Most test scores up slightly, lottery warning vetoed, mental health course and more

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Student test scores: Florida students did slightly better on the Florida Standards Assessments language arts, biology, civics and U.S. history tests this year than they did last year, but dropped slightly in algebra 1, according to test results announced by the Florida Department of Education. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran attributed the improvement to moving the test period later in the school year. “These results proved that we have moved in the right direction, and I am immensely proud of our students,” Corcoran said. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Department of Education. Florida Phoenix. Here’s how students in districts around the state did on the tests. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Tampa Bay Times. Bradenton Herald. WJHG. Ocala Star-Banner. Northwest Florida Daily News. Gainesville Sun. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Governor’s vetoes: Gov. Ron DeSantis has vetoed a bill that would have added warning labels to lottery tickets. DeSantis said he worried the labels would negatively affect ticket sales, which in turn would cut the amount of money the lottery provides for education. “As governor, one of my key priorities is making higher education affordable for Florida families,” DeSantis wrote in the veto. “This bill reduces the Lottery’s ability to continue to maximize revenues for education and negatively impacts Florida students.” News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. DeSantis also vetoed nearly $1.5 million worth of projects requested by charter schools: $650,000 for the K-8 Academy at the Farm in Pasco County for infrastructure improvements, $500,000 for the Lake Wales Charter Schools in Polk County for Hurricane Irma relief, $200,000 for updating buses for the Somerset Academy in Jefferson County, and $75,000 for the Florida Charter Support Unit, a state program that helps new charter schools. redefinED.

Mental health courses: The Florida Department of Education will consider a proposal to require every Florida student in grades 6-12 to take five hours of mental and emotional health instruction every year. The courses would have to include tips for recognizing and preventing mental health disorders and healthy coping techniques, among other topics. Each district’s plan would have to be submitted to the state by Dec. 1 and posted on its  website. Politico Florida.

Virtual school leader: The Florida Board of Education is expected to name a new leader today for the Florida Virtual School. Dhyana Ziegler, who had been on the board of trustees, has been the interim president since March, after then president Robert Porter died. She is one of the candidates for the permanent appointment. Orlando Sentinel.

Charter schools: The city of Aventura has taken preliminary steps to sue the Miami-Dade County School District to get some of the money from a property tax hike approved in November by voters. Aventura says the teachers at the city’s two charter schools are entitled to about $800,000 of the $211 million the tax will raise. The district says the money is for raises for teachers at traditional public schools. Miami Herald. The financial condition of the Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school in Manatee County is deteriorating, and school principal Eddie Hundley is blaming the school district. He says the district owes the school Title I funding from last year and has deliberately stunted the school’s enrollment. District officials say the Florida Department of Education determined that the school wasn’t eligible for all the Title I money it thought it should get. Lincoln must submit a financial corrective plan by Friday. Bradenton Herald.

Security in schools: Two starkly different approaches to dealing with school shootings were promoted at the 7th Annual Rural County Summit in Havana last week. On one side are the protection advocates, such as Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chaired the state commission that investigated the Parkland school shootings in 2018. He wants teachers armed at schools and called prevention “not realistic.” Prevention advocates contend that more intervention and counseling programs are needed. Tallahassee Democrat. The Clay County School District has hired all the officers for the district’s internal police department, and officials say the department will be ready to step in when the sheriff’s office hands over jurisdiction before schools resume in August. WJXT. The Lee County School Board should reconsider its decision not to arm teachers, says Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, majority leader of the Florida House. WINK.

School discipline issues: The Broward County School District is preparing a policy to crack down on employees who are accused of sexually harassing students. If approved, the policy would remove those employees from the school during an investigation and fire them if it’s determined they acted sexually inappropriately to students, even if the behavior doesn’t result in criminal charges. Sun Sentinel. The push for discipline alternatives such as restorative practices has cut the number of out-of-school suspensions by 60,000 days in the Hillsborough County School District, but teachers say it’s also contributed to increases in physical attacks, fighting, bullying and drug and tobacco use. Tampa Bay Times.

Technical education: Marion County students earned 1,947 industry certifications in the last school year, an increase of 25 percent of the previous record set during the 2017-2018 school year. The district’s Career & Technical Education Program was bolstered by last year’s renewal of a 1-mill tax for schools by voters. Ocala Star-Banner. St. Johns County employers praise the new state law expanding of a vocational and technical education. St. Augustine Record.

Charter school sold: A Broward County charter school has been sold for $19.3 million. The Imagine School at Broward, a K-8 school in Coral Springs, was sold by AEP Charter Imagine Broward LLC to Imagine at Broward, a nonprofit. South Florida Business Journal.

School construction: Repair work at Northeast High School in Oakland Park has likely been delayed again after the Broward County School Board terminated a contract with a vendor that was supposed to work on the renovations. The original contract for the work was signed in November 2016 as part of the $800 million bond program approved by voters. Sun Sentinel. Costs are escalating quickly for the Monroe County School District’s planned new transportation facility on Stock Island, from $13.5 million to $16.75 million in the three years since the property was purchased. The boost comes from the decision to demolish the existing building on the property. Key West Citizen.

Bus driver problems: A state audit has concluded that the Palm Beach County School District does a poor job of addressing complaints about reckless driving by its school bus drivers and takes too long to discipline or remove drivers who cause accidents. If the district doesn’t amend its procedures, auditors wrote, “there is an increased risk that bus drivers with unsafe or faulty driving habits will not be timely met with and questioned, delaying disciplinary action and increasing the bus-related safety risks of students, employees and others.” Palm Beach Post.

Athletic trainers shortage: Many state school districts have been re-evaluating their policies and procedures for summer football workouts after three players have died in the past five years from heat-related illnesses. No athletic trainers were present when the players died, and only 340 of the 738 Florida public and private high schools recently surveyed statewide have fulltime athletic trainers. “How many more kids need to die before we decide it’s necessary to have full-time athletic trainers at every school, year-round?” said Erik Nason, president of the Athletic Trainers Association of Florida. Tampa Bay Times.

Parkland suit filed: The family of a student who died in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is suing the FBI in federal court for wrongful death. The family of Carmen Schentrup alleges that the agency didn’t follow up on a tip 40 days before the massacre. The Jan. 5 tip named Nikolas Cruz as an unstable young man who had been stockpiling weapons and threatened to shoot up a school. On Feb. 14, Cruz is alleged to have shot 17 students and staff at the Parkland school. Sun Sentinel.

Pregame prayer suit: The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow a cross to stand on public land in Maryland is being used by a Tampa Christian school in its appeal of a court ruling that it couldn’t use a public stadium loudspeaker to broadcast a prayer before a 2015 state championship football game. News Service of Florida.

Superintendent’s goals: Volusia County’s new interim school superintendent, Tim Egnor, says his goals are to move the school district toward more trust, more fiscal responsibility and better communication. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Saving energy at schools: St. Johns County school officials say the district has saved more than $53 million in energy costs since it began a conservation program in 2008. The district does simple things like shutting off lights in schools when they aren’t being used, using LED lights instead of fluorescent bulbs and setting classroom thermostats at 75 degrees, as well as using new technology such as thermal energy storage. St. Augustine Record.

Notable deaths: Rod Jurado, a government and business consultant who chaired the Florida Charter Educational Foundation that oversees six schools in Hillsborough and three others, has died. Tampa Bay Times.

School bus workers arrested: Twelve current and former Miami-Dade School District bus workers have been arrested and charged with fraud. Investigators say they obtained medical information about children, then posed as parents of the children to make false insurance claims totaling more than $400,000. Miami Herald. WPLG.

Opinions on schools: No matter where Florida lawmakers stand on K-12 education policy, there is one area where they can readily find common ground: expanding computer science education. Patricia Levesque, Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough County’s next superintendent needs to be one who can foster an innovative spirit in the district and move its 25,000-strong bureaucracy away from a culture of “self-preservation.” Tampa Bay Times. A year ago, Okaloosa County residents were hamstrung by a school superintendent they didn’t want and a governor who refused to act. We need to change that. Pat Ryan, Northwest Florida Daily News.

Student enrichment: Lucas Miner, a junior at Ransom Everglades High School in Miami, finished in third place in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. The champion, Avi Gupta, won $100,000, while second-place finisher Ryan Presley won $50,000 and Miner $25,000. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Some Bay County students are getting practical work experience this summer through the nonprofit Bay Youth Summer Work Foundation, which helps place them in local businesses. Panama City News Herald. Nearly 5,500 people volunteered almost 161,000 hours in Marion County schools in 2018-2019. Ocala Star-Banner.

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