thinks: Crist’s Veto May Only Delay the Inevitable">Florida Thinks: Crist’s Veto May Only Delay the Inevitable

Florida Thinks Editor & Publisher John Koenig weighs in sensibly today on the future of efforts to tie teacher pay and retention to student performance. According to Koenig, teachers have little choice but to advance a plan on their own terms or the legislature will do it for them:

Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto of the teacher-compensation bill does not end the push to link teacher pay and job security to student performance. It only buys teachers a bit of time to come up with their own accountability proposals.

More wisdom from Koenig:

Merit pay might seem to make common sense. But numerous studies of its effectiveness in improving performance in public sector jobs have produced only mixed findings…even for the private sector, performance-incentive programs are tricky. Basing them on too few variables or the wrong variables can lead to counterproductive results.

Consider this story from Fast Company magazine. Ken O’Brien was an NFL quarterback in the 1980s and ‘90s who threw a lot of interceptions. In an attempt to improve his performance, the owners of the team on which he played put a clause into his contract docking his paycheck for each interception. The next year, O’Brien threw fewer inceptions. But that was because he threw the ball hardly at all. The net effect: The team did no better.

Good advice teachers might want to consider now rather than later.

Florida Thinks is a must-read online resource to get Florida, well… thinking. Village Square members enjoy a special discount subscription rate of $3.99 monthly from the normal $4.99/mo rate. Learn more here.



Tackling Florida’s Fiscal Storm: Repeal class size amendment

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“… by virtually every empirical evaluation by Democrats and Republicans alike, we are spending on a recurring basis 2 to 4 billion annually on class size that has little or no impact on student achievement. Now I actually think that class size for district averages probably makes some sense and we ought to lock it in there but not each school site and certainly not each individual classroom itself. It’s so inflexible as to be not only impractical but counterproductive in educating each and every child.”

Dominic Calabro, President and CEO FloridaTaxWatch



Tackling Florida’s Fiscal Storm: Invest in educating a well-paid workforce

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“I think we need to bring education funding back up. If we’re going to be competitive economically, we have to have a world class education system. We had a very conservative governor who thought education was important and thought that a 72 billion dollar education budget was necessary for this state. Now we’ve cut down to the low 60’s. We’ve cut too low and we must bring it back.” —State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne)

On seeking a higher education: “Because if you think in your own families, your own lives, who was the first person in your family, the very first, who decided they would seek higher education? Maybe it was you, maybe it will be your children, maybe it was your father or your grandfather or mother or grandmother. But the moment that Rubicon was crossed, the moment that someone in your family decided they were going to advance themselves to a different level, your entire family changed, forever. And guess what? So did your community, when it happens in multiples and so did your city.and so did your county and your state and your nation.” —State Senator Dan Gelber (D- Miami Beach)