Florida schools roundup: ESSA plan needs revisions, grad rates and more

Feds order ESSA revise: The U.S. Department of Education says Florida is among 10 states that will have to revise their plans on implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act. The department’s letter to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says the state’s plan does not fulfill ESSA requirements in three areas: identifying schools with large achievement gaps between student subgroups, including English-language learners’ proficiency scores in the state’s accountability system, and providing the state’s tests in students’ native language. The letter informs the state it has no choice but to change its plan to comply with ESSA. Education Week. Politico Florida.

Graduation rates: Florida school districts are expecting graduation rates for the class of 2017 to fall because the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069, won’t allow them to count students who left for private schools. Legislators fashioned the bill to stop districts that were suspected of funneling students who couldn’t pass the state’s test to alternative schools, where they could graduate without passing the tests. But many educators think the law unfairly penalizes schools that try to help students who struggle with the traditional graduation path. TCPalm.

Personalized learning: A pilot program on personalized learning would be opened to any school district in the state under bills filed by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. A 2016 law created the pilot program for school districts in Pinellas, Palm Beach, Lake Seminole counties, and the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, to experiment with “competency-based learning” that allows students to progress at their own pace. The bills would also change the words “competency-based” to “mastery-based.” redefinED.

Early Learning Coalitions: A bill is filed that would require the state’s Office of Early Learning to create a funding formula to more fairly allocate the $600 million for the state’s 30 Early Learning Coalitions. The bill was filed by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who cites an audit calling the current method of disbursement as “outdated and unexplained.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teachers honored: Five finalists are chosen for the Duval County School District’s teacher of the year award. They are: Stephanie Bellino, Garden City Elementary; Tabetha Cox, Sadie T. Tillis Elementary; Alicia Lloyd, youth development programs at the PreTrial Detention Facility; Abe Reising, Mandarin High; and Will Smith, Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle. The winner will be announced Feb. 2. Florida Times-Union.

Sheltering costs: Sheltering residents during Hurricane Irma cost the Pasco County School District about $3 million, according to chief financial officer Olga Swinson. Twenty-two schools took in 22,000 county residents and 2,000 pets. Payroll costs were $933,633, and food costs were $294,541. Swinson says she expects to recoup only about half of the costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and she doesn’t expect to get any money any time soon. Gradebook.

Student wins appeal: The First District Court of Appeal sides with a student who sued the Escambia County School Board and Superintendent Malcolm Thomas over his 2015 suspension. The student was suspended for undisclosed reasons and removed from the classroom under the district’s disciplinary reassignment process, at which he was given a choice of alternative or virtual school. He argued that there should be a better process for students to tell their stories and present evidence. The court agreed, and the district now says it will review its process. Pensacola News Journal.

Racism accusation dismissed: An investigation by the Pinellas County School District determines that no racial discrimination occurred at Pinellas Park Middle School after two black teachers at the school called the workplace environment “hostile and racially charged” and asked for transfers. The district’s Office of Equal Opportunity investigated the complaint, which was submitted by local branches of the NAACP. Tampa Bay Times.

Survey results criticized: Hernando County School Superintendent Lori Romano says district employee comments about her performance from a survey released in July were too vague to be of use to her. She says most of the critical comments were “very difficult to understand.” Her overall rating was 2.86 on a scale of 1-5. The district will spend $10,000 to conduct a second survey on Romano’s performance. Tampa Bay Times.

Personnel moves: Three Pasco County schools will get new principals in January. Sarah Bordner, assistant principal at Denham Oaks Elementary, takes over at New River Elementary. Clara Craig, assistant principal at Seven Springs Middle, becomes principal at Gulfside Elementary, taking the place of Jeanne Krapfl, who will transfer to Deer Park Elementary. Gradebook.

District offers app control: The Flagler County School District is choosing 100 parents from five elementary schools to test an app that allows them to monitor their children’s online activities and even lock the devices. The district expects to offer the app Mosyle to all district parents next fall. The district is licensing the app for $72,000. Flagler Live.

Choice enrollment: School choice open enrollment begins Jan. 8 in the Manatee County School District. Students may sign up for high school choices Jan. 8-19, for middle school choices Feb. 5-16, and for elementary choices March 5-16. Bradenton Herald. Just two St. Johns County schools will have space for students in the open enrollment choice period, according to officials who said 362 seats are available for students inside and outside the district. St. Augustine Record.

Teacher cleared: A Santa Rosa County teacher is cleared of an accusation of having inappropriate contact with a student, according to school officials. The Navarre High School staff member was not named. The district will pursue disciplinary action against the student for making false allegations. Pensacola News Journal.

Administrators reprimanded: The principal and another administrator at the Fort McCoy School are reprimanded after an 11-year-old boy with autism was restrained on a floor for six minutes after he began acting out. Mike McGovern, a student services manager, restrained the boy. Both McGovern and principal Mike Hearn received written reprimands. Ocala Star-Banner.

Opinions on schools: A Sarasota County teacher of the year finalist offers some advice to new teachers. Stacey Fulgieri, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Note: Florida Schools Roundup begins its holiday vacation tomorrow, and resumes Tuesday, Jan. 2.

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