Florida schools roundup: Test scores, building costs, nonfiction out and more

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florida-roundup-logoTest scores stall: Tests scores have stagnated nationally and in Florida, and some experts now think there won’t be any significant improvement without radical changes in the focus of education. Orlando Sentinel.

Flawed estimates? Some Broward County School Board members think the district is using a flawed method to calculate the cost of construction projects for its $800 million bond program, and the result is cost overruns. The board is considering a review of the more than 240 projects in the bond program to see if the process was fair to the neediest schools. The bond was approved by voters in November 2014, but no work has begun. Sun-Sentinel.

Nonfiction cutback: Some Broward County high school libraries are ridding their shelves of nonfiction books. School officials say the books aren’t needed because the information is available online, and the money saved can be used for other needs. Sun-Sentinel.

Teacher shortages: More than 100 Orange County teachers have to retire six days before the end of the school year, which is causing coverage problem for schools. The departures are the result of changes made to the state retirement program five years ago. Several other state school districts have the same problem, but have arranged to extend contracts for the retiring teachers. Orlando Sentinel. Orange County is not the only district facing a teacher shortage caused, in part, by the changes in the state retirement program. School districts around the state are struggling to fill teacher jobs. Bay News 9.

Help for refugees: More than 10,000 unaccompanied minors were placed in homes in Florida from 2014 to 2016, third most among U.S. states. The influx of students who have fled violence and need support during the immigration process is challenging for school districts. Lakeland Ledger. Refugee children are discouraged from enrolling in schools in at least 35 districts in 14 states, including Florida. Associated Press.

Choice in court: Billions of dollars are at stake in the court case over the state’s support of tax-credit scholarships. The Florida Education Association and other groups have sued the state, challenging the constitutionality of the school choice programs. The case goes to a state appeals court May 10. Since the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program began in 2001, more than $2.2 billion in scholarships have been awarded to almost 500,000 students. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. Tampa Tribune.

Lice in schools: Some Brevard County parents are angry with the school district’s policy treating lice as a nuisance – not a health risk – and refusing to pass along information about lice to other parents because they consider it a violation of the health law privacy act. Florida Today. A mother describes her fight against lice and the after-effects. Florida Today.

Pot policy: Tampa’s new, relaxed position on marijuana use could have an effect on the Hillsborough County School District, officials say. The city is now giving citations to recreational pot users instead of arresting them. Students with marijuana on school property are still subject to disciplinary action. But the new law will keep students out of the criminal system, and it also could open employment opportunities in schools to those with pot-related convictions. Tampa Tribune.

Charter school growth: Pasco charter schools are expected to grow more than 10 percent for the next school year, or almost 500 students, say Pasco County school officials. Gradebook.

Sales tax impact: The Manatee County School Board and County Commission meet Tuesday to discuss whether to collaborate on a campaign to convince voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase. Bradenton Herald.

Reading centers: The Tampa Housing Authority will join the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, a national effort to improve literacy among the nation’s poorest children. Reading will be set up at public housing community centers. Tampa is one of 25 cities in the United States chosen for the program. Tampa Tribune.

Academy query: The Oxbridge Academy of West Palm Beach is wracked with allegations of sexual impropriety, questionable hirings and firings, high turnover and an emphasis of athletics over academics. A former FBI agent, a forensic accountant and the school’s employment law firm are investigating. Palm Beach Post.

Traffic worries: Parents and school officials are pushing for a lower speed limit in the area of State Road 64 near Manatee Elementary School. The limit near the school is 35 mph, but some want the stretch of road designated a school zone with 15 or 20 mph speed limits. Bradenton Herald.

Eligibility rules: Pasco County school officials are revising their rules governing athletic eligibility to conform to a new state law. Gradebook.

Transgender rights: More than 100 people march in the streets of Sarasota in support of rights for transgender students in the county schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. About 50 high school students protest outside Ocala Vanguard High School against the Marion County School Board’s bathroom policy for transgender students. Gainesville Sun.

Administrators out: The principal and assistant principal at Moton Elementary School in Brooksville have been removed from their positions while the Hernando County School District conducts an investigation. School officials aren’t saying what the investigation of principal Mark Griffith and assistant principal Anna Jensen is about. Tampa Bay Times. Mirror Lakes Elementary School principal Dwayne Courtney is suspended by the Lee County School District. Officials did not disclose the reason. Fort Myers News-Press.

Girls football: Jupiter Town Manager town manager Andy Lukasik says no town parks will be made available for the Jupiter High School’s annual Powder Puff girls tackle football game. He echoed the school district’s concerns about student safety. After they were turned down by the district, game organizers wanted to move the game to a town park. Palm Beach Post.

School dispute: A father who moved his twin 17-year-old daughters to Collier County from Germany says registering his daughters at Naples High School has taken so long that they’ve lost months of education. Naples Daily News.

Notable deaths: A North Port High School teacher is shot and killed Friday by her estranged husband, who then killed himself. Antoinette Gordon was a language arts and reading teacher in the Sarasota County School District. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Employee arrested: Ira Lee Boyd, a 74-year-old plant operator at Campbell Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg, is arrested and accused of false imprisonment and simple battery on a student at the school. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: Florida is about to say goodbye to its last one-room schoolhouse. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. The Tampa Bay Times‘ Pulitzer-winning series on five failing St. Petersburg elementary schools had some fundamental flaws. Maureen Sullivan, Forbes. High-stakes, standardized tests lull us into thinking we know all we need to know about teachers, schools and parents. They do not. Bill Maxwell, Tampa Bay Times. Brevard County has one community school, and it needs more. John Byron, Florida Today. The measuring stick for designating the “best and brightest” bonuses does not correlate to teacher success in the classrooms. Tallahassee Democrat. Public schools won a couple and lost a couple of skirmishes with charter schools in the Legislature this year. St. Augustine Record. The Hillsborough County School District continues to struggle to recognize the boundaries between proselytizing and free speech. Tampa Bay Times. The good from passing the proposed sales tax increase of 1 cent for Palm Beach County schools will more than outweigh its shortcomings. Palm Beach Post. More study is needed to ensure that the site for a new high school in Bonita Springs is safe from asbestos contamination. Chris Quackenbush, Fort Myers News-Press. Cheers to Marion County’s school employees — and their bosses for encouraging them — for showing charity, generosity and leadership. Brad Rogers, Ocala Star Banner. Florida law does a disservice to co-located schools by assigning each school the lesser of the lowest grade possible for both schools. Thomas Kennedy, Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: Florida and Maclay high schools win awards in Tallahassee for having the most students using seat belts going to and from school. Maclay High had the highest percentage of users, while Florida High had the largest increase. WCTV. Twenty-one students from Brevard County public and private schools are honored at the annual Top Scholars Breakfast. Florida Today. Hialeah’s American Senior High School cheerleading squad wins the Florida Cheer & Dance Association Grand National Championship. Miami Herald. Some central Florida schools are having children in hospitals build robots to keep up with their math education. Orlando Sentinel. A poem about bullying written by Quinton Williams, a sixth-grader at H.L. Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens, wins him a trip to the Do The Right Thing conference this summer in Washington, D.C. Palm Beach Post. The Clay County Academic Team wins the 2016 Commissioner’s Academic Challenge Division II State Championship. Florida Times-Union. Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, visits Escambia High School to stress the importance of the National Math and Science College Readiness program. Pensacola News Journal. Twenty Florida students will compete this week in the Florida High School Moot Court Finals. Ocala Star Banner.