Statewide testing: Florida Standards Assessments testing begins Monday in schools around the state, a development that has parents of students who have been learning remotely all year bristling with anxiety and anger. They don’t understand why their students should have to risk their health by going to schools to take the tests, but they’re also worried that if their children don’t go to be tested, there could be unwanted consequences such as failing a grade or being denied a diploma. The state has yet to say whether students and teachers will be held accountable for the results. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has said the decision on how the tests are used will be made with “compassion and grace” and will probably be announced in the next week or two. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. WJHG.
More students ‘found’: Another 26,500 unaccounted-for students have been located by Florida school districts, leaving about 22,000 “missing” from schools’ enrollments. Education Estimating Conference economists made the announcement Thursday. At one point enrollment was down by more than 87,000 students statewide, but districts located almost 40,000 of those students in February. The announcement will require adjustments in the Senate’s and House’s budgets, which have set aside more than $300 million in funding for districts if they find missing students. Politico Florida.
In the Legislature: A bill that would place a constitutional amendment on the November 2022 ballot asking voters to eliminate salaries for district school board members was approved Thursday by the House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee. There is no companion bill in the Senate. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. The House overwhelmingly approved a proposal creating a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that says schools and state governments cannot infringe on the rights of parents to make educational and health care decisions for their children. Florida Politics. The House has unanimously passed the Senate’s version of a bill that would require civics education for all high school students. It was amended slightly, so it goes back to the Senate for a final vote and is then expected to move quickly to the governor’s desk. Florida Politics. Associated Press. Lawmakers are considering a pair of bills (S.B. 724 and H.B. 711) that would allow English language-learners to take statewide assessments tests in their native languages. Bay News 9. A bill that would require the state Department of Transportation to define hazardous walking conditions for K-12 students was approved by a House subcommittee. Pensacola News Journal.
Around the state: Nova Southeastern University in Davie becomes the first in the country to require both students and staff to be fully vaccinated before returning to campus next fall, a private Miami-Dade school ran into a parental backlash when it tried to confront racism, a Manatee County School Board member has been hired as acting county administrator and will hold both jobs until he’s replaced on the school board, and the Sarasota County superintendent said closing the achievement gap between white and minority students is his top priority. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: After the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police and the ensuing upheaval last summer, a girls Catholic school in Miami decided to adopt an inclusion policy and amend its mission statement to commit to opposing discrimination and racism. It didn’t go over too well with the parents of the students at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart. More than 150 parents and alumni, including former Florida House Speaker José Oliva and Coral Gables vice mayor Vince Lago, signed a letter to school officials that said the school’s efforts were not compatible with its Catholic foundation. Miami Herald.
Hillsborough: The school district has a new chief financial officer. Romaneir Johnson, who had been working as senior fiscal director for the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, was recently hired to replace Gretchen Saunders. Saunders is now the CFO for the St. Johns County School District. Tampa Bay Times. A 9-year-old was waiting for his school bus to arrive Thursday morning when a vehicle struck him and then drove away. The boy is hospitalized with head injuries. Police are asking for the public’s help to find the driver. Tampa Bay Times. A former fashion design teacher and girls track coach at Bloomingdale High School has pleaded guilty to more than 300 criminal charges related to his secret filming of students undressing at school. Mark William Ackett, 52, will be sentenced May 10. The maximum penalty could be life in prison. WFLA. Tampa Bay Times.
Palm Beach: A 4th-grade teacher at Grove Park Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens has been arrested and charged with soliciting a 2-year-old child. Deputies said Xavier Alexander, 27, who is charged with solicitation of a minor and traveling to meet a minor, is also a babysitter listed on several nanny websites. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WPTV. WPEC.
Manatee: Manatee County School Board member Scott Hopes has been hired as the acting county administrator by county commissioners. He begins the $187,000-a-year job immediately, but will remain on the school board until Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints his successor. Hopes replaces Cheri Coryea, who was forced out of the job in November. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Sarasota: In his state of the schools message, Superintendent Brennan Asplen said he was planning for a more normal school year in the fall, and said his top priority is closing the achievement gap that has persisted in the district. He said the most recent data show 72 percent of white students were proficient or better on a language arts test, compared to 54 percent of Hispanic students and 40 percent of black students. “The gap is not closing … it hasn’t closed over five years,” he said. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun.
Escambia: A social studies teacher and football coach at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola has been arrested and charged with raping and beating a woman. James McCoy, 37, was arrested Monday and has been suspended by the school district. The alleged assault occurred Sunday, police said. Pensacola News Journal.
Clay: School board members have approved a proposal to hire two companies to maintain the district’s athletic fields in Fleming Island. A company had been doing the work since 2012 but without a contract, and some board members worried that the quality of the work would decline if a contract was signed. WJXT.
Leon: A car crash Monday that killed one Chiles High School student has left another brain dead. Makayla Campa, 15, is not expected to survive and her organs will be donated, according to her godparents. Caden Staats, 14, died in the crash, and the driver suffered minor injuries. Deputies are still investigating. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV.
Monroe: More than 2,200 middle and high school students returned to classes fulltime this week, joining elementary students who have been in school five days a week since September. Some students are still learning remotely, and some remain on a hybrid schedule with a couple of days in classes and remote-learning the rest of the week. The state had ordered the district to make fulltime classroom attendance an option for older students. Florida Keys Weekly.
Colleges and universities: Nova Southeastern University in Davie will require students and staff to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Aug. 1 before returning to campus. A spokesman said it’s the first university in the country to require both students and staff to get shots. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ.
About those bonuses: Not everyone is thrilled with Gov. DeSantis’ proposal to use federal coronavirus aid to give all public school teachers and principals $1,000 bonuses. The proposal omits many school employees, and many teachers would prefer the money go into salaries instead of bonuses. “It is simply unacceptable that just part of a staff of a school would be recognized and the other people would be ignored,” said Pinellas teachers union president Nancy Velardi. WFLA. WTSP. WFTX.
Opinions on schools: Critical race theory is not taught in K-12 public schools in Florida. But it is one of those right wing bogeymen like sanctuary cities that do not exist and riots that have not happened that our governor must nonetheless stamp out, a straw man that no effort should be spared to destroy. Mac Stipanovich, Tampa Bay Times. The pension plan that provides retirement benefits to over a million Florida teachers and government workers has over $36 billion in public pension debt. If nothing is done to address this debt and the pension system’s rising costs, Florida will struggle to deliver the benefits that workers are counting on. Raheem Williams, Orlando Sentinel. A serious program to coax more of Florida’s high school students into the most economically robust college majors and career tracks would necessarily involve a campaign to improve high school course-taking in calculus and physics. But there is no such campaign on the horizon. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The events of 2020 proved that civics literacy is vital and that we can’t take democracy for granted. The technology of 2021 proves our newest generations won’t have to. Sylvia Gurinsky, Sun Sentinel. Education choice bills have been filed in more than 30 states, which could make 2021 the “Year of Educational Choice.” Jason Bedrick and Michael Q. McShane, Washington Examiner.