Florida schools roundup: More schools reopening, questioning VAM and more

Back to school: Most of Florida’s 67 school districts have reopened or are expected to today, tomorrow or Wednesday, according to the Florida Department of Education. A handful of schools will start later, and Hardee County schools remain closed until further notice. School districts are also starting to consider how they’ll make up the days missed. Florida Department of Education. Miami HeraldSun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Naples Daily News. Associated Press. Daily Commercial. Keynoter. Charlotte Sun. WFLA. WTSP. WFTVGradebook. More reports on damages to schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Lakeland Ledger. Free school meals will be provided in all Florida counties affected by Hurricane Irma. Brevard Times. Experts say teachers should address Irma with students as classes resume, and give them a chance to discuss their experiences. Tampa Bay Times. About 8.5 million U.S. students lost classroom time due to Irma. USA Today. School officials pay tribute to school employees who worked at hurricane shelters. Ocala Star-Banner. Miami Herald. Will Irma be the impetus to require charter schools to be built to serve as hurricane shelters? WLRN. redefinED.

VAM questioned: Some education experts are questioning the effectiveness of the state’s value-added model (VAM) for rating teachers. They say it’s easier for a teacher to earn a high VAM score if she or he works at a school with few poor students. State education officials disagree, saying their research shows no bias against high-poverty schools in VAM data. The state has spent about $4 million of federal money to develop VAM, and pays $509,000 a year for analysis and reporting, says Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Audrey Walden. Florida Times-Union.

Child Baker Acts up: The number of children who are involuntarily committed for psychological evaluation is up significantly in Florida and Bay County. Across the state in the fiscal year 2015-2016, the number of children committed under the state’s Baker Act was up about 34 percent over 2010-2011. In Bay County, the increase is 109 percent since 2011. The Baker Act is invoked most often when schoolchildren threaten suicide. Panama City News Herald.

Choice initiative: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says she is waiting for the right time to push a new federal school choice initiative. “I think what’s most important that—whatever is done or originated at the federal level – that it not be a new and expansive program to be administered at the federal level, and secondly that we do it at the right time and under the right circumstances,” she said in an interview. Education Week.

Welcoming students: The staff at Lockhart Elementary School in Tampa are prepared to welcome Lee Elementary students to their new home. Lee was destroyed by a fire last week. Tampa Bay Times.

Supplemental pay: Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna wants to raise supplemental pay for school coaches and advisers by 10 percent. But teachers union officials are opposed to the raise, and instead want any extra pay to be spread among all classroom workers. “At this time, LCTA is not in favor of the district’s compensation proposal, which is only relevant to teachers who currently get a supplement,” says union president Scott Mazur. Tallahassee Democrat.

Accused speaks up: Okaloosa County school officials say a teacher escaped punishment for abusing her students because a school investigator didn’t follow teacher union rules during the investigation. The investigator, Arden Farley, says the query was never conducted under union guidelines, nor should it have been. The teacher, Marlynn Stillions, alleged her rights were violated under the union contract because she wasn’t notified promptly, and the district agreed. Farley says he did his job in reporting what he determined were code of ethics violations, and recommending punishment. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Fundraiser rapped: Some parents are criticizing a Santa Rosa elementary school fundraiser that awards crowns and a ride on a float during a homecoming parade to students who raise the most money. All money raised by the Parent Teacher Organization drive goes to classroom improvements at Antioch Elementary School in Crestview. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

Teacher arrested: A 1st grade teacher in Bay County is arrested and accused of keeping a drug house in Panama City. Bay County deputies say Kenya Williams, who teaches first grade at Breakfast Point Academy, uses methamphetamine and allows other drug users to be in her home. She was suspended with pay pending a hearing. Panama City News Herald.

Opinions on schools: The Pinellas County School Board should follow the recommendation of superintendent Mike Grego and join other districts around the state in a lawsuit challenging a wrongheaded law that further erodes local control of education. Tampa Bay TimesHigh school is the first chance many of us have to test out who we are and who we might want to be. It’s not the real world, but it offers up the kinds of choices and chances for success and failure that we will face for the rest of our lives. Wendy Victora, Northwest Florida Daily News. Class sizes matter in every grade. George Hanna, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Ruby Tilghman, an 8th-grader at North Bay Haven Charter Academy in Panama City, raises $1,000 for the arts in schools through the Bay Education Foundation. She collected money through tips from her singing performances, her birthday money and a donation. Panama City News Herald.

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