Florida schools roundup: U.S. graduation rates, retention issues and more

florida-roundup-logoGraduation rates: The U.S. graduation rate hit a record 82 percent in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That’s up three points from 2011, when the department began calculating the rate by the number of students who graduated with a regular diploma within four years. Florida matched the national average with an 82 percent graduation rate. Minority and low-income students also show gains, but continue to lag behind the average. Education Week.

Retention issues: Sarasota School Superintendent Lori White says the problems with retention for third-graders this year is prompted by the difference in the ways parents are dealing with testing. Last year, she says, the parents complained about the state’s standardized testing, and then their children took an alternate test, went to summer school or did more work to bolster a portfolio. This year, a few parents have rejected the options of further testing or submitting a portfolio. Gradebook.

Individualized learning: Patricia Levesque, head of the national Foundation for Excellence in Education and the state-focused Foundation for Florida’s Future, says Florida’s leaders should alter education policies to accommodate individualized learning in schools. Her remarks came at an education summit in Orlando, hosted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Politico Florida. Also at the conference, hotel developer Harris Rosen encourages other philanthropists to offer free pre-K and college scholarships in low-income neighborhoods. He has financed such a plan in the Tangelo Park neighborhood for the past 22 years. Politico Florida.

AP computer science: Florida is below the national rate for students passing AP computer science passing the AP Computer Science exam, according to the College Board and the National Center for Education Statistics. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Contract approved: The Miami-Dade County teachers union approves a contact that provides raises of up to 3.57 percent, and the district agrees to absorb a 1 percent increase in health insurance. Clerical staff and security guards will also make at least $10 an hour. Miami Herald.

Free meals: More than 120 Palm Beach County schools will reopen Monday to provide free meals to children in low-income neighborhoods. Palm Beach Post.

School resource officers: Manatee County will resume sharing the costs for resource officers in middle schools with the school district. The county budget allots $415,000 for the officers, who are in every middle school. Bradenton Herald.

Sex abuse inquiry: St. Andrew’s School officials say one of the school’s employees “breached student boundary policies,” but they are unaware of anyone being sexually abused. The Episcopal school in Boca Raton hired two law firms to investigate any sexual abuse claims at the school. Palm Beach Post.

Principal reassigned: Cheryl McKeever, principal at Palm Beach Lakes High School, is reassigned. She will be a principal on special assignment. Teachers had complained for months that McKeever and other school administrators created a hostile work environment through threats and retaliation. Palm Beach Post.

Principal fired: Jackie Allen, principal at Hill-Gustat Middle School in Highlands County, is fired after employee complaints about her “unprofessional” and “intimidating” leadership style. Highlands Today.

Student dies: Cameron Mayhew, a 16-year-old Fort Myers High School student who was hit by a car while trying to cross a road to get to his school bus on Wednesday, has died. So far, the driver has been charged with failing to stop for a school bus. Fort Myers News-Press.

Students plead guilty: Three students at Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville plead guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A girl between the ages of 12 and 16 performed oral sex on the boys in the campus fieldhouse. The girl originally said she was forced, but later said the activity was consensual. The boys, who are ages 17, 18 and 19, will be placed on probation. Florida Times-Union.

School threats: A 14-year-old student at Buchholz High School in Gainesville admits making three bombs threats against Alachua County schools. He has written a letter of apology and will perform community service. Gainesville Sun.

School graffiti: Vulgar graffiti is painted on Estero High School. Police are investigating. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: To decrease the ongoing cycle of poverty in Polk County, more funding needs to be made available in the VPK, Pre-K, and Pre-Early Learning educational programs. Shandale Terrell, Lakeland Ledger. Several valuable programs are designed to not only raise third-grade reading scores, but build a stronger community through achievement in education. Bradenton Herald. I could argue that we’ve overdone the whole graduation deal, but these ceremonies hold a special place in our culture. They represent a rite of passage, a milestone to be celebrated, a stepping stone on the journey of life. Kathy Silverberg, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It’s not easy, and finding more money from voters is always an uphill battle, but the county needs to go it alone when figuring out how to fund roads and the same applies to the school board and funding school facilities repairs. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: Cole Kalasa, who graduates from Hernando High School on Saturday, already has made a name for himself in marine biology circles for discovering coral about a dozen miles west of Bayport. Tampa Bay Times. Nine students finish with the same grade point average – 4.7857 – and are named valedictorians of the International Baccalaureate program at Land O’Lakes High School. It’s a first for Pasco County. Tampa Bay Times. The proximity of NASA has made an impact in Brevard County schools. Florida Today. Elementary, middle and high school boys in Alachua County improve their skills at the Reichert House Leadership Academy. Gainesville Sun.

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