Thursday, November 23, 2017
Education

School Search: expanding as Florida’s choices grow

RECOMMENDED READING


Twenty-four years ago, with a new special section called School Search, the Times set out to help families stay better informed about their educational options.

Today, School Search enters new territory, expanding for the first time outside Pinellas County to reach parents, guardians and students in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties. Also new: We are publishing the section earlier this year to better match the rhythms of how people search for schools.

We know. It seems like the 2017-18 school year is just starting. But it’s not too soon to begin the process for next year, whether your child will be entering kindergarten or making the jump to middle or high school — or you’re a family simply looking to make a change, regardless of grade level.

In the next two weeks, local school districts will be holding information nights that allow families to learn more about magnets, academies and other special programs. After that, it’s time to attend open houses or "discovery nights" to actually see schools and meet the staffs. Then the application period kicks in, typically in December, January or February. And finally, if your child gains the desired seat, you must formally accept that invitation.

Only then can you exhale and start planning for the fall.

In the early days of School Search, our coverage was geared to a limited number of Pinellas magnet schools. It is striking, nearly a quarter century later, to step back and see how much the landscape has changed.

Decades of effort to desegregate schools would fall by the wayside, changing the way students are assigned to schools. Over two terms, Gov. Jeb Bush would transform education with heightened accountability and an emphasis on more choices for families, including charter schools. The theory was that a robust array of alternatives to the traditional public school system would create competition and prod that system to improve.

It has taken years for this idea to fully flower, as opponents contend the public school system needs more resources, not competition. But no matter how you feel about these policies, it is hard to ignore the steady rise of charter schools in Florida and the increasing popularity of state scholarship programs that allow low-income and disabled students to pay for private school.

Public schools have responded by upping the number of their choices considerably. All around the Tampa Bay region, we see a proliferation of special programs — International Baccalaureate, Cambridge, science, technology and the arts, plus career academies of every stripe, from digital media and culinary arts to drafting, construction and health care.

An expanded School Search is a recognition of these ever-broadening options. We offer the information as a starting point for families, a foundation for the legwork you will do in the coming weeks.

In addition to touring schools, we encourage students to shadow the programs that interest them. Talking with other parents is strongly recommended, as is checking the available data.

The Florida Department of Education website (fldoe.org) is a good place to begin. Start your research under the tab labeled "accountability."

We wish you luck on your search. Let us know how we can help.

Contact Thomas C. Tobin at tobin@tampabay.com. Follow @ThomasCTobin.

Comments
Pasco students score big at Junior Thespian Festival

Pasco students score big at Junior Thespian Festival

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco schools brought home 20 top honors from the District 11 Junior Thespian Festival, which included 22 schools from Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Manatee counties and took place at the new River Ridge FAME Academy on Nov. 17 and ...
Published: 11/22/17
A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

LAND O’LAKES — Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco sat together several times in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving break, trading contract proposals amid (mostly) amicable conversation.They c...
Published: 11/22/17
Epilogue: Music professor Rita Osborn insisted that her students experience the arts live

Epilogue: Music professor Rita Osborn insisted that her students experience the arts live

The thousands of students who signed up for Rita Osborn’s music and humanities classes at St. Petersburg Junior College knew what they had to do to pass.They could study and memorize material for tests, but they wouldn’t earn more than a C if they di...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17
USF professors honored as AAAS Fellows

USF professors honored as AAAS Fellows

Six University of South Florida professors whose research efforts span biology, engineering, chemistry and business have been selected as Fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the organization announced Nov. 20.Election ...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17
When school is out, a Pinellas camp for autistic kids offers a much-needed service

When school is out, a Pinellas camp for autistic kids offers a much-needed service

ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Wiseman’s cell phone rings at least once a week, usually after 9 p.m., with a call from a desperate parent. The voice on the line is tired, defeated. Once again, their child was excluded from an after-school program or summer ca...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

University of Central Florida suspends sorority for hazing

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A University of Central Florida sorority has been suspended after its members were accused of hazing, underage drinking and providing false information to law enforcement.The university placed Alpha Xi Delta on an interim suspens...
Published: 11/21/17
10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

Associated PressThe latest group of U.S. Rhodes scholars includes 10 African-Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class — as well as a transgender man and four students from colleges that had never had received the honor before. The Rhodes Tr...
Published: 11/19/17

Class notes

School Calendar• Nov. 27: School resumes after Thanksgiving break• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middl...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

River Ridge High School senior Connor Beckman has been named Pasco County’s 2018 Outstanding Senior.Commander of the school’s Air Force JROTC program, Beckman is also an Eagle Scout mentor, National Honor Society president and swim team captain.Beckm...
Published: 11/22/17
Pinellas education news: District honors support employees, Discovery Nights resume, and more

Pinellas education news: District honors support employees, Discovery Nights resume, and more

Pinellas names top support employeesFive finalists have emerged from 120 nominees to be the 2017-18 Support Employee of the Year in the Pinellas County school system. The finalists were chosen in five categories. Debra Canning, 21st Century iClass Li...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17