Florida schools roundup: Test options, sex education, evaluations and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

florida-roundup-logoAlternative tests: The Florida Senate education committee approves a bill that would allow school districts to use the SAT or ACT instead of the Florida Standards Assessments tests to measure student progress. But Education Commissioner Pam Stewart opposes the plan and the bill does not have a companion proposal in the House, so its prospects for passage are uncertain. Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. Lakeland Ledger. WFSUThe bill, which won’t appeal to everyone, would add testing flexibility. Lloyd Dunkelberger, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sex education: Two Democrats sponsor a bill to give school districts the option of providing comprehensive sex education to students. With the state leading the nation in new HIV infections, Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, and Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, are calling the bill the “Florida Healthy Adolescence Act.” Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher evaluations: It’s been four years since the Palm County School District started a new evaluation system for teachers, and not a single one has been rated unsatisfactory, according to a school district report. Palm Beach Post.

Capital request questioned: Jacksonville city leaders say School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s suggestion that the district needs $1 billion for new schools, renovations and additions comes at a bad time. The city already is looking for support from the state and voters for a plan to collect sales taxes to cover unfunded pension liabilities. Florida Times-Union.

Computer coding: Florida Sen. Jeremy Ring, R-Margate, says the softened House version of his bill to allow computer coding as an alternative to foreign language requirements is unacceptable. Politico Florida.

Common Core: The Florida Parents Against Common Core is joining the national libertarian activist group FreedomWorks in its effort to have the Common Core State Standards banished from schools. Sunshine State News.

Laptops reconsidered: In October the Martin County School Board approved a plan to provide every incoming freshman with a laptop. Now the board is reconsidering. “I don’t want to have another debacle where we spend a fortune changing something tremendously and have parents upset,” says school board member Tina McSoley. The cost for 1,500 laptops was estimated at $1 million. TCPalm.

Testing cutbacks: Volusia County schools will cut back on district assessment testing for elementary students by 50 hours through the rest of this school year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

New school site: Lee County School Superintendent Greg Adkins says a site off the Imperial Parkway in Bonita Springs is his choice for a new high school. It’s cheaper, closer to more students and can be opened by August 2018, he says. Residents in the area say a school would disrupt their quiet neighborhoods. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News.

Lightning detectors: Four years after their 11-year-old son was killed by lightning on a football field in Fort Myers, Chuck and Alda Watlington are partnering with Weather Bug to place lightning detectors at every Christian school in Florida. WSVN.

Bus driver shortage: Central Florida school districts say they’re having a hard time recruiting and retaining school bus drivers. Orlando Sentinel.

Name change: Clarcona Elementary School near Ocoee in Orange County is changing its name to Prairie Lake Elementary. Parents and staff made the request to the school board, saying the new name better reflects the location and community where most of the students live. Orlando Sentinel.

Charter schools: A statewide poll commissioned by the Florida Charter School Alliance shows significant support for charter schools. The poll respondents also back the attempt to take charter school authorization and oversight away from local school districts. Gradebook.

Polk accreditation: Polk County has been recommended to receive districtwide accreditation from AdvancED. If the recommendation is accepted, Polk will become the 50th of Florida’s 67 school districts to be selected. Lakeland Ledger.

New academic officer: Bill Miller, former principal at Leesburg High School, is named the interim chief academic officer for the Lake County School District. Daily Commercial.

Sex assault lawsuit: Police officials recommended prosecution of a student accused of sexual assault in a Seminole Ridge High School bathroom in 2012, but prosecutors declined to press charges, says an attorney for the victim. She is now suing the Palm Beach County School Board. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Virtual schools, like the Florida Virtual School, are increasingly filling curriculum and staffing gaps for students. Judy Verses, Huffington Post. Santa Rosa County residents are chipping in to help replenish the fund that assists homeless students. Thomas St. Myer, Pensacola News Journal. With the new law expanding educational options for disabled children, State Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, keeps a promise he made to his son. Beth Kassab, Orlando Sentinel. The new law helping students with disabilities is a life-changer. Cynthia Falardeau, TCPalm. Duval County school leaders will have to convince the public how paying new taxes for schools makes sense. Tonyaa Weathersbee, Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: Manatee County’s Lincoln Middle School will offer advanced courses next fall. Bradenton Herald. A mentor in the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project describes the day he saved a life. Keno Tate Jr., Miami Herald. Alachua County schools honor three volunteers whose cumulative work total tops 2,000 hours. Gainesville Sun.

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