Proposed state standards: The first draft of new math and language arts standards for middle and high schools have been released by the Florida Department of Education. New standards for elementary schools are also in the works. In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for an end to the Common Core standards and gave the DOE until January to create a new set. Public hearings are expected to happen in September or October, and final recommendations are due to DOE by Jan. 1. The Legislature will make suggestions, and the state Board of Education will consider a final version in early 2020. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook.
Security in schools: Bureaucratic delays and concerns over student privacy are stalling the creation of a new Florida database that would compile social media posts of people who have been bullied, put in foster care, committed a crime and even been mentioned in unverified tips. Gov. DeSantis had ordered the database to be up and running by the time schools resume in August. Education Week. School officials in Escambia, Volusia, Charlotte and DeSoto counties say their districts won’t arm teachers as part of the guardian program. Sarasota County has registered for the program, but only for their charter schools. Pensacola News Journal. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Charlotte Sun. The Manatee County School District has applied for a federal grant to put walk-through metal detectors at high schools and middle schools and at special events. Bradenton Herald.
Graduation testing: Only 7 percent of the nearly 3,000 Florida seniors who retook the algebra I assessment in the spring passed it. And only 8 percent of the 16,000-plus seniors retaking the 10th-grade language arts exam passed. Seniors must pass those tests, or alternate tests such as the SAT or ACT, complete 24 credits and maintain a 2.0 grade point average to graduate. They can retake the tests until they pass. Gradebook.
Test-takers got help: Spoto High School in Hillsborough County was making spectacular strides in raising student test scores and its graduation rate, so much so that Superintendent Jeff Eakins publicly praised it for its “unprecedented” success. Now the former principal of the school and a former social studies teacher are under investigation by the district. Among the charges: the teacher left answers to district exams on the wall of his classroom during the tests. Tampa Bay Times.
Behind the scandal: Just who is Mark Riddell, the former director of college entrance exam preparation at the IMG Academy in Bradenton who took college entrance exams for the children of rich parents? Riddell, 36, who was fired by IMG and has expressed regret for his role in the college admissions scandal that has included celebrities such as Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, will be sentenced July 18. He said he’s “profoundly sorry” and that he understands “how my actions contribute to a loss of trust in the college admissions process.” Tampa Bay Times.
Sales tax referendum: The Duval County School Board will be asked this week to support a November 2020 ballot initiative to raise the sales tax by half a cent for school construction, renovation and technology. School officials had been pushing for a special election this November, but have run into resistance from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and some city council members who say a special election would cost too much and have a low voter turnout. The district says it needs the $80 million a year the higher sales tax would generate to help pay for deferred school maintenance and more. Florida Times-Union.
Financial literacy classes: A last-minute compromise in the legislative session turned a personal financial literacy class from a graduation requirement into an elective for high school students. But the bill requires all high schools to offer it, and there are indications that students will take advantage of the opportunity. Tampa Bay Times.
Education lobbying: Lobbying for educational interests has become big business in the state. “There’s far more representation in the education space today than there was five years, 10 years, 15 and 20 years ago,” says Ron Book, a top lobbyist for the past 40 years. Several dozen school districts paid lobbying companies $5,000 in the first quarter of the year, while some paid $10,000-$15,000 and Miami-Dade $60,000. The Florida Education Association paid $70,000 in that time, and Charter Schools USA about $80,000. Florida Phoenix. Hillsborough County school officials will hold a public meeting Tuesday to review the effect of the bills the Legislature approved will have on the district. Gradebook.
Teachers leaving: More than 100 teachers won’t be returning to the St. Johns County School District in August, school officials say. Twenty-two didn’t get their certifications, 51 were cut for budget reasons and 30 were fired for performance issues. St. Augustine Record.
After the storm: Bay County School Board chairman Steve Moss says the lack of housing is the biggest barrier to students returning to the school district. Seventy-three percent of multifamily apartments east at Panama City are still damaged from Hurricane Michael. The district lost 20 percent of its students and has had to close several schools because of damages and the enrollment decline. WKMG.
Recruitment effort failed: A College Board effort to encourage more high-achieving, low-income high school students to attend selective colleges didn’t work, according to a review of the program. Hundreds of thousands of students were sent personalized college-application information and application fee waivers in the “Realize Your College Potential” campaign. “Our interventions led to no change in the likelihood or sector of college enrollment,” according to the study, conducted mostly by College Board researchers. Chalkbeat.
Superintendent’s job: Sarah Brown, who resigned last week as chief of human resources for the Manatee County School District, is one of five finalists for Bozeman (Mt.) School District superintendent’s job. Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Personnel moves: Dawn Scilex is named principal at Gulf Trace Elementary in Pasco County. Gradebook. Three new principals are appointed in the St. Johns County School District: Sandra Brunet at Switzerland Point Middle School, Travis Brown at R.J. Murray Middle School and Kirstie Gabaldon at Sebastian Middle School. St. Augustine Record. Nancy L. Spencer is named head of school at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay Times.
Free summer meals for students: The Bay County School District’s usual summer meal program has taken on greater importance this year because so many students were affected by Hurricane Michael. The district will have 21 sites with free breakfasts and lunches for students 18 and under. Panama City News Herald.
Ex-board member arrested: Solomon Stinson, a Miami-Dade County School Board member for 14 years before retiring in 2010, is arrested for allegedly shooting at a car, leading police on a chase and shooting at officers in Pembroke Pines. Stinson, 81, is charged with attempted homicide and aggravated assault with a firearm. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel.
School threats: A student who threatened to shoot up Wildwood Middle High School in Sumter County in 2017 has been sentenced to six months of probation and 50 hours of community service. Villages-News.
School faces lawsuit: A private school in Orange County is being sued by a family for negligence after their 3-year-old son nearly drowned during a camp there last summer. The suit against Park Maitland School claims swim instructors weren’t paying attention as the boy struggled in the small pool last July. Four instructors were in the water at the time. WKMG.
Opinions on schools: High-quality early education is critical, which is why it was disappointing to hear that the Florida Legislature has cut funding for a program in Sarasota County that offers a six-week summer session at 12 elementary schools serving low- and middle-income students. Kathy Silverberg, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Family Empowerment Scholarship is another in a series of calibrated expansions of educational choice and, like the state’s other scholarships, will undoubtedly prove to be academically effective, fiscally prudent and hugely popular with parents. State Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., Miami Herald. Impact fees are not a great solution for repairing Duval County’s aging schools for two reasons: Existing and planned residential development would be exempt from new fees, and much of Jacksonville’s future development is already planned; and impact fees can only be used where there is an impact. Many of the city’s neediest school buildings are in areas where there is no impact from development. Tracy Pierce, Florida Times-Union. What happens among Democrats when a consensus issue like teacher salary increases comes into conflict with a lightning rod issue like charter schools? Jeff Bryant, Independent Media Institute. Text messages from school facility managers just from last week show the breadth of the maintenance issues facing Duval County’s schools. Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union. With her remarkable valedictory speech, Mulberry High School’s Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas celebrated family, industriousness, individualism, taking responsibility to make your own life better and gratitude to those who made her opportunities possible. She has taught us all a valuable lesson. Lakeland Ledger.
Student enrichment: Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas, who worked in the field with her migrant parents picking strawberries, blueberries and sweet potatoes, praises the hard work and sacrifices of her parents in a memorable valedictory speech at a Polk County high school graduation. Lakeland Ledger. Teachers from the Temple Beth Sholom Innovative School in Miami Beach travel to Reggio, Italy, to learn the Reggio Emelia philosophy of education, which includes hands-on learning with an emphasis on collaboration and family participation. Miami Herald. Seven Chabad preschools with 500 students have formed the Alliance of Chabad Preschools of Broward County. Sun Sentinel. The Indian River County Educational Association gives away about 40,000 books to children and families on Saturday. TCPalm. Nineteen Lake County career and technical education teachers will get job training this summer from local businesses so they can better tailor their teaching to help students be prepared for jobs. Daily Commercial.