Florida schools roundup: School closings, budgets, ACT scores and more

Storm closes schools: More school districts around the state announce closings because of Hurricane Irma. Orlando SentinelSun-Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Times-UnionFlorida Today. Lakeland Ledger. Sarasota Herald-TribuneBradenton Herald. Charlotte SunFort Myers News-PressGainesville SunOcala Star-Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. St. Augustine Record. Daily Commercial. WPBF. Bay News 9. WTSP. WESH. WOKV. News 13 Orlando. WUFT. WGCU. WKMG. Other districts say they will keep their regular school schedules, at least for now. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSUPensacola News Journal. Northwest Florida Daily NewsClay TodayCitrus County Chronicle.

School budgets: The Palm Beach County School Board approves a $2.9 billion budget, up from $2.6 billion last year. Most of the increase comes from a higher sales tax voters approved in November to upgrade or replace schools and technology, and buy new buses. Sun-Sentinel. The Gulf County School Board is expected to approve a budget today that boosts spending by 12.5 percent. Port St. Joe Star.

ACT scores: U.S. students show a slight improvement in ACT scores this year, up to an average of 21.0 compared with 20.8 last year. Minority students also post gains. The number of students taking the ACT declined by about 60,000, down to 2.03 million. That represents about 60 percent of the nation’s graduating high school class. Education Week.

School tax: While Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn concedes the Hillsborough County School District needs money to fix its crumbling infrastructure, he points to other community needs and questions whether the public will be receptive to raising taxes for this school board. “Do I think the public has confidence in the current [school] board?” Buckhorn mused. “That remains to be seen. I think they do more drama than is necessary and really I think there needs to be a restoration of that faith in that particular board before they move forward.” Gradebook.

Digital town hall: Sarasota school leaders hold a digital town hall with the community, answering questions sent through e-mail or social media about Hurricane Irma, budgets, testing and more. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Rezoning cases: An effort to reach agreement on a rezoning dispute in Pasco County fails in a private mediation hearing. Parents opposed to the redrawing of school boundaries and the subsequent transfers claim the school advisory committee violated the state’s open meetings rules in reaching a decision. The matter now goes back to the judge who has previously declined to issue an injunction against the rezoning. Gradebook. Dozens of parents speak out against the St. Johns County School District’s proposal to rezone school boundaries to ease overcrowding and fill new schools. St. Augustine Record.

Graduation robes: A student launches an online protest against a Hillsborough County high school’s decision to end the tradition of graduating its highest-performing students in white robes. “We have worked hard every single day so that we could graduate with honors and be celebrated on the day we walk across the stage,” says Abel Urdaneta, who carries a weighted grade point average of 6.8 at Leto High School. Tampa Bay Times.

Racist sign trouble: A student or students at Edgewater High School in Orlando will be disciplined for digitally altering a school spirit sign to read “restore white pride,” adding a swastika and posting it on social media. Lorena Hitchcock, a district spokeswoman, would not say how many students were involved. Orlando Sentinel.

Bus driver fired: A Palm Beach County school bus driver who’s been in five accidents in less than a year has been fired. Driver Craig Freeman, 59, says the accidents were an “unlucky run.” He can appeal the decision. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Years of independent research by Florida TaxWatch concurs with the need to reinvest the $2 billion a year wasted on class size reduction, which is an unproven education reform above the Grade 3 level and does little to help our children succeed. Dominic M. Calabro and Bob Ward, Tampa Bay Times. Having choice is a strong awakening to the reality of one’s personal responsibility for the well-being of other humans. Choice is, indeed, a civic education in itself, and will have a payoff for all of us. John E. Coons, redefinED. Standardized tests are counterproductive, because schooling’s bottom-line purpose isn’t to master the contents of school subjects but to improve learner ability to think clearly and productively. Standardized tests only measure learner ability to recall secondhand information, and apply it to a problem chosen by the writer of a test item. Marion Brady, Orlando Sentinel.

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