The future of testing, retention options limited, reopening schools, summer camps and more

Future of academic testing: Advocates of less testing for Florida’s K-12 students think the state’s decision this year to cancel its assessments because of the coronavirus outbreak could lead to a future with fewer high-stakes tests. A cofounder of Opt Out Florida, Cindy Hamilton, noted that Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said it was “an easy call” to drop the tests this year to allow for more classroom instruction time. “They already knew it was asking too much,” she said. “Why is it not too much to ask each year?” Tampa Bay Times. U.S. colleges and universities are increasingly dropping the application requirement of SAT or ACT scores for students. The University of California system is the latest, making the decision over its concern about the effectiveness of tests taken in students’ homes this year. At least 80 colleges and universities have recently dropped the requirement, either permanently or for this year, bringing the total to more than 1,200 institutions no longer requiring the tests. Politico. New York Times.

No holding back: Florida parents who were told March 17 by Gov. Ron DeSantis that it was their decision whether schools should retain their children because of the disruption in learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic are now finding out it’s not that easy. Kelly Lee, a Manatee County mother of a 3rd-grader with Down syndrome, felt online learning wasn’t helping her daughter and that promoting her to 4th grade would not be beneficial. But her request to have her daughter repeat 3rd grade was denied after consideration from a retention committee and the principal. “My daughter is struggling and I’m just asking for help,” said Lee. “I don’t see how holding her back is going to cause damage for anybody, and how that would be bad for her.” Bradenton Herald. Washington Post.

Reopening schools: The Bay County School District will give students the option of returning to classrooms next fall, with rules in place to comply with CDC safety guidelines, or attending the Bay Virtual School. Any students who choose the virtual school must remain in it for a full semester. WMBB. The Monroe County School District is proposing to allow parents to choose whether they want to send their children to schools or continue online classes when the next academic year begins in the fall. School officials are planning a back-to-school blend of online and in-person learning with staggered class times, one-way corridors, more outdoor classroom options, changes in the way students gather in large common areas, mandatory hand-washing, use of personal protection equipment, temperature checks and modified bus routes. The plan is subject to change as circumstances require. A task force is considering the proposal. Miami Herald. More than 40 percent of Orange County parents and 50 percent of the school district staff would prefer online learning to continue into the next school year, or that the district use a blended model of online and in-person classes, according to a survey conducted by the district. Orlando Sentinel. Florida’s 12 state universities should adopt controlled, phased-in localized approaches to reopening with strict procedures about wearing masks, testing students and employees, physical distancing and accommodating students and staff who are considered to be at risk of contracting COVID-19, according to the set of guidelines released Friday. The Board of Governors will consider the recommendations at Thursday’s meeting. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. With costs rising to comply with coronavirus safety guidelines and tax revenues dwindling, some U.S. school superintendents are saying they can’t afford to reopen schools next fall. Education Week.

Summer camps get okay: Gov. DeSantis has given the go-ahead for summer camps and youth activities to resume without restrictions. Local organizations and governments will set the rules and guidelines. “I think the data is pretty clear. Kids don’t seem to get infected at the same rates that adults get infected,” he said Friday. “I hope that this will be good for folks over the summer. I really trust parents. I trust the physicians who work with the kids, the local leaders, coaches, camps.” The announcement was made after several counties canceled their summer programs. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times.

Graduation ceremonies: For most people, high school graduations offer a few minutes of excitement in return for a few hours of waiting. But the First Academy in Orlando may have set a new standard last week with a 13-hour graduation ceremony. Each of the school’s 120 graduating seniors had his or her own scheduled ceremony, which included receiving caps and gowns, praying with the headmaster, signing the graduation book, posing for photos and walking alone across a stage to receive a diploma. Orlando Sentinel. After Gov. DeSantis lifted restrictions on youth activities Friday, the Lake County School District announced that traditional graduation ceremonies would be held for each public school. Earlier last week, the district had announced that ceremonies would be either in a drive-in theater style or in a car parade. Daily Commercial. Graduating Okaloosa County seniors will have virtual and in-person ceremonies. Northwest Florida Daily News. Florida graduation ceremonies have included in-person and virtual celebrations, as well as drive-in commencements, car parades and more. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Times-Union.

More on the coronavirus: The Florida Department of Education has refused to release the “Continuity Of Operations Plan” it had before the coronavirus pandemic struck, contending that it falls under the “security and fire safety” exemption to the Florida Sunshine Law requiring government agencies to disclose public business. WTSP. The Escambia County School District has ended its food program for the summer. Pensacola News Journal. A GoFundMe drive has been started by school parents in Alachua County to raise money to buy laptops for distribution to local families, charter schools and social programs. Gainesville Sun. Even as in-person schooling ended when the coronavirus began to spread, therapies and services have continued for Catholic students with special needs. redefinED.

Teaching climate change: A review of climate change lessons in 32 science textbooks from middle and high schools in Florida, California, Oklahoma and Texas showed errors, superficial information and in some cases, no mention of the issue at all. Four climate scientists reviewed the textbooks. Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said many of the books “at least tried to get the science right” and that most errors were minor, but “in a few cases, it was fairly clear that there was little interest in conveying a scientifically correct account, or worse, an active intent to deceive.” The Hechinger Report.

Superintendent search: With five days to go before the application deadline, 12 educators have expressed interest in becoming the next Sarasota County School District superintendent. After the Friday deadline, a 25-member citizens advisory committee will review the applications and make recommendations to the school board. Mitsi Corcoran is the acting superintendent. She took over for Todd Bowden, who resigned late last year after an investigation concluded that Bowden didn’t properly investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by a deputy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun.

School board elections: Dave Miner, who has been a Manatee County School Board member since 2012, has announced he running for re-election to his District 3 seat. Other candidates are the district’s audit committee chair Mary Foreman, activist Shaun Lehoe and former principal Scott Boyes. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The two candidates for the Manatee County School Board District 1 seat, incumbent Gina Messenger and Bridget Mendel, discussed the coronavirus pandemic, the superintendent, district finances, charter schools and more during a virtual debate. They meet in the August primary. Bradenton Herald.

Personnel moves: Two assistant principals have been promoted to lead schools in Pasco County. Colleen Wilkinson was named to the top job at New River Elementary School in Wesley Chapel, replacing Sarah Judd, who is relocating with her family. Amy Denney-Haskdakes, who has been an assistant at Fox Hollow Elementary School, is moving into the principal’s job at Richey Elementary in New Port Richey. She replaces the retiring Keri Allen. Tampa Bay Times.

Coach suspended: The head football coach at Miami Northwestern Senior High School has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations that he held unauthorized, organized team practices last week. Photos have surfaced that reportedly show coach Max Edwards leading a practice last Wednesday at the school. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. The Florida High School Athletic Association announced Friday that high school sports teams could resume workouts the day after classes end or June 1, as long as they follow CDC safety guidelines. WTXL.

Foxes move into school: Foxes took advantage of an Okaloosa County school’s closing for the coronavirus outbreak to take up residence in a campus outbuilding. A trapper hired to remove the fox family from Wright Elementary School in Fort Walton Beach has captured three cubs and an adult, but school officials said there could be four more to evict. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: As Florida begins to reopen and the state universities plan to welcome students back to campus in the fall, we can do so safely by using quick tests to identify who has the coronavirus and — this is key — then relying on members of a community to locate those who might have had contact with the ones who test positive. Dr. William Greenough, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Ten seniors from Citrus County high schools are honored as Golden Citrus Scholars for their academic achievements. Citrus County Chronicle.

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