Florida schools roundup: School choice prep, software use, funding and more

Jim Booth

florida-roundup-logoSchool choice plan: Thirteen school districts in central Florida say they will work together to implement the new school choice rules passed by the Legislature and awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature. The Central Florida School Boards Coalition plans to create a way of determining if schools have openings for transfers and the transfer procedures, says Walt Griffin, superintendent of the Seminole County school district. “I want to just be in front it,” Griffin says, “so when parents do start asking for transfers, we’re all on the same page.” Orlando Sentinel. Gov. Scott has until Thursday to sign the rest of the bills approved by the Legislature, including the education bill that allows parents to transfer their children to any public schools in the state that are not at capacity, makes changes to high school athletics and more. News Service of Florida.

Software usage: Researchers say that Florida is providing students more equitable access to software, but there are meaningful differences in the way it is used. Lower-income students use it for basic practice skills while more affluent students use it to foster creativity and critical thinking. The study by four Florida professors breaks down technology use into three areas: access, which has been the focus, integration of technology into teaching and learning, and empowerment of students to use technology to accomplish goals. It was drawn from state data collected from more than 2,200 public K-12 schools in each year from 2008-09 to 2014-15. Education Week.

School funding: School districts around the state continue to struggle financially. While per-pupil spending is up this year, it’s a modest 1 percent increase, and hasn’t kept up with inflation. WUSF. Hillsborough School Board members are told to expect just $6 more per student from the state this year. Gradebook. The Pasco County School District has frozen most spending, as it tries to keep enough money available for staff raises. Contract negotiations begin next week. Gradebook. Schools are still waiting for about $135 million in school recognition funds from the state. The Department of Education has yet to formally approve school grades issued almost two months, which is necessary for the release of the funds. Gradebook.

Union links to opt-out: The Florida Education Association, one of the largest teachers unions in the state, says it does not endorse the growing movement to opt out of the state’s standardized testing, but it is linking to opt-out information from its website. Politico Florida. Sunshine State News.

Magnet programs: The demand for school magnet programs is growing in Orange County, and the school board will discuss adding four more programs at a meeting this week. Orlando Sentinel.

School uniforms: Seven Collier County elementary school advisory councils decide against uniforms. The 17 other elementary schools in the county all have uniform policies, and so do all 10 middle schools. Naples Daily News.

New school: Work has begun on the $60 million Parramore school near downtown Orlando. It’s expected to be complete for the 20-17-2018 school year, and can house about 1,200 students in preschool through middle school. Orlando Sentinel.

IB coordinator: The Lake County School Board approves a job description for an IB coordinator, a manager who would oversee the prestigious academic program. The district hopes to launch the IB program in the 2017-2018 school year. Orlando Sentinel.

Volusia wins grant: The Volusia County School District is awarded a $1.4 million grant from the California-based nonprofit New Teacher Center, a nationwide program dedicated to improving teacher effectiveness. School officials expect to see improvements in retention and student success. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Superintendent search: Lake County School Superintendent Susan Moxley doesn’t retire until June 2017, but she thinks the school board should start talking about her replacement. Moxley has held the job eight years. Daily Commercial.

School calendars: Students in Indian River and Martin counties will start school earlier this year. Indian River County starts Aug. 10, and Martin County Aug. 15. The schedules were altered so students could finish exams before the holiday break and to give teachers more time to prepare for the Florida Standards Assessments testing that starts in February. TCPalm.

Students hospitalized: Four Boca Ciega High School were hospitalized Monday after eating gummy candies. Police say the candies were laced with THC, an active ingredient in marijuana. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP.

Students arrested: A 17-year-old student at the Pinellas Secondary School is arrested after a fight in the school cafeteria. According to an investigator’s report, it’s the student’s 63rd school suspension. The school is an alternative location for students who have been suspended from their own schools. The Smoking Gun. Four students are arrested and accused of burglarizing Bond Elementary and Fairview Middle schools. Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher removed: A Spanish teacher at Monroe Middle School in Tampa has been removed from the classroom after handing out a worksheet that asked students for information on their gender identity, religion, sexual orientation and whether they had any disabilities. Yoselis Ramos, 23, is a first-year teacher. Tampa TribuneTampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: The Pinellas County School District “welcomes” the opportunity to work with the U.S. Department of Education on its civil rights compliance review, says the superintendent. Michael Grego, Tampa Tribune. A report on Broward County School District deficiencies pointed out in a state audit is inaccurate, says the superintendent. Robert W. Runcie, Sun-Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Students from 124 South Florida middle and high schools grow and test various leafy plants for use in future space missions as part of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Spring Garden Festival. Miami Herald. The Riverview High School History Bowl team will participate in the National History Bee & Bowl in Washington, D.C., April 22-24. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Three students and a high school TV production class are honored at the Silver Springs International Film Festival. Ocala Star Banner.

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