Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

Next year’s budget for the Duval County public school system is still very much a work in progress… despite the fact that it’s got to be finished, approved and ready for implementation by the end of July.

And, when you consider school Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and 4-of-the-7 school board members have been on the job for less than a year, and that, together, they’re trying to create a budget basically out of whole cloth, you’ve got to wonder how it’s all going to end.

Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

Last night’s Duval County School Board meeting lasted until midnight, hours longer than anyone there anticipated. At one point in the evening, School Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti ran down a list of rumors and concerns running rampant through the district.

Saying it would only take 5 minutes, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti put up a Power Point slide with a half dozen bullet points he said were causing a lot of confusion, and then proceeded to deal with each one.

The state Department of Education has released the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) scores for 4th through 10th grade reading, math and science, as well the results from this year’s end-of-course exams in algebra 1, geometry, biology 1 and U.S. history.

According to the state’s data, only about half of the Duval County students who took the tests scored a 3 or above, roughly the same percentage of students who were proficient last year.

High school students who took the end of course exams fared much better than students last year. 

Florida Times-Union

A national organization that has a presence in dozens of American cities has picked Jacksonville as its latest site.

City Year partners with challenged schools and young people, uniting them in the cause of providing hands-on help to struggling students. 

And that help is needed, because there is a dropout crisis in this city - statistics show one in three students in Duval County don’t make it to graduation.

Florida’s colleges are changing remedial education requirements that often cause students to abandon their studies, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel.

The changes are part of a bill approved by lawmakers this year, the goal of which is to allow more students to start earning college credits and begin studying their field of interest earlier.

Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

Jacksonville's Metropolitan Park overflowed with excitement Saturday as thousands of kids and their families came together to celebrate the thrills of reading and learning.  The PEP Rally for Excellence was sponsored, in part, by the Duval County Public Schools and WJCT.   Here are a few of the photos and interviews we collected:

Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

Parents worried about proposed changes to Duval County’s gifted program can relax.

Following a meeting with about a hundred parents Wednesday night, school Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti says he’ll keep everything the same for one more year at least.

"Listening to them, I decided we would not more forward with the proposal and we would continue to improve our gifted services, build our home-based, neighborhood feeder-pattern schools with more gifted students but not implement the proposal as originally designed."

A panel including Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti met at UNF yesterday to discuss flaws in the value-added model for calculating teacher salaries, and whether schools are on a new path toward teaching to the test.

Gov. Scott Explains Education Vetoes

May 21, 2013
Meredyth Hope Hall /

Gov. Rick Scott spoke to reporters yesterday afternoon about his decision to cut $368 million out of the $74.5 billion budget sent to him by the Florida Legislature.

One of the items he cut would have boosted tuition at state colleges and universities by 3 percent.

“In my case and my wife’s case, we didn’t have parents that could pay for higher education. So the cost of tuition was very significant to us,” Scott said. “I am absolutely committed to keeping tuition low.”

Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

89.9 WJCT is participating in the American Graduate project supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  The goal of American Graduate is to reverse the national drop out crisis by identifying and then addressing the factors that cause students to leave school early.

More than 3 million students in the U.S. are expected to graduate from high school this year. Making it through 12 grades is a marathon of books and tests, disappointment and success. But what of the children who have dropped out, or who want to drop out?

In a report issued Monday, Governor Rick Scott's inspector general Melinda Miguel recommended that salary parameters be established for Florida college presidents.

The report finds that the state's 28 college presidents' total compensations (including benefits and other forms of compensation) ranged anywhere from $143,000 to $630,000 for the 2012-2013 year.

WJCT has learned that Jacksonville's Head Start and Early Head Start programs, formerly run by the Jacksonville Urban League, will close on Friday, with some exceptions.

A letter sent to parents by the Community Development Institute, which the Federal government brought in to temporarily manage the program, explains they still have safety concerns. A staff member confirmed that the program is shutting down for summer nearly a month earlier than parents expected except for those kids under 3 or in the VPK program.

The full text of the letter is below:

May 13, 2013

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Florida have obtained internal emails and a recording of a company meeting that provide new insight into allegations that K12 Inc., the nation’s largest online education company, uses teachers in Florida who do not have all of the required state certifications.

Community college students are needlessly assigned to remedial math classes to learn lessons they won’t use during their studies, according to new research from a Washington, D.C. group.

And the study also found that many high school graduates are not learning subjects they will need to use in their careers.

The study was produced by the Washington, D.C.-based National Center on Education and the Economy and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

WJCT is participating in the American Graduate project supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  The goal of American Graduate is to reverse the national drop out crisis by identifying and then addressing the factors that cause students to leave school early.

Program chair Kimberly Hansen and former mentee Mercelin Etienne talk about the success of the ACE Mentor program in Northeast Florida high schools.

Director of Outreach Juanita Forman speaks about the Taking Care of Business Pregnancy Prevention Program which is geared toward young women ages 15-18.

Principal Jackie Simmons Jr. speaks about the social and academic challenges his students face and how he and his staff work to address these issues.

89.9 WJCT is participating in the American Graduate project supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  The goal of American Graduate is to reverse the national drop out crisis by identifying and then addressing the factors that cause students to leave school early.

Kevin Meerschaert

The Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation announced the distribution of 120,000 books to 40,000 children in Northeast Florida and South Georgia.

The donation is the result of a collaboration with First Book, a national organization that provides new books for children from infants to high school students.

Over the years, the Jaguars have distributed over half a million books to children across the region.

Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

A fund created last year to improve student achievement in Duval County is ready to start spending some of the millions of dollars raised so far. 

Gary Chartrand, local businessman and chairman of the Florida Board of Education, announced the creation of the Quality Education for All fund at the first Champions for Education Conference at TPC Sawgrass last year. 

He returned this year with an update.

Florida Department of Education

By now, most Florida parents have heard the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is on its way out. But they might not know a whole lot about what’s replacing the FCAT.

The most likely replacement is known as PARCC, or the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Students are scheduled to begin taking the test in the spring of 2015 (more on that later).

We’ve put together a handy video that lays out the differences between the two exams.

Deirdre Connor / Jacksonville Public Education Fund

The results of a study by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) finds new teachers are fleeing the public schools in alarming numbers.

According to the report, Patching the Pipeline: Addressing Teacher Satisfaction and Retention in Duval County:

  • Duval County is losing on average about one of every two new teachers within the first five years of their employment.
  • Only about 34% of new teachers hired since 2003 were still in the same school they started at five years later.


Gov. Rick Scott is scheduled to sign an education bill which changes high school graduation requirements, expands career education options and creates new elementary and middle school computer training programs.

The most significant change is to high school graduation requirements. For students beginning high school in the 2013-2014 school, the bill will eliminate some required math and science courses while allowing students to substitute career training for math and science requirements.

Kim Cook / Facebook

The Florida Education Association and National Education Association filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s teacher evaluation system.

The system was created under a law passed in 2011 known as Senate Bill 736.

State of Florida

Sen. Bill Montford, a Democrat from North Florida, doesn't like the Parent Empowerment in Education bill. It's much better known as the parent trigger bill.

“We know overall that the majority of students that are successful have parents that are involved,” Montford said. “It's critical to have parent support and involvement in the schools.”

Montford is CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.