Florida schools roundup: Testing review, a scholarship court appeal and more

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florida-roundup-logoTesting review: The first two weeks of computer-based standardized testing have gone well, says Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. More than 672,000 writing exams have been taken by 8th, 9th and 10th graders. The next wave of online Florida Standards Assessments test begins April 11. This week, 3rd and 4th graders are taking handwritten versions of the tests. Orlando Sentinel. Rhonda Sylvia, a teacher at Blue Lake Elementary School in Deland, writes an letter to her students to remind them that test results do not evaluate their worth. WPLG.

Scholarship appeal set: The First District Court of Appeal will hear an appeal May 10 by groups challenging Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program. The groups, led by the Florida Education Association, contend the program is unconstitutional and has harmed the state’s public schools. A Leon County circuit judge tossed out the lawsuit in May 2015, ruling the plaintiffs did not have legal standing. Under the program, tax credits are given to companies that donate money to help pay for low-income children to attend private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the state’s tax credit scholarships. News Service of Florida.

Blue-haired dilemma: A 12-year-old Orlando girl who dyed her hair blue for a part in a school play has been told by a dean to change it back to her natural hair color by Friday or face suspension. Erin Shaffer helped her daughter Olivia dye her hair to play the part of an eel in the Discovery Middle School’s production of Little Mermaid. WPLG. WKMG.

Financial challenges: The St. Johns County School Board discusses the financial challenges the district faces for the next school year. Even with a small increase in funding from the state, growth is straining the district’s finances. St. Augustine Record.

Charter school debt: Parents of Windsor Prep Academy students are told the charter school owes about $1.5 million to its management company, Newpoint Education Partners, which was charging a management fee of about 18 percent. Alliance Education Services, which wants to take over management of the school, made the announcement at a meeting this week. WFLA.

School track unusable: Students at Winter Park High School have been running in a school parking lot because the track is in such bad shape. Orange County school officials say the track will be repaired or replaced this summer or fall. Orlando Sentinel.

New schools: The Pasco County School Board will vote Tuesday on the location of a new elementary school in the Trinity-Odessa area. Officials say the school should be open for the 2017-2018 school year. Gradebook. The St. Johns County School District plans to build a school in the Nocatee community to help meet an enrollment crunch. Work begins in June, and the school is expected to open in August 2017. Florida Times-Union.

School choice spots: More than 19,000 students have applied for 10,000 seats in Palm Beach County’s 306 choice programs. Applicants will be notified Friday if they are in or on a waiting list. Palm Beach Post.

Coach asked for fake ID: A security guard and junior varsity football coach says he was asked by the Monarch High School head coach to make a fake ID so another student could take a college admissions test for a star player. Calvin Davis, who quit in February but still teaches at the school, denies the charge by Elvin McCray. Davis was fined $1,500, reprimanded and ordered to take a class on ethics. Sun-Sentinel.

Candidate withdraws: A Duval County School Board candidate withdraws from the race after he is accused of sending at least two inappropriate text messages to a 16-year-old female student at San Jose Preparatory High School. Ricky King, who was a long-term sub at the school, denies the accusation. Florida Times-Union.

Substitute arrested: A substitute teacher is arrested for bringing a stun gun to class at Jefferson Davis Middle School in Jacksonville. Kiara Nashay Ansley, 26, allegedly showed the stun gun when she felt “threatened” by misbehaving students. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: An ambitious proposal to turn around five failing St. Petersburg elementary schools reflects the urgency required to meet the challenge. Tampa Bay Times. The Palm Beach County School District needs to get to the root of its leadership problems. Training is a good place to start. Palm Beach Post. The Reading Recovery program at three Sarasota elementary schools is making progress in helping low-income students read at grade level. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It’s not surprising that the Marion County schools with the most experienced teaching staffs and the highest average salaries also produce the best academic results. Now the district must spread that classroom experience around. Ocala Star Banner.

Student enrichment: Music producer DJ Khaled donates $10,000 worth of new musical instruments to Carol City Middle School. Miami Herald. The Cape Canaveral Country Inn & Suites donates $5,000 to Oak Park Elementary in Titusville. Florida Today. High school students from Pinellas and Hillsborough counties offer solutions to boost graduation rates at a GradNation summit. Tampa Bay Times. More than 800 students present science and engineering projects at the 2016 State Science and Engineering Fair in Bartow. Lakeland Ledger.