In the Legislature: A bill requiring a moment of silence every morning in all Florida K-12 schools was approved Tuesday by the House Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee. Educators would also be required to “encourage parents or guardians to discuss the moment of silence with their children and to make suggestions as to the best use of this time.” The bill’s sponsor is state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. An identical bill , filed by state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, was approved earlier this month by the Senate Education Committee. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. CPR training would become a requirement for all Florida students under a bill approved Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee. All students in the 9th and 11th grades would take a one-hour training course, and those in the 6th and 8th grades would take a basic first aid course. Capitol News Service. The state’s child welfare system would undergo procedural changes under a bill that was approved Tuesday by the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, including making “every effort … to keep a child in the school of origin.” Florida Politics. All state high schools could choose to join the Florida High School Athletic Association on a single-sport basis under a bill approved Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee. Capitol News Service.
Around the state: Mid-year testing data in Duval County shows little difference in student achievement between those learning in-person and those attending school remotely, while Orange County data shows remote learners are lagging, Putnam’s school board approves a 10-year plan to close some schools and build others to align classroom seats with enrollment, Hernando voters may be asked to change from an appointed superintendent to an elected one, personal information about Lee County school employees is posted on Facebook for about two days, and four trained dogs are sniffing the FIU campus for signs of the coronavirus. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: Raquel Carvajal, a math teacher at the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Coconut Grove, died Tuesday of complications from the coronavirus. She had battled the virus for months, and been in and out of the hospital since November. The state’s largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, claims that at least 37 state teachers have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began about a year ago through Feb. 12. WTVJ.
Hillsborough, Pasco: The Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz has raised more than $38,000 to pay off lunch debts for all high school juniors and seniors in Hillsborough County, and for every K-12 student in Pasco County. Ken Whitten, Idlewild’s senior pastor, said the church wanted to help local families during the pandemic. WFLA. WFTS.
Orange: Students learning remotely are not doing as well as those getting face-to-face instruction, according to Scott Howat, the district’s chief communications officer. He said the remote learners are being encouraged to return to classrooms to try to close the gap. “We’re looking to really help all students who’ve experienced learning loss because they were either at home and not face-to-face, or those that are even face-to-face that are struggling as well,” Howat said. “We’re going to do everything we can to invest our resources to make sure we’re taking care of their academic needs.” Spectrum News 13.
Duval: Mid-year testing data shows little difference in student achievement between those learning in-person and those attending school remotely, according to the school district. Overall, math scores are down slightly from last year, which follows a nationwide trend, according to Superintendent Diana Greene. As of Jan. 5, 82,338 students were learning in classrooms, while 24,032 were attending schools remotely. “Despite the challenges of learning during a pandemic, I am glad to see that overall our students don’t seem to be suffering academically this school year,” said school board chair Elizabeth Andersen. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WOKV. The first four community meetings to discuss the renaming of schools were held Tuesday night. Nine schools would be renamed, and meetings will be held this month and in March to collect community input. Most of the schools are named for figures from the Confederacy. The school board is expected to vote on the proposal in May or June. WJAX. WJXT.
Lee: Personal information about 11,000 school employees was posted to Facebook by a man who said he wanted people to know how much money those workers made. He said he didn’t intend to post personal information such as addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth, but that’s what the school district provided when a public records request was made. The man removed the records after they had been online for about two days. WFTX.
Hernando: Voters may soon be asked to switch from having the school board appoint a superintendent to having the voters elect one. State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, has proposed a local bill that would place that question before voters in 2022. It’s been endorsed by the county’s legislative delegation, and Ingoglia said the next step is to file the bill. If it’s approved by the Legislature this spring, the first election for a superintendent would be in 2026. Hernando voters last chose a superintendent in 1988 before deciding to switch the job to an appointed position. Tampa Bay Times.
Putnam: In a 3-2 vote, school board members approved a district plan that would include closing several schools and building nine new ones over the next 10 years. Superintendent Rick Surrency said the district has too many schools for too few students, and needs a realignment to reduce expenses. When the plan is completed, schools will be either K-6 or grades 7-12. The district is eligible for state funding to build the schools, he said, but will also have to ask voters to approve a referendum. The schools scheduled to close are Jenkins and Miller middle schools, E.H. Miller School and the C.L. Overturf Jr. 6th grade center. WJXT. WJAX.
Apprenticeship grants: Fourteen K-12 school districts, two universities, eight state colleges and 13 organizations that provide career training have been selected by the state to share $10 million from a Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities grant. WTXL. WMFE.
Colleges and universities: Four trained dogs now patrol the Florida International University campus in Miami to detect the scent of the coronavirus. University provost Ken Furton said the dogs are trained by using discarded personal protection equipment worn by patients diagnosed with the virus, and have a success rate of about 90 percent. WFTS. A former Daytona State College professor is suing the school for wrong termination, saying his alcoholism is a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Faculty members at Pensacola State College are protesting what they call unsafe working conditions. They contend the college isn’t doing enough to keep them and students safe during the pandemic. WEAR.
Race and education: A new website named Black Minds Matter advocates school choice as a solution to racial injustice in public schools. redefinED. A recent study has shown that minority students are less likely to be identified for special education classes than whites with a similar socioeconomic status. It suggests that a more nuanced approach should be considered to correct disproportionality and promote equitable treatment for minority students. Education Next.
Around the nation: Massachusetts is changing the state law mandating that each school have at least one school resource officer, leaving Florida and Maryland as the only states with similar laws still in force. Florida’s requires at least one armed resource officer in every K-12 school. The Appeal. A new report suggests that the difference between an above-average principal and a below-average one could be as much as three months of learning gains for students in a single school year. Similar studies have shown that replacing a below-average teacher with an above-average one could add nearly four months of learning. Education Week. President Joe Biden said he’s optimistic that most elementary schools will be open by the end of his first 100 days in office, but that higher infection risks make it doubtful that most high schools will be. Associated Press. NPR.
Opinions on schools: Micro schools are one of the few educational reforms with much potential for success and little downside. To date, parents are in complete control, the students show very strong achievement scores, the state-mandated curricular standards are fully accomplished, individual needs of students are met, and taxpayers and teachers both benefit. R. Craig Wood and Keith Birkett, Gainesville Sun. Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship for children with special needs offers a flexible spending approach that should be applied to other education scholarships in our state. Keri Zane, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida is one of just four states that don’t allow schools to participate in solar panel leasing programs that can save them money to use for educational needs. Legislators should fix that in the upcoming session. Michele Drucker, The Invading Sea.