Testing shows little change, U.S. says Title IX covers transgender students, six charters denied and more

Tests show little change: Third-graders’ reading test scores this spring suggest that the expected “COVID slide” in learning may not be as bad as predicted. The percentages of students who scored at the level considered as “passing” were unchanged in Hernando County and down only slightly in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco. “We kind of sensed we would see a dip, and we did, but it wasn’t really the dip that it could have been in light of everything we’ve gone through,” said Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning. Participation in taking the tests was also strong, contrary to concerns that many students would opt out. In Hernando, 97 percent of 3rd-graders took the exam, and in Pinellas it was 95 percent. While district officials were happy with the results, they cautioned that this is just one test and represents just 4 percent of the school grade formula. “It’s a snapshot in time of one day,” said Pinellas associate superintendent Kevin Hendrick. “It’s one data point.” The rest of the test results are expected by the end of next month. Tampa Bay Times.

Transgender ruling: U.S. Department of Education officials said Wednesday that the Title IX law protecting sex-based discrimination also covers transgender students. The department’s Office for Civil Rights’ interpretation of the law is a reversal of the department’s position during the Trump administration and sets up a potential confrontation between the federal government and several states, including Florida, that have passed laws banning or restricting transgender females from participating in high school and college women’s sports. “Equity in education means all students have access to schools that allow them to learn and thrive in all aspects of their educational experience,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, the department’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights. “As part of our mission to protect all students’ civil rights, it is essential that OCR acts to eliminate discrimination that targets LGBTQ+ students.” Politico. The Hill. New York Times. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Hillsborough school board members deny two charter school applications from the Mater Academy and decline to renew the contracts of four other charter schools that enroll about 2,300 students, Broward’s school board passes a resolution opposing the state’s ban on transgender females playing on high school and college women’s sports team, a Leon County high school is finishing up the installation of a blue artificial surface at the school stadium, about 18,000 students at the former ITT Technical Institute will have their federal student loans forgiven, and only 25 people have requested a reprint of the St. Johns County high school yearbook with the original photos of 80-some female students that had been edited for modesty. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School board members unanimously agreed Wednesday to oppose the state’s ban on transgender females participating in high school and college women’s sports. “The School Board of Broward County prides itself on being welcoming, affirming, and inclusive for all students, including all members of the LGBTQ+ community,” the proclamation states. “Transgender youth are among the most misunderstood and marginalized within our schools and community.” Board members acknowledged that the proclamation is symbolic, and that they still must follow the law. Sun Sentinel. A construction worker died Wednesday when he fell from a ladder and hit his head at Northeast High School in Oakland Park. The sheriff’s office and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating. WPLG. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: School board members denied charter school applications from the Mater Academy, which wanted to build two schools in the eastern part of the county, and declined to renew the contracts of four other charter schools that enroll about 2,300 students. The board also gave Sunlake Academy of Math and Science in Lutz a five-year contract extension instead of the 10 years it wanted. The actions marked a philosophical change for the board, which has long been seen as friendly toward charters, and sets up a potential showdown since the schools can appeal the decisions to the state Department of Education. The board members’ votes focused broadly on the $250 million-a-year financial impact charters have on the district. “It’s really important that we don’t continue to approve charters because of fear of litigation,” said board member Nadia Combs. “If we stop five or six charters from coming here, we’re saving the district millions and millions of dollars.” Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: The school district has chosen not to renew a contract for a Lehigh Elementary preschool teacher who was accused of physically restraining three students, including a 4-year-old nonverbal autistic child, in February. The teacher was given a three-day suspension without pay and a letter of reprimand by the district. WBBH.

Manatee: Residents have less than a week to suggest a new name for the Lincoln Memorial Academy, a former charter school in Bradenton that was taken over by the district in 2019 after allegations of mismanagement and financial problems. Before the school was turned into a charter, it was Lincoln Memorial Middle School, a name that has drawn the most nominations from residents. The school board will hold a public hearing on the issue Tuesday, then vote on a new name. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: No charges will be filed against a former dean and a school guardian who were filmed dragging a 6-year-old student down a Eustis Heights Elementary School hallway in March, the state attorney’s office has announced. Both school employees resigned soon after the incident. WESH.

St. Johns: Only 25 requests have been made to get a reprint of the Bartram Trail High School yearbook, according to the school district. The printer offered books with the original photos of 80-some female students in place of ones with those photos edited for modesty. WJXT.

Clay: At a workshop meeting this week, school board members were presented with two options to address overcrowding at Keystone Heights Elementary School in Fleming Island: Build a new school on a 9-acre site near the school for about $23 million, or renovate the existing school for about $15 million. The board will continue the discussion at its next regular meeting June 24. Clay Today.

Leon: Like many high schools in the county, Rickards High is installing artificial turf in its stadium. But unlike the others, Rickards’ will be blue. “It was different,” said head football coach Quintin Lewis. “Everyone was going to get a turf field, let’s get something that’ll be special.” The school had to get permission from Boise State University, which has trademarked “the color blue as applied to artificial turf.” WTXL. A handful of parents is asking the school board to reconsider its recent decision to make face masks optional. The parents cited the CDC still recommending masking, the discovery of new COVID variants and that children under 12 still cannot receive vaccinations. The board took no action on the request. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: A proposal to simply redraw school board district boundary lines so that board member Diyonne McGraw’s home is moved to the district that she represents is illegal and unethical, said the plaintiffs in a suit challenging McGraw’s right to sit on the board. McGraw lives in District 4 but ran and won the school board election for the District 2 seat last November. Gainesville Sun. Students breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday after the last day of a school year marked by masks, remote learning, quarantines, vaccinations and everyday lessons in technology. Many commended their teachers and administrators for coping with the coronavirus and still giving them attention. Gainesville Sun.

Hendry: The Clewiston principal who faces state sanctions for paddling a 6-year-old Central Elementary School student in April had also paddled at least two other students, according to school district documents. Those records show that Melissa Carter was placed on administrative leave with pay for two days, then suspended in April during the district’s investigation. She agreed to surrender her paddle and signed an oath that she would not paddle another student. Carter was reappointed to her position by the school board on the same day that the state put her on notice that she could be sanctioned for her actions. WINK.

Colleges and universities: About 18,000 students from the former ITT Technical Institute will have the $500 million in federal student loans they took out forgiven by the U.S. Department of Education. The school lied about about job prospects and the ability of students to transfer their credits to another institution, according to the department. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press. At their meeting today, Florida State University trustees are expected to approve a $700,000-a-year, five-year contract for president-elect Richard McCullough. Tallahassee Democrat. The University of Florida and the University of South Florida are among the top 15 schools in the world in the number of U.S. patents granted last year, according to a report from the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. UF was 11th and USF 15th. Three other Florida universities also made the top 100. Tampa Bay Times. Three Stetson University students have been awarded Fulbright grants to study abroad, nearly doubling the number of school winners over the past six decades. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Gulf Coast State College in Panama City will use the $23 million it is receiving from the state budget to replace its 60-year-old science building. Panama City News Herald. Part-time instructors at Valencia College in Orlando have voted to unionize. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE.

Around the nation: The U.S. House has joined the Senate in overwhelmingly approving a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday. President Biden is expected to sign it, making June 19 the 12th federal holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that black Americans learned they had been emancipated. Associated Press.

Education podcasts: Indiana state Rep. Bob Behning talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about his state’s choice bill, which created a $10 million education savings account program for students with special needs, and the future of choice expansion opportunities. redefinED.

Speaking about choice: Daniel Martinez, the newly named coalitions director of the LIBRE Initiative and a former aide to state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, talks about the grassroots organization’s push for educational choice and, ultimately he says, universal choice. “Really, it’s about the erasing of district lines,” he said. “The money should follow the students.” redefinED.

Opinions on schools: I am disheartened by implications circulating in the state and national news that the controversial critical race theory is being taught in Sarasota County schools. It is not. Instead of focusing our collective energy on convoluted politics or on creating “solutions” to issues that don’t exist in our school district, let’s concentrate on providing the high-quality education and incredible opportunities that our students richly deserve. School Superintendent Brennan Asplen, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Two central Florida school districts, Orange and Seminole, are doing remarkable work preparing students for our nation’s technological renaissance. Paul Cottle, Orlando Sentinel.

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