Issues of Interest

FIRE SAFETY ON CAMPUS Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshall, has partnered with the Tallahassee Fire Department in bringing a new fire prevention program to fraternities and sororities at Florida State University. The program will be available statewide and focuses on fire safety and prevention within the Greek communities.

UF ONLINE The University of Florida cancelled its contract with Pearson, an educational publishing and testing company, as provider of their four-year degree UF Online program.  The company was given an 11-year contract two years ago and was asked to recruit out-of-state students to boost revenues. Out-of-state enrollment is declining, leaving a $1.26 million tuition shortfall this fall. The University is bringing in extra staff to help run the program.

FLORIDA PREPAID COLLEGE PLANS The cost of a prepaid college plan in Florida will increase by about 5% this year. Even with the boost, the cost is significantly lower than in 2013. Between 2009 and 2013, Florida allowed public universities to raise tuition by as much as 15% each year. Plan prices rose significantly based upon projections of large annual tuition increases. Legislation passed in 2014 limited future tuition increases to 6% a year and, as a result, prepaid plan prices plummeted, and the number of plans sold tripled. This year, a four-year university plan will cost $28,894 for a newborn, or $181 a month, up from last year’s $27,379. The same plan in 2013 cost $53,729 or $350 a month. Open enrollment for prepaid plans began on October 15th and will run through February 29th. For more information, go here.

EDUCATION

Cyber Attack In March, students trying to take the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) encountered multiple computer issues, including blank screens. Thought to be the result of cyber attacks, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) recently closed their investigation after being unable to identify who was responsible. The State’s testing contractor, American Institutes for Research (AIR), may have come under a denial of service attack. In this scenario, a web service is swamped with more traffic than servers can handle, effectively shutting it down. Additional issues stemmed from computer servers’ updates while students were trying to take the tests.

Florida Standards Assessment  Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart intends to seek monetary damages from AIR, the testing company responsible for the new FSA. The test replaced the FCAT this past March and was plagued with technical difficulties.

School Accountability Florida’s school superintendents, represented by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, are asking the State not to grade schools based on test scores from the new assessment. The school leaders want the scores to be used as a baseline to better measure learning gains in next year’s scores. They also do not want student scores to be used in some teacher evaluations. The DOE intends to issue school grades this year, but has said they will not be used to punish failing schools nor will students’ scores hold them back a grade.

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