<![CDATA[NBC 6 South Florida - ]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcmiami.com/feature/education-on-6 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC+6+LOGO+GOOGLE.png NBC 6 South Florida http://www.nbcmiami.com en-us Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:08:31 -0400 Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:08:31 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Miami-Dade Back to School Resource Page]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 10:29:16 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/school-bus-generic722.jpg

The start of the 2014-2015 school year is around the corner. Here are some helpful links for parents and students in Miami-Dade County.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Broward County Back to School Resource Page]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 10:30:06 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/school-generic.jpg

The start of the 2014-2015 school year is around the corner. Here are some helpful links for parents and students in Broward County.

<![CDATA[Monroe County Back to School Resource Page]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 10:30:37 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/High-Middle-School-Generic-.jpg

The start of the 2014-2015 school year is around the corner. Here are some helpful links for parents and students in Monroe County.

<![CDATA[Broward School Repairs Hinge on Bond Vote]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 22:13:12 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/nehighschoolbroward.jpg

Broward County voters will decide in November whether to approve an $800 million bond issue earmarked for public school renovations and technology upgrades. It would cost each homeowner about $50 dollars a year, which the superintendent says is a wise investment in the county’s future.

“Our entire community depends on this, property values, our quality of life, all connect very intimately with the quality of our schools, this is an investment in our kids,” said Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

NBC 6’s Ari Odzer took a tour of what might be the poster-child school to showcase how badly some schools have deteriorated.

“What you’re seeing is a day when it rains here at Northeast High School, and this wasn’t even one of the heavier rains, this is just a day that it rained,” said Principal Jonathan Williams, showing a video his staff made.

When it rains, it pours at Northeast High School in Oakland Park. Administrators shot the video last Friday that shows hallways flooded five inches deep, and rain dripping onto the basketball court, which isn’t surprising since the home of the Hurricanes has been covered by a tarp since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

“I can’t imagine it being much worse. I think my frustration with it is public education is supposed to be the great equalizer,” said Williams.

Northeast has 1,800 students using a building which Williams says should’ve been torn down and replaced years ago.

“I don’t think the children should have to come to school and worry about the condition of the facility. They should be able to just concentrate on learning,” the veteran educator said.

The roof leaks in dozens of places, the floors are warping, there’s exposed wiring, some days there’s no air conditioning, the locker room doesn’t have air conditioning at all. The place is a mess.

“It’s frustrating and the children deserve better,” Williams says. “We spend so much time on these other issues, facilities issues, that it takes away from what should be going on in the classrooms.”

They’re using outdated, eight-year-old computers, and only 10 classrooms have smartboards. Williams says Northeast is a perfect example of why voters should pass the school bond issue.

But despite the condition of Northeast High, and dozens more in similar shape, it won’t be enough to persuade some voters because the Broward School District has a history of wasting money on construction projects. In 2011, under the previous administration, two school board members went to jail for corruption involving the building of new schools.

“We’ve made a tremendous amount of reforms to ensure that when we get these dollars, we’re gonna execute them well,” Runcie said, pointing out that if the bond issue is passed, a civilian oversight board will be appointed to keep an eye on where the money is spent.

Runcie also promises complete transparency, saying the public will be able to see exactly where every dollar is going. Williams said it’s time to get over the past and invest in our kids.

“We’re inheriting a bad situation, but that doesn’t change the fact that children need to be educated. It doesn’t change the fact that investing, or making a decision that dollars should be spent on children will definitely have a positive impact on their future,” the principal said.

And they shouldn’t have to slosh through a flood to get to class.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[State Closes Miami-Dade Charter School]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:01:43 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/charterschoolclosed81914.jpg

Parents and students were left confused Wednesday as the Florida International Academy in Opa-Locka was in the process of being closed by the Florida Education Department.

Parents said they didn’t know what to think when told the Department of Education was shutting the school down by the first week of November.

“I was downtown when they talked about the school closing and different things like that, but until I hear from downtown or the principal or the head of the school discusses that with us; my child will remain here at FIE,” said parent Courtney Odom.

Neither the principal, nor someone from the administration was available Tuesday afternoon to answer questions from NBC 6’s Willard Shepard.

The school is just three years old. It opened to great fanfare with Governor Rick Scott in attendance as the doors opened. Since then, two “F” grades caused the Department of Education’s board on Monday to vote to close the school.

The school did make an attempt to keep the school open with a presentation to the Education Department, but the school’s grades mandated a closure unless a waiver was granted.

Parents and students came to the school’s defense as word of the closing began to make the rounds outside the school.

“It’s actually a very good school,” said parent Nicole Fernandez. “My son went from straight F’s for kindergarten to first and second grade and he was here for summer school and boom, he went to B’s and C’s and not one failing grade yet. Just by coming to this environment.”

“There are many teachers who are great and many who are hard-working and I feel sorry if they closedown because they have to go down and look for other jobs,” said student Justin Landa.

Miami-Dade County Schools issued a statement Tuesday evening about the school closing that read: “Miami-Dade County Public Schools is exploring options to provide the best solution for the students of this school. A decision will be announced soon to provide a transition that ensures minimal disruption to students’ education.”

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 6 South Florida

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[New School Programs Provide Hands-On Experience]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:48:31 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/198*120/stem+education.jpg

With classes officially back in session, a few South Florida high schools are taking education to the next level.

Miami-Dade kicked off 42 new programs this year and Broward created 11 new ones.

Schools like the new iTech@Thomas Edison Educational Center, for example, are treating students like they're already in the business.

Students at the new magnet high school in Miami wear business casual attire to the school, where classes are called sessions and the sessions mimic the business world as much as possible.

“I talk to a lot of industry groups," said iTech Principal Sean Gallagan. "They want students that are ready to go to work. They do not want a person to come to work, then have to train them on how to act and how to look and how to be professional.”

iTech's program is exactly what it sounds like and is driven by the needs of the business world.

On the roster: Geo-spatial information systems, enterprise resource planning and business software development solutions, among others.

"They're going to be learning about advanced concepts that are typically only learned in universities and college at higher levels," Gallagan said. "[They are] programs that ninth-graders never get to touch, let alone think of as a career path.”

Another school leading the way in hands-on education is Everglades High School in Miramar. The school's new sports medicine program helps future physical therapists, athletic trainers and orthopedic surgeons get ahead of the pack by providing a rigorous science curriculum.

"Competition is really good," said Everglades High Principal Haleh Darbar. "It gives choices to parents and choices to students and that's the whole purpose of it."

"I wish I had this when I was in high school, because I would've been in it from freshman year," said teacher Ginette Menendez, who started the sports medicine program.

The program, funded by a grant from Toshiba, is expected to grow exponentially in the years to come.

Innovative programs like these have a stamp of approval from Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie, who said public schools need an infusion of fresh programs to attract new students and keep the students they have from transferring to private and charter schools.

"We're trying to meet the demands of the marketplace," he said.

Runcie added that Broward is expanding debate programs to all if its middle schools and adding scholastic chess for students starting in the second grade.

Photo Credit: Stock image]]>
<![CDATA[Common Core Begins in Florida Schools]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:21:04 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg

After months of debate and controversy, the Common Core standards started for Florida students of all ages Monday. From seniors in high school all the way down to kindergartners, students and teachers are facing a new set of standards for the school year.

“Our kindergartners, when they graduate from high school, the will be looking at careers that are not even in existence right now,” said Maria DeArmas of Miami-Dade Schools. “So we really need to think about preparing students in a very different way, in a way that allows them to be independent learners, that allows them to think critically at much higher levels.”

Schools in Miami-Dade and Broward County have been slowly easing into the Common Core standards for the past couple of years. The goal was to make a smooth transition to a curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking over simply memorizing facts.

The Common Core curriculum was developed by a consortium of states over the past few years. It drew criticism from some as a federal government overreach. The states in the consortium control the curriculum that is put into the program.

“This is about the kind of skills that our students will need,” said Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. “So we’re moving away from a world where students memorize content and they fill out multiple choice questions and we figure out what they know. So I see an opportunity to better engage kids and help build skills that they need.”

Still, Superintendent Runcie and Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho say jumping into the Common Core is tougher because the Florida tests haven’t been released and there could be some problems grading schools.

“The transition to new standards and a new assessment that is much tougher, with standards that are more complex, will result statewide in the rapid decline in performance so that the A’s of yesterday will become the C’s of today,” said Superintendent Carvalho.

While the FCAT replacement hasn’t been released, the state did release some sample questions for the new tests. Click here to see some of the questions from the upcoming tests.

<![CDATA[Send Us Your Back to School Photos]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:10:39 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/dan+krauth+back+to+school.jpg

It's back to school time and NBC 6 wants to see your best pics from the first day. You can send your photos to us through email at isee@nbc6.com or upload them at our site here.

<![CDATA[Back 2 School Pics]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:32:43 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/1712d7c0e8924c848c307c3341470a8a.jpg South Florida's back to school photos from past and present]]> <![CDATA[South Florida Kids Head Back to School]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 16:29:38 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/school-generic.jpg

Almost flawless is how Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie described the first day back at school for thousands of students.

“Today was a resounding success,” Runcie said. “Again, it’s been the best start of the school year I’ve experienced since being here in the district.”

Runcie went to classrooms across the county and saw seasoned students and new ones ready to soak up knowledge from their teachers. In addition, Broward rolled out some eco-friendly buses that are fueled by propane.

“Smoother rid. Cleaner. We don’t have all the pollution coming out of the back of the bus,” said bus driver Alfreda Jackson.

Runcie’s counterpart in Miami-Dade County, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho pushed safety and new technology as classes got underway.

In Miami-Dade County, more than 1,250 buses travel 1,100 routes on school days. Some of the buses are high-efficiency buses that have been updated with three air-conditioning units per bus and new safety features including higher suits to keep kids even safer during an accident.

Miami-Dade is also starting the school year with a new app to help parents keep track of their kids' progress at school. The app, Dade Schools Mobile, is free on the app store and keeps track of grades, attendance and other info.

“How about this: 400 schools with Wi-Fi installed on the first day of school,” Carvalho said, “eleven thousand new interactive boards bringing the power of the internet, 140,000 new digital devices for students along with digital content.”

At Twin Lakes Elementary in Hialeah, students were treated to a surprise appearance by Miami Heat player Shabazz Napier and team mascot Burnie.

“I’m able to play basketball but I’m able to inspire a lot of kids and any way I can inspire kids that’s what I’m going to do," Napier said.

"We live for this day," Runcie said.

View Full Story]]>
<![CDATA[Free Event Helps Hundreds of Low-Income School Children]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 21:27:18 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/back+to+school+shopping+spree+8+17.PNG

Shopping bags in hand, hundreds of children got ready for school in a last minute shopping spree hosted by the Style Saves organization.

"Return to school is usually a very hectic moment with a lot of expenses," said parent Amanda Diaz. "You're already coming back from summer vacations where you already spend a lot of money."

But money wasn't needed here today. Free uniforms, shoes, accessories and even haircuts were provided at this 2-day back to school event with a special appearance by the superintendent.

"this is about collectively putting kids on our shoulder and having them perform better, live better and be happier," said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

Style Saves services a number of different organizations, including Communities in Schools, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Lotus House and the Irie Foundation.

This is the fourth year Style Saves has hosted an event for low-income children in the community. This year the number of kids they were able to help doubled, totaling more than 600.

"I'm very happy cause this is wonderful," said parent Gwendolyn Pierce. "Thank you! Thank you!"

Although most of the room featured school essentials, the children took in one last breath of summer fun. The complimentary eye exam booth was also a main attraction for kids in need of frames and lenses.

After a day of pampering and hand-picking looks from their personal department store, many said they are ready to kick off the school year in style.

<![CDATA[Pouting Pet? He May Have the Back-to-School Blues]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:06:32 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/tlmd_dogs_generic_shelter_puppies.jpg

As the lazy days of summer begin to wind down, South Florida families start turning their attention towards sending the kids back to school. The many preparations and changes in routine can be stressful for both children and caregivers. They can also be a source of anxiety for our pets.

Many families start off their summers by adding a new pet to the family. The logic here is that there will be plenty of time help the new pet get adjusted, and bond with the family at a time when children are spending the most time at home. While this reasoning is both sound and logical, a new pet, especially an adolescent puppy or kitten, can become easily confused and upset by the sudden change in routine. Even older pets, who have been through this drill before, can become depressed or anxious when summertime fun gives way to an empty house. Here are some tips to help your pets avoid the back-to-school blues.

Start back-to-school routines early

While nobody wants to admit that the party is almost over, most parenting experts agree that gradually transitioning to a schedule resembling the school year will help children make the necessary adjustments. This gradual transition can help your pets as well. For the last week or so of summer vacation, start the days earlier, and discourage dawdling through morning chores and rituals. Feed your pets one of their main meals at this time, as they will be more likely to sleep throughout the the day if their belly is full and happy. Schedule playtimes with pets and kids at roughly the same time the kids will be arriving home from school. When school starts, keep this ritual in place. Pets are much less likely to mope throughout the day if they have something to look forward to later. Additionally, both kids and pets are less likely to act out when they are getting plenty of exercise. When school resumes, and playtime is followed by homework, allow the pet to sit or sleep quietly near your children while they study. Get a head start on encouraging earlier bedtimes, and more efficient use of time during bedtime rituals.

Don’t create anxiety triggers

The things we do in preparation for leaving the house do not go unnoticed by our pets. Jingling keys, calling the kids, grabbing a purse or cell phone - all are cues to our pets that they are about to be left alone. The back-to-school essentials our children require can act as additional anxiety triggers for pets. At least a week before school resumes, hang school uniforms in a place where your pet can see them. Leave lunchboxes and backpacks in obvious, visible places. Encourage children to pick up these items and walk around the house with them two or three times per day. Next, try gathering all the gear and walking out the door. You can even drive around the block a few times. The goal is to desensitize your pet to the cues that he will quickly associate with being left alone for long periods of time. Present the activity to children in the form of a game that will help Fluffy to not be sad while they are in school. If they protest, explain that keeping a pet happy is one of the many requirements of a responsible pet owner. Obviously, parents are the most qualified to decide on the best way to get the kids on board, but most will happily step up to the plate if they understand the reasoning behind it.

Separate the Velcro

Now is the time to really observe Fluffy and ask yourself if she is a “Velcro pet”. Does she shadow family members constantly? Does she always have to be physically touching someone? Does she cry when you leave the house? Does she whimper when a family member is out of sight? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a Velcro pet, one that is seemingly not happy unless physically attached to a human family member. While these behaviors can be endearing and flattering, they can also be an early warning sign of separation anxiety. Before these behaviors become a problem, start teaching your pet the coping skills she needs to self-soothe when she is alone. Teach her how to go to her crate or bed, and stay there using “place” or “stay” commands. Give her a mentally stimulating toy like a food puzzle or stuffed Kong toy to keep her mind occupied while she is alone. If you suspect your pet already has separation anxiety, or need some help teaching the commands, please consult with a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.

Give her something to do while you are gone

At Casa Kupkee, Grendel and Zohan spend their alone time with frozen “Kongsicles”. These consist of a durable Kong toy stuffed with baby food and peanut butter that has spent the night in the freezer. It takes hours for them to empty the toy, and the excitement of getting them before we leave crowds out any possible fears of abandonment. When school resumes, have the children give these special treats to the pet. Do not give them at any other time. The goal is to replace the feelings of dread associated with the emptying of the house with the anticipation of something interesting, fun, and delicious. Dispense the treats calmly. Long, apologetic, emotionally charged goodbyes will only add to any existing anxiety. If your pet does not do well in a crate, hide interesting toys, treats, food puzzles, and food-stuffed Kong toys throughout the house for your pet to sniff out and find while you are gone. (Do not do this in multiple-pet households as it can lead to fighting). The kids can be given this task as well. In addition to being fun, it also a great opportunity to teach them about responsible pet ownership.

Don’t tell the kids…

...but all of these rituals will help them adjust to new routines as well! Both children and pets respond well to routine, but replacing old habits with new ones is often met with resistance. By assuring them that these new initiatives are all about making Fluffy happy, parents are likely to get a lot less blowback. Changes made for the sake of Fluffy’s well-being will help everyone make the transition smoothly. But that can be our little secret!

Do you have a question for Dr. Kupkee? Click here to send him an email. And check out some of these great deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 fans!

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade, Broward Rolling Out Eco-Friendly School Buses]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 07:57:53 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/081514+eco-friendly+school+bus+miami-dade.jpg

Just in time for the start of school, Broward and Miami-Dade are rolling out new eco-friendly school buses.

Drivers will be perfecting their routes with the new buses Friday before the start of school on Monday.

At Northeast High School in Oakland Park, the buses are so quiet when you turn them on you might not even be able to hear them. There are 98 pro-pane fueled buses, the largest type of this kind of purchase for any school district ever.

But Broward County Schools are not the only one improving their fleet. In Miami-Dade Thursday, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and driver Gwendolyn Tillman took NBC 6 for a ride on one of their 250 new high-efficiency buses.

The buses are updated with three air conditioning units per bus, are equipped with new safety features and are built with higher seats so the students will be even more safe in case of an accident.

"This actually stops the movement, it is a safety feature that the seat back are quite elevated," Carvalho said.

Carvalho also said the buses were bought at no cost to taxpayers. By getting rid of the old buses and high interest rates, the new ones are basically being paid for with those savings.

<![CDATA[Carvalho Tests School Buses]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 19:44:17 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/WTVJ_000000014196618_1200x675_318259267658.jpg Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho took test rides on school buses in preparation for the new school year. NBC 6's Bobby Brooks reports.]]> <![CDATA[Carvalho Addresses Border Immigrant Crisis]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 13:52:29 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Alberto-Carvalho-March-8-2013.jpg

Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho gave an impassioned speech Friday that addressed both the opening of the school year, but also the immigration crisis along the nation’s southwest border.

“We are bracing ourselves for about a thousand or more and we are ready for them,” Carvalho said. “But again, we are asking the support of the one entity that’s responsible for immigration, which is the federal government – which in my opinion has done too little and too late.”

Carvalho said the situation along the border is a humanitarian crisis. He also said the federal government recently awarded Miami-Dade County Schools $3 million in supplemental funding to deal with the influx of kids expected from the border. But, Carvalho said that amount is likely insufficient.

“For every single child that arrives here not speaking the language, poor, and with psychological needs, we spend in excess of $1,950 per year,” Carvalho said.

Most unaccompanied children crossing the border are fleeing violence and poverty from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Miami has the nation's largest Honduran population, meaning a high number of minors are released from refugee shelters to relatives here while their case is processed.

“Since the vast majority of these children arrive here from Honduras, speaking Spanish, I think the nature of the diversity in our community, the skill set, and the courage, the will to embrace and teach these kids,” Carvalho said in his speech.

As Carvalho finished the portion of his speech, one principal said she is ready to embrace the influx of students.

“We take them in and they become part of, like a family,” Dr. Susana Mauri of the South Dade Educational Center said. “Because we have a structure at the school where they come in to an orientation class to get them acclimated.”

Carvalho said that while the influx of students will mean extra work, he stressed that welcoming the undocumented students will be key to making the transition easier.

Photo Credit: NBC 6 South Florida]]>
<![CDATA[Ft Lauderdale Fire Rescue School Supply Drive]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:25:32 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/back+to+school+supplies.jpg

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue is holding a Back to School drive to benefit Kids in Distress. This marks the fourth year the department has collected school supplies for disadvantaged kids in the community.

Firefighters are asking for the following items to be donated to help children ages 5 to 17: school supplies, backpacks, money, gift cards, new clothing and new sneakers. Donations will be accepted every day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from July 11 to August 11, 2014.

Donations can be dropped off at the following rescue stations:

Station 2 – 528 N.W. 2nd St.
Station 3 – 2801 S.W. 4th Ave.
Station 13 – 2871 E. Sunrise Blvd.
Station 16 – 533 N.E. 22nd St. in Wilton Manors
Station 29 – 2002 N.E. 16th St.
Station 35 – 1969 E. Commercial Blvd.
Station 46 – 1515 NW 19 Street
Station 47 – 1000 S.W. 27th Ave.
Station 49 – 1015 Seabreeze Blvd.
Station 53 – 2200 Executive Airport Way
Station 54 – 3200 N.E. 32nd St.

<![CDATA[Elementary and Middle School Grades Released by State]]> Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:20:42 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*132/testscores.jpg

The Florida Department of Education released grades for elementary and middle schools Friday.

The number of elementary and middle schools earning a preliminary “A” grade increased by 195, or 7 percentage points, over last year, according to preliminary data released by the Department of Education. Statewide, 962 elementary and middle schools earned the top grade.

“The increase in the number of schools earning an ‘A’ this year is great news for students and teachers who have worked hard for this success,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart in a press release. “I appreciate the work by the educators, students and their families in the Big Bend and know they will continue to improve in the future.”

However, the state said the number of schools earning an "F" grade also increased.

In Miami-Dade County, the number of elementary and middle schools earning a preliminary “A” increased by 30 schools in 2013-14, with 43 percent of Miami-Dade County schools now earning an “A” compared to 35 percent in 2012-13. Additionally, 22 Miami-Dade County schools improved two or more letter grades between 2012-13 and 2013-14, including four schools that improved from a “D” to an “A” and two schools that improved from an “F” to a “B.”

In Broward County, the number of elementary and middle schools earning a preliminary grade of “A” increased by 16 schools in 2013-14, with 34 percent of Broward County schools now earning an “A” compared to 28 percent in 2012-13. In addition, nine Broward County schools improved two or more letter grades between 2012-13 and 2013-14.

This is the final year school grades will be calculated using the current formula. The new grading system next year will support the more rigorous Florida Standards and the Florida Standards Assessment which will replace the FCAT. The new school grading formula will be more simple and transparent, according to the Department of Education.

“The new grading system that will start next year will continue to be crafted with input from parents, teachers and educators,” said Stewart. “Its focus on student achievement and gains will help ensure a fair accountability system that helps measure student knowledge of the new Florida Standards.”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Coding Becoming A Core Class For Elementary Students]]> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 19:15:07 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/WTVJ_000000013054608_1200x675_272388675641.jpg Computer coding has become more than just a hobby for some, it's becoming a core class for students helping them get ahead in the high-tech industries today and in the future.]]> <![CDATA[Kids Finding Code to Advance Learning]]> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 19:16:04 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/computer2.jpg

Instead of playing video games, the kids gathered in the media center on this day are designing games; and they’re only in elementary school.

“In 4th grade, being able to go home and say, guess what I did today? I created a game on the computer, that’s huge,” said Dr. Jonathan Leff, principal of Silver Shores Elementary School in Miramar.

The students at Silver Shores are part of an exploding trend in education: teaching computer coding, which used to be called programming, to young students.

“They come to school, boom, they’re ready to learn, they’re ready to engage in whatever it is they’re doing,” said Leff, pointing out that coding has extremely beneficial ripple effects.

Coding is simply instructing the computer to do what you want it to do. But the process not only excites the kids, Dr. Leff said it teaches valuable skills that carry over into their other classes.

“To us, we see collaboration. We see higher-order thinking. We see logic. We see critical thinking. We see kids looking at a computer screen and solving multi-dimensional problems.”

“And those are skills they need, and they don’t even realize they’re doing it,” added Dawn Lopez, Media Specialist at the school. “They’re just having fun.”

Lopez said one of the best things about learning how to code is that kids from any academic level can do this; this isn’t just for the gifted classes.

The web site www.hourofcode.org guides the teachers here, and it has a video featuring computer visionaries such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and also, somewhat inexplicably, Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat, encouraging kids and adults to learn computer programming.

“Coding is something that can be learned. I know it can be intimidating, a lot of things are intimidating,” Bosh says in the video.

So can kids learn this on their own at home over the summer?

“Absolutely,” responded Lopez, “and the kids ask me this almost every day, can we do this at home? Absolutely, they can go to that hour of code site and go in and play the tutorials on their own.”

There’s your summer school assignment, kids: break the code on learning how to code. As the push to intensify science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education continues, it can only help students to get ahead of what’s coming to schools all over the country.

<![CDATA[FCAT Releases 3rd Grade Reading & Math Scores]]> Fri, 23 May 2014 12:14:13 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/199*120/Generic-kids.jpg

A little over half of third-grade students scored at passing levels on Florida's standardized exam in math and reading.

Fifty-seven percent of third graders scored at a level 3 or higher in 2014, the same as the previous year. Fifty-eight percent reached the passing score in math, also unchanged from 2013.

The Florida Department of Education announced the results Friday.

Florida students must score a level 2 or higher in reading on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in order to advance to the next grade. Nineteen percent scored a level 1 in 2014, though it was still unknown exactly how many of those students would be retained.

This year marks the last administration of the FCAT. Students will take a new exam aligned with the Common Core standards next year.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[10-Year-Old's Project Helping Kids Turn The Page]]> Mon, 12 May 2014 19:02:17 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/bookgirl.jpg

It’s circle time at the preschool, and the boys and girls are about to get a surprise: free books, courtesy of a girl who’s only a few years older than them.

“I wanted to inspire the kids to read,” said Sabrina Schpaliansky, a 10-year-old who started a project to collect used children’s books for needy kids.

Her project was spectacularly successful, and now Sabrina gets to see, first-hand, the rewards of her idea. Faces light up, little girls and little boys are smiling wide, hugging and thanking this big girl who showed up with 2,300 books.

“I’m proud of myself, I think they’re excited,” Sabrina said, after spending 20 minutes reading to the children.

The goal was to persuade parents to donate 500 books. Thanks to the generosity of everyone at Sabrina’s school, Sheridan Park Elementary in Hollywood, the fourth-grader far surpassed her benchmark.

She decided to donate the collection to Kids in Distress, a non-profit organization in Wilton Manors that provides services for at-risk children, some of whom have virtually nothing at home. Sabrina is hoping the books will open a world of possibilities for the kids at KID.

Many of our kids come to us with nothing,” said Mark Dhooge, the CEO of Kids in Distress. “Whether they’re a foster child or living with a relative care giver, they come to our school and don’t have the resources at home to be able to transfer the things they learn at school home, so to be able to bring some books home can make all the difference in the world.”

Dhooge calls Sabrina “a hero” for her efforts.

“This preschool time, birth to five, is paramount in child development and if we can get set up these kids for a successful pre-school opportunity, the ability for them to succeed in school is ten-fold,” Dhooge said.

Sabrina’s parents could not be prouder of their daughter’s spirit of community service.

“And it’s important,” says her dad, Nestor Schpaliansky, “that she keeps her perspective on things and that she understands that she’s doing this because it came from the heart and she’s doing this because she understands that other kids don’t have what she has.”

Sabrina is hoping that other kids see her as an example that philanthropy isn’t just for grownups.

“I think that a lot of kids are gonna learn from this because they’re saying, wow, just a fourth grader can make such a big difference in the world,” Sabrina said.

As the song says, Sabrina’s book is still unwritten, but the first chapter is a real page-turner.

To donate to Kids in Distress, go to www.kidinc.org.

<![CDATA[Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday: What You Need to Know]]> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:58:07 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/school_generic.jpg

This year's back-to-school sales tax holiday begins Friday. Here's everything you need to know from what items are tax exempt to how early you can start shopping tax-free.


 Information from the Florida Department of Revenue.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flickr RF]]>
<![CDATA[Kids & Parents Hit The Ground Running With School Program]]> Tue, 06 May 2014 15:27:54 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/running-generic-workout.jpg

Early in the morning, before some people are even awake, a group of students at North Beach Elementary School in Miami Beach are ready to start the day running.

“Is everyone awake? Ok, and if you’re not, you will be soon, right?” barks out physical education teachers Michele Rivera-Pike. “Good job, and then run back as fast you can, sprint, sprint, sprint, sprint.”

Welcome to the North Beach Elementary Running Club.

“It’s not just running, we also do some sports activities, I make it fun,” explains Rivera-Pike. “It’s not just, come out here and run a bunch of laps.”

The kids, and a handful of parents, get a good sweat going before the first school bell rings.

“Some are here just to hang out with their friends, some are here to really improve their health and their wellness,” Rivera-Pike said. She started this program five years ago.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Liliana Sordo, who comes to run and exercise with her daughter, Angelina. “It promotes good health habits and it brings the family together.”

On this day, the kids not only ran laps, they also did relay races dribbling basketballs, and did a jumping-through-hula-hoops thing that must be seen, it defies written description.

“It makes them happy,” said Ashlee Cramer, who runs with her daughter, Jennifer. “You see all the kids afterwards; they’re all smiling and energized.”

“Every single one of these children here who have participated in our running club has improved their mile run aerobic capacity by folds, and that’s amazing,” Rivera-Pike said.

At this point, you might be thinking, does all that running and sweating before school help or hurt the kids once they’re inside the classroom?

“I think it helps them academically as well as physically,” explains the school’s principal, Dr. Alice Quarles. “Children have a lot of energy, they need to do something with it, and it can either be positive or negative, and this is a positive.”

The parents NBC6 spoke to all agree with the concept of the running club or they wouldn’t be out there sweating with their kids.

“I think any time you can get going early in the morning, get the blood pumping, it helps them for the rest of the day,” said David Wrubell, the only dad in the group on this day.

Research would appear to be on his side. Some studies show exercise can lead to increased cognitive ability, so the Running Club members might be sprinting, jogging, and jumping their way to better grades. They’re also receiving another reward: a field trip to a local Cross Fit gym.

“What better thing to do for a running club than to do something healthy?” says Rivera-Pike. “And they’re so excited, I’ve never had more parents want to come to a field trip, ever.”

<![CDATA[More Money for Public Schools?]]> Tue, 06 May 2014 15:16:25 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/022014-school_generic.jpg

Just 15 percent of Broward County’s public school students attend charter schools, but statewide, charter schools have received the state’s entire pot of capital improvement dollars for the past three years.

In Tallahassee, legislators are arguing about whether that money should be shared with traditional public schools.

“There’s not enough to go around, but I think public education in general needs to have more support and more funds,” said Devarn Flowers, principal of Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School.

Last year, Pines Charter’s gym shelter rusted out. They had to spend about $400,000 to replace it. Principal Flowers says that’s an example of why charters need the state’s capital improvement money.

“The charter schools deserve to have equitable funding and public schools receive those funds in a different form," Flowers said. "We need to receive those funds as well.”

The money Flowers is referring to is local property tax dollars that public school districts receive for the same purpose.

At the state level, that money is raised from taxes on telephone land lines. As they’ve dwindled, so has the money in that pot, down to about $150 million. It would certainly help maintenance at charter schools like Flowers’, but it’s just a drop in the bucket for any of South Florida’s public school districts, who would each receive a sliver of the pie.

“So I think having an argument of trying to figure out who’s gonna get the most out of $150 million is the wrong conversation,” said Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie. “The conversation should be, 'How do we find enough dollars in this state to prioritize investment in public education?'”

Robert Runcie says per pupil spending in Broward is about $7,000. As a comparison, he says Massachusetts spends $18,000 per pupil, also pointing out that the state of Florida has slashed funding for his district by more than $750 million since 2008.

“And that resulted in this district putting over a billion dollars worth of property and maintenance work on hold,” Runcie said.

Runcie and Flowers agree on this: it’s smarter to maintain facilities than it is to let them rot and then have to replace them entirely.

Runcie says Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale and Northeast High in Oakland Park are two examples of many facilities in dire need of renovation, but there just hasn’t been enough money to pay for the projects.

“We all need to recognize that the value of our property as homeowners, the quality of life in our communities, is inextricably tied to the public school system," Runcie said.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[FIU Launches Beer Academy]]> Tue, 06 May 2014 15:14:54 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Beer-Tap-Generic.jpg

Students at Florida International University now have the opportunity to learn the whole beer-making process in Dr. Barry Gump’s brewing science class.

“People think that we just sit here and drink all day long but it’s really about the science and the art of making the beer and enjoying it,” said graduate student Matthew Eeintraub, who has used what he’s learning in class to land a job brewing for the Miami Brewing Company in Homestead.

Students have to be 21 to take the class, and passion is required.

“We spend a lot of time reading books studying up on the subject,” said graduate student Mo Saade, who hopes to start up his own craft brewing company some day. “There’s a lot of science behind it, you can make beer, but if you want to take it to the next level, it takes a lot of studying.”

The craft brewing industry is growing in South Florida, and to tap into that market, students learn all phases of beer production: from grinding barley and malt, to cooking the mixture, to treating the water so its mineral content is just right, to selecting the type of hops to give the beer its flavor.

“We add hops straight to the fermenter, post-fermentation, so you get that big, big aroma,” said Saade, describing the batch of India Pale Ale he and Weintraub were cooking up during our visit to the beer lab.

There’s so much science involved, the class really is an application of what’s commonly called S.T.E.M. education (science, technology, engineering, and math). It’s uncommon to see a chemistry professor teaching in the hospitality school, but this might be the only brewing class in the nation.

“Beer is just applied chemistry,” Dr. Gump said.

The dean of FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Mike Hampton, said this class melds different disciplines and yields a product: students ready for the brewing industry.

“Brewing and wine making and spirits are all science, it comes from the research that they put together on all the elements of chemistry and biology so it’s an exciting proposition for students, it’s not just about the end product, it’s how we get to it,” Hampton said.

Students are tested on their knowledge of the process and on their ability to taste subtle differences in beer styles. They’re also judged on the quality of their final project, for which they have to brew their own creation.

“We’re really only taking one-ounce tastings and a lot of times we don’t even swallow it,” said Weintraub, and then added, “No, I’m serious!”

FIU has its own labels for its beer, but the University doesn’t sell it. FIU brew is only produced for special school events and  educational purposes.

<![CDATA[Schools Prepare for FCAT in Unconventional Ways]]> Tue, 06 May 2014 15:11:37 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/fcat+prep+students.jpg

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is better known as a four-letter word: FCAT.

Miami-Dade public school students take the high-stakes test Wednesday, so schools are busy with last-minute FCAT preps.

It turns out some schools have a radically different idea about the best ways to get kids ready to deal with FCAT pressure. Coral Park Elementary in Westchester threw a party Monday, complete with dancing, a dunk tank and sports games.

“The students and teachers have worked very hard during the year, so we’re doing this as a party for them because of their hard work,” said principal Maria Nunez, who was ready for the dunk tank, wearing swim fins, a dive mask, and an inner tube around her waist.

The idea here is simple and obvious: to relieve the FCAT pressure for students and faculty.

“For the past ten years, we do this every year, and it has worked out," Nunez said. "We’re still an “A” school."

The kids even got an FCAT shoutout from singer Pharrell Williams, whose latest hit "Happy" is on the top of the charts. The singer with the trademark hat recorded a video specifically for Coral Park Elementary School, and it certainly made the students happy. No pun intended.

“All positive attitudes and positive energy toward you guys doing really good on your FCAT,” Williams says in the video. “We know you’re gonna do some amazing things and you’re gonna get an incredible FCAT score back.”

Across town at Virginia Boone/Highland Oaks Elementary in Northeast Miami-Dade, the principal handed out medallions that say, "Believe in yourself on the FCAT!"

"How many of you think believing in yourself is a key component of doing well on the FCAT?" Principal Scott Saperstein asked a room full of fifth-grade students.

A forest of arms shot up.

"They rise to the level of what teachers expect," Saperstein said. "We tell parents to make sure their child is relaxed, that they’ve done the work throughout the entire year, and that the teachers have done a great job preparing their child for this test.”

At a perennial “A” school like Highland Oaks, the teachers expect excellence from their students. Saperstein said the students at his school are not drilled to death.

"We want the children to do well on the test, but it is, again, only one part of the whole school year. It's a little piece of the puzzle and hopefully that last piece fits in just right," Saperstein said.

He added that parents can do their part by making sure their kids get to bed early the night before the test and feeding them a high-protein breakfast Wednesday morning.

McDonald's is offering free breakfast to students taking the FCAT and to public school teachers on Wednesday morning, but only at participating locations.

Broward students take the FCAT next week.

Photo Credit: NBC 6 South Florida]]>
<![CDATA[Broward Adds Cops to Patrol Elementary Schools in 6 Cities]]> Tue, 06 May 2014 15:10:10 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg

In an effort to increase security at schools, 12 officers will patrol elementary schools in six Broward County cities by year's end.

Broward middle and high schools already have at least one officer patrolling.

The school district will pay $555,000 for the newl officers, and the schools police will pay any additional funds for benefits and other costs. But the municipalities would hire the officers and decide how to divy them up throughout the schools.

The officers will patrol schools in Hollywood, Coconut Creek, Lauderhill, Pembroke Pines, Wilton Manors and Davie.

Golt said he wants to add more school resource officers each year. Pembroke Pines has already hired all five of the officers that it is getting.

The officers will also be tasked with helping to stop drug use and crime within the schools by creating bonds with the student body.

Golt also said that keeping schools and students safe is also because of a "team approach" between students, parents, police and the sheriff's office.

Coconut Creek and Hollywood will use retired officers, the South Florida Sun Sentinel said.

The Broward school system is the sixth largest in the nation, and it has 145 officers in schools.

Officials looked at security after the Newtown Massacre.

"I think nationwide, after Newtown, everybody re-examined what they do," Golt said. "I think if it didn't play a role then that in itself would be a problem. You have to re-evaluate what you are doing."

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