Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Last year, Luis Gonzalez failed freshman English, Algebra and Physical Science. When he starts school later this month, he’ll still be considered a freshman.

His school has a different name for it.

“They call it a ‘fresh-more,’” he said. “By years I’m a sophomore. But I’m going to have freshman classes.”

Gonzalez thought he could make up the classes during summer school.

But summer school wasn’t an option for the Pasco County student.

Sarah Gonzalez/StateImpact Florida

Juan Galvez is going into 4th grade. His parents are from Bolivia and Guatemala, and they only speak Spanish.

When it comes to homework, Juan is usually on his own.

“My mom helps me a little because she knows the math,” says Juan. “But with reading, I’m good. I do it by myself.”

Salsa Lessons

May 17, 2012
Laura Isensee

Music teacher Mario Ortiz has been teaching classic salsa tunes to elementary and middle school students for 14 years.  Outside the classroom, Mario plays trumpet in a salsa group. He learned music from his father, who was also named Mario Ortiz.

The elder Ortiz was a well known salsa bandleader (for the Mario Ortiz All Star Band)  in Puerto Rico in the 1960s.  He died in 1999.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

There is a place on school campuses for students who break the rules.

In some Florida schools, it’s called SCSI.

Marcus Pryor, a junior at Miami Northwestern Senior High, thinks it stands for School Criminal Scene Investigation.

SCSI actually stands for School Center for Special Instruction. And in Miami, it’s where students go when they get an in-school suspension.

It’s an alternative to out-of-school suspension Florida schools can use for offenses considered minor, like consistent tardiness, wearing baggy clothing or cutting class.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Danna Contreras doesn’t like the new FCAT.

The sophomore at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami emigrated from Colombia three years ago.

She wears thick, pink-rimmed glasses and she squints a lot. She says the new computerized version is harder to take.

“I think I am better with paper, not on the computer because sometimes my eyes hurt,” she said.

That’s not the only reason she’s worried about her reading score.

“I have difficulty speaking English and the vocabulary is really hard,” she said.

_bigm33ch / Instagram

It’s been nearly a month since self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen in Sanford, Fla.

Martin’s death has inspired a national debate about race and justice.

But at the high school Martin attended in Miami, his death had not been announced publicly until today, when the school held a moment of silence for the slain student.

Ashley Aristide is a junior at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High in Miami, where Martin went to school.

She’s having a hard time coping with her friend’s death.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Spanking in school may seem like a relic of the past, but every day hundreds of students — from preschoolers to high school seniors — are still being paddled by teachers and principals.

In parts of America, getting spanked at school with a wooden or fiberglass board is just part of being a misbehaving student.

"I been getting them since about first grade," says Lucas Mixon, now a junior at Holmes County High School in Bonifay, Fla. "It's just regular. They tell you to put your hands up on the desk and how many swats you're going to get."

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Earlier this month, an investigation by StateImpact Florida and the Miami Herald revealed that most Florida charter schools are not enrolling students with severe disabilities, like autism or cerebral palsy.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

This month, an investigation by StateImpact Florida revealed that more than 86% of Florida charter schools don’t serve a single student with a severe disability, compared to half of traditional public schools.

State education officials say no school is required to take every student with every disability. But lawyers are divided on whether charter schools can legally turn kids away.

No one person decides where a student with disabilities can go to school.

Tres Whitlock is stuck in a public school where he feels ignored. He wants out.

The 17-year-old would-be video game designer researched his options online and found his perfect match – Pivot Charter School.

“It’s computer-based and I think I will do better,” he says.

But when Whitlock tried to enroll in the school he found a series of barriers in his way.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

This story is a collaborative investigation between The Miami Herald and StateImpact Florida. Read the Herald’s story.


It’s been a rough week for anthropologists with Gov. Rick Scott singling out the field as an inefficient use of higher education budgets.

Why should taxpayers foot the education bill for an anthropologist who can’t find a job? Scott asked a business group last week. Colleges should “drive” students into science, technology, engineering or math — known as STEM — programs, he said.

Every school district in Florida is dealing with layoffs and budget cuts. But Broward County in South Florida is facing the largest budget deficit in the state—more than $140 million. And its forced teachers and students in the nation’s 6th largest school district to get creative about spending money.

Students at South Broward High in Hollywood waited in the rain during the first week of school to get inside what used to be the video production classroom. Only, the video production program was cut last school year.

New Policy Gives Hope To Some Facing Deportation

Aug 21, 2011
Courtesy of Melissa

The Obama administration on Thursday said it would review the deportation cases of 300,000 illegal immigrants. The administration wants to put high priority on removing convicted criminals, and low priority on cases that involve people who pose no security threat.

That might make a big difference for thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

New Hope For One Student

Ted Grossman

Fifty years ago, North Miami Senior High School students lived in neighborhoods where most kept their doors unlocked at night. They say they felt safe riding their bicycles throughout town – some streets weren’t even paved. Today, many students at the school say they don’t feel safe in their school or their neighborhoods.

North Miami Senior High’s demographics have also changed. In 1960, the segregated school was all white. Today, most students are of Haitian descent. According to the school, 31 out of 2,700 students are white.