School grades improve, top districts, charter schools’ performance and more

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School grades improve: Sixty-three percent of Florida’s schools received grades of A or B from the state and the number of schools getting an F dropped from 35 to 15 in the 2018-2019 school year, the Florida Department of Education announced Thursday in its annual accountability report for schools and school districts. “It is a great day for education in Florida and today’s announcement shows we are on a successful trajectory,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis. Other highlights: the number of A schools increased from 1,043 last year to 1,172 this year, a jump from 31 percent to 36 percent; 81 percent of the schools that received an F grade last year improved by at least one letter grade; and 54 of the state’s 67 school districts received a grade of A or B. The DOE calculates school grades based on up to 11 components, including student achievement and learning gains on statewide, standardized assessments and high school graduation rate. Florida Department of Education. News Service of Florida.

How districts, schools did: The St. Johns County School District is the top-rated among the 67 state districts, according to the DOE report’s accountability points. The rest of the top 10: Gilchrist, Sarasota, Nassau, Lafayette, Okaloosa, Walton, Clay, Collier and Santa Rosa (tied). Twenty-four districts received A grades, with 30 getting a B and 13 receiving a C. Here are reports on districts and schools from around the state. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. WFLA. WTSP. WFTS. Miami Herald. WLRN. WPTV. WPLG. WSVN. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WFTV. WESH. Daily Commercial. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WTLV. Pensacola News Journal. Florida Today. Brevard Times. Fort Myers News-Press. WBBH. WFTX. WINK. Lakeland Ledger. TCPalm (Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie). Bradenton Herald. Naples Daily News. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Ocala Star-Banner. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. WTXL. WCJB. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Northwest Florida Daily News. Panama City News Herald. WMBB (Jackson). WJHG. St. Augustine Record. Charlotte Sun. Keynoter.

Charter schools’ performance: More than half the charter schools in Florida received a grade of A from the state, according to the DOE report, compared with 32 percent of traditional public schools. And 74 percent received an A or B, while 61 percent of traditional public schools did so. “The recent scores showing that charter schools outperformed district-run schools, especially in minority communities, is proof that the charter school model where teachers, parents, and students work collaboratively, and schools are given the freedom to address individual students’ learning needs, is working,” said Lynn Norman-Teck, executive director of the Florida Charter School Alliance. redefinED. Florida Department of Education.

School choice drive: Florida is one of the states that will be targeted by a new lobbying group promoting school choice. The Yes Every Kid initiative, which was begun in June by billionaire Charles Koch, will work to influence state legislatures to push school choice and support charter schools and voucher programs that allow students to attend private schools with public money. “The priority is to go where there is a political appetite to be open to policy change and lean in there,” said Stacy Hock, a Texas philanthropist who has donated to Yes Every Kid. Associated Press.

School start times: Start times are being changed for 19 Polk County schools when classes resume next month. Most of the schools will start and end 15 minutes later so the district can better coordinate bus schedules. “Having a slightly later start — 15 minutes — will help make bus service more efficient and reliable in getting students to school on time, so they can have breakfast and begin their day,” said district spokesman Kyle Kennedy. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter vs. district: The Collier County School Board has agreed to try mediation to resolve its differences with the Mason Classical Academy charter school instead of terminating the school’s contract. An investigation of the school indicated that it had broken the terms of its contract, showed a lack of financial oversight and committed Sunshine Law violations. The school has refused to follow the district’s demand that two board members resign. Naples Daily News.

Holocaust instruction: This week’s controversy over a principal’s refusal to acknowledge the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event” has led many lawmakers to question whether the teaching of it is happening as required by state law. State Rep. Geraldine F. Thompson, D-Windermere, says “it has really not been done,” and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has launched an investigation into what Palm Beach County schools are teaching. Florida Phoenix. News Service of Florida. The Palm Beach County School Board is expected to vote July 24 on Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s recommendation to fire William Latson, the Spanish River Community High School principal who told a parent that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.” Associated Press.

FLVS foundation suspension: The new president and CEO of the Florida Virtual School wants to suspend the operations of the organization’s fund-raising branch and disband the board of directors. Louis Algaze is making the recommendation to the Florida Board of Education, which meets Wednesday to discuss it. No reason was mentioned, other than that Algaze wants to “refocus” the foundation’s operations. The foundation raised about $1.4 million between 2014 and 2016, according to tax records, and most of it was spent on student scholarships and professional development. Politico Florida.

School security: The father of a victim of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been sworn in as an honorary school guardian for the Polk County School District. Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina died at the Parkland school, completed the sheriff’s training program along with four others. “I certainly have a different perspective after graduating than I did before,” said Petty. “Going in, I knew it was a good program but it was academic for me. It’s real now. And I know it’s real.” WFLA.

District addresses audit: Manatee County school officials say they have resolved six of the eight problems pointed out in an April report from the state’s auditor general. Still on the to-do list are improving background screening procedures and correcting improperly calculated salaries by not conducting performance reviews, as required by state law. Bradenton Herald.

Personnel moves: Amity Schuyler, the former chief of staff for the superintendent of Palm Beach County School District, is named to lead Tennessee’s venture into school vouchers. The state plans to start an education savings account program within a year. Schuyler has been deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education since May. Chalkbeat.

District settles lawsuit: The Polk County School District has agreed to pay $19,200 to the mother of an autistic student who was left on a school bus twice in a week. Both times, the 13-year-old boy found his way home. The bus driver and attendant acknowledged not checking the bus before they left the school, Our Children’s Academy in Lake Wales, and resigned. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: The pressure this grading system brings on schools and educators makes us compromise with our core values as educators. That’s just one of the several justifiable reasons why Florida should stop giving a letter grade to our schools. Nabin Timilsina, Orlando Sentinel. Arming teachers, expanding vouchers and helping charter schools are just three of the examples of how far to the right the Legislature turned in the last session. Tampa Bay Times. Why are parents “bailing out” of traditional public schools? Now that I’ve had two children graduate from a private high school, I can offer some insight. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm.

Student enrichment: Serenity’s Grace, a charity started by Serenity Gary, a 14-year-old student at Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, provides food, toiletries and clothing for as many as 1,100 homeless people a week. Orlando Sentinel. A new Lee County kindergarten teacher buying school supplies says she was overwhelmed with gratitude when the man behind her in line picked up the $100-plus check. Fort Myers News-Press.