Florida schools roundup: Testing, Bright Futures, Vitti, budget and more

Testing bills: The Florida Senate Education Committee meets Tuesday to consider seven bills that could change Florida’s testing-based accounting system. Among the ideas being discussed: moving the testing to the final three weeks of the school year, ending the requirement to fail any third-grader who doesn’t pass the reading test and doesn’t have an exemption, and changing the rules on reporting test results. Gradebook. Lawmakers are pushing for tougher passing standards on the Florida Standards Assessments exams. Orlando Sentinel.

Bright Futures: Escalating eligibility standards for Bright Futures scholarships, tied to higher SAT and ACT scores, are shutting out an increasing number of students from Miami-Dade schools with large populations of low-income and minority students. At Hialeah High School, for example, almost 20 percent of students qualified for Bright Futures in 2011. By 2015, it was 8 percent. “I think the challenge with Bright Futures is that it doesn’t take into account the students who need us the most, the low-income students, the students who haven’t had the benefit of the best schools, whose parents don’t know the system and what needs to be done to get those high scores on the test,” says Lenore Rodicio, the executive vice president and provost for Miami Dade College. Miami Herald.

Vitti looks to Detroit: Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is one of three finalists for the superintendent’s job at the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Vitti, a native of Detroit, took the job in Duval in 2012 with a mandate to change the culture and direction of the 128,000-student district. His tenure has been marked with progress in some areas, such as graduation rates, cutting into the achievement gap and creating more school choice, but also with rocky relationships with some school board members. Detroit, which once had 224,000 students, is down to 47,000, and there are more students in charter schools than in district schools. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. WJAX.

Budget improves slightly: State economists think Florida will have about $300 million more revenue than expected for next year’s budget, but legislators don’t think it will have much of an impact. The proposed budget is more than $82 billion. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, says he’s happy for the forecast improvement, but says cuts are still inevitable. Naples Daily News. News Service of Florida. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, defends the House’s budget priorities during a talk at the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club. He says cuts in education spending shouldn’t affect K-12 schools, but will have an impact on higher education. Pensacola News Journal.

AP college credits: Florida colleges and universities accept Advanced Placement classes for college credit, but Ivy League and other prominent schools are questioning that policy. Harvard, Dartmouth, Penn and Duke are among those that no longer give credits for those who pass AP exams, or are considering doing so. Palm Beach Post.

Tacking disparities: The Gainesville for All initiative is recommending that the Alachua County School District adopt an equity plan to address racial and socioeconomic disparities among students. Interim Superintendent Sandy Hollinger is proposing creating an office of educational equity and outreach for the 2017-2018 school year, with an equity director and an equity plan. Gainesville Sun.

Traffic stop instruction: School and police leaders in Duval County want driver’s education courses to include instruction on how motorists should behave if they are stopped by police. School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti likes the idea, but says “there would need to be appropriate training for instructors to yield the impact that the legislation would hope to create.” Florida Times-Union.

Administrator under fire: The Broward County School Board votes Tuesday whether to fire an administrator who is accused of exploiting his position while having an extramarital affair with another district employee. Israel Canales, who has supervised operations of the K.C. Wright administrative headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, used a district credit card for hotel rooms, gave the woman a prime parking spot at work and allowed her to use his office, according to an investigation authorized by the district. The woman was the district’s community liaison. Sun-Sentinel.

Charter schools: City of Cape Coral Municipal Charter School System Superintendent Nelson Stephenson wants to expand Christa McAuliffe Elementary, but some city council members worry about the impact on traffic and question whether the school’s cafeteria/auditorium and gymnasium can adequately handle an increase of 120 students. Pine Island Eagle. The staff and community of Lincoln Memorial Middle School in Palmetto vote to apply for permission to become a charter school. Lincoln must submit an application to the Manatee County School District by July 1, and the school board will then vote on the request. Principal Eddie Hundley says the school’s high population of poor and minority students make the conversion necessary. “Kids that are under-served and need more time need a special type of school,” he said. He wants an extra hour in the school day to provide “career exposure.” Bradenton Herald.

Advanced courses: Three Volusia County high schools will offer the Cambridge Advanced International certificate of education diploma in the 2017-2018 school year at Seabreeze, Pine Ridge and Deltona high schools. The Cambridge program emphasizes critical thinking skills. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Chain of command: Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa emails the district’s principals and administrators to remind them that they are not employees of the school board and are not to take orders from board members. Avossa said the message was not in response to any one incident. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel change: Kim Jowell is named president of the Hillsborough Education Foundation, replacing Phil Jones, who retired last summer. Jowell, 47, was a national council leadership strategist for Girl Scouts USA. Gradebook.

Notable deaths: Judy Steverson, an influential Leon High School teacher for 27 years who guided the school’s newspaper and yearbook staffs, dies of cancer. She was 71. Tallahassee Democrat.

Student struck, killed: A 15-year-student student at Palmetto High School is struck by a car and killed Thursday trying to cross U.S. 41 on his way to school, and his family is calling for the Manatee County School District to put a crossing guard there. The Florida Highway Patrol says Myquarios Kelly was killed trying to cross the highway during a red pedestrian light. Bradenton Herald.

Three hurt in stabbing: One 13-year-old girl stabs another with scissors during a fight at Pines Middle School in Pembroke Pines. The victim was taken to a hospital, as was a teacher who tried to break up the fight. Another boy who helped the teacher intervene was treated at the scene with cuts on his hand. WJXT.

Bus driver arrested: A school bus driver for the Osceola County School District is arrested and charged with 10 counts of possessing child pornography. The district says it is in the process of firing Jonathan Cory Widows, 24. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The Alachua County School District’s next superintendent, expected to be hired by May, must make a major commitment to closing the achievement gap and have experience that demonstrates how it can be done. Gainesville Sun. The Lee County School Board has never had a minority member in its 128-year history, but an NAACP plan to redraw school board seat boundaries could have legal ramifications should the school board pursue it. Fort Myers News-Press.

Student enrichment: John Ciocca, a 17-year-old junior at Estero High School, creates an app called My Voice to help children and young adults with disabilities to communicate with others. John’s 18-year-old brother Christian has Down syndrome. Fort Myers News-Press. Seven students at Buddy Taylor Middle School in Palm Coast are educating students about staying safe if an intruder enters the school, and preparing large buckets with water and granola bars to tide students over in case of an extended lockdown. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Students at Dunnellon Christian Academy plant Florida native seeds that were taken into outer space as a experiment to see the effect of extreme cold and radiation on the plants. Citrus County Chronicle.

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