Action needed: School turnaround procedures and timetables

Immediate action is needed regarding the following information, distributed by Florida PTA. 

These bills increase the already too high stakes placed on standardized tests in our state and have the potential to significantly impact the Alachua County school community. Two of our local schools (Hawthorne Middle/High and Terwilliger Elementary) were at risk of closure in the past three years due to school grades and state-mandated turnaround programs. These bills would lead to more schools being at risk of turnaround and/or closure and lessen the ability of our local school community to make decisions about their status.

We are all part of the same school community, and what happens to one school impacts all. Please contact your legislators right away. Click here for contact information.

Critical Alert on HB7079 & SB1498 regarding School Turnaround Procedures and Timetables

Dear Members,

We will be asking you to take urgent action in the next few days regarding two bills that have the potential to silence our collective voices and radically disrupt our schools and communities. The first, SB 1498, will be heard on Monday. The second, HB 7079, will be heard in its final committee on Tuesday.

Both bills alter the procedures and timetables for school turnaround, and stand in opposition to our member-voted position statement on that subject:

“SCHOOL TURNAROUND (2015) Florida PTA believes that school turnaround options should improve communities by focusing on the whole child and include high quality academics, supports and interventions, health and wellness, co-curricular activities, and parent/community engagement. Programs should address the needs of every child. Decisions on school turnaround must be made at the local level by school boards with the input of stakeholders, including parents, teachers, students, and community members, and school advisory councils. Florida PTA supports the open and transparent operation of the public school system.

Public property and resources paid for by taxpayers must be protected. Turnaround schools must be operated in a manner that is fiscally accountable to the school district and the community.”

HB 7079 and SB 1498, both grant the Department of Education far greater power than held at present to determine school closures, dictate specific turnaround solutions, and revoke in mid-course district-chosen solutions. Moreover, HB 7079 not only compresses the turnaround timetable so that even a single school grade of “D” will trigger intervention, but mandates that a school that has successfully turned itself around will be forced to close, take on an outside operator, or convert to a charter school if within 4 years, it again receives a grade of D or F. While SB 1498 does not currently include this language, an amendment has been filed to mirror HB 7079.

Florida PTA will oppose HB 7079 and SB 1498 unless further amended to align with our position on SCHOOL TURNAROUND.

Our main concerns, which we will be asking you to share with your legislator, are as follows:
  • The BEST standards have just been approved, and will entail an altered curriculum, new assessments, and the establishment of new cut scores that determine student performance levels and school grades. Historically, with each recent change in state standards, student performance and school grades have dropped. The timing of this turnaround adjustment is likely to affect adversely all school communities, and will place high stakes on the adjustments, which are not fully funded. The most vulnerable students and communities will suffer the most.
  • The 4 year look back period between D/F designations is too long. Holding schools under state scrutiny for this long with no requirements for parental and community engagement in the interim leaves historically struggling communities with no real voice or ability to advocate to maintain support in the interim after coming out of turnaround.
Please stay alert for an imminent request to contact your legislators.

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