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Florida schools roundup: Most schools reopen, testing delay, ESSA and more

Back in session: Most Florida public school districts reopened Monday or are expected to today or tomorrow, according to the Florida Department of Education. School districts are also making decisions on how they’ll make up the time missed for Hurricane Irma. Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-SentinelGradebook. Florida Times-UnionBradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WSVN. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. Students in 48 Florida counties affected by the hurricane will get free meals at school through Oct. 20. News Service of FloridaAssociated PressMiami Herald. Tampa Bay TimesPalm Beach Post. Florida Today. WINK. Daily Commercial. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. In Collier and Lee counties, several child-care centers say they will take in students until schools reopen next Monday. Naples Daily News. Many school signs in south Florida are missing or broken, and officials are urging drivers to slow down and be cautious through school zones. Sun-Sentinel. Florida Virtual School will provide remote access to all students displaced by the hurricane. Governor’s office.

Testing schedule: The Florida Department of Education adjusts its end-of-course exam retakes in biology, civics, U.S. history, algebra I and geometry due to Hurricane Irma. The assessments can begin Sept. 18, but has left the final date open for now. It did the same for the retake of the 10th grade language arts exam. “We will offer as much flexibility as needed,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a memo to superintendents. Gradebook.

ESSA extension: The U.S. Department of Education has granted Florida an extension to file its plan on how it will comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act. The deadline had been Monday, but it’s now Oct. 13. Education officials cited the devastation of Hurricane Irma in extending the deadline. Politico Florida.

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Florida schools roundup: Bright Futures, budget cuts, guns, AP tests and more

Bright Futures: The Senate passes a higher education bill that would allocate $151 million to restore Bright Futures funding to 100 percent and allow recipients to use the scholarships for summer classes. Also in the bill are a scholarship program for migrant workers and their children and an expansion of benefits to National Merit Scholars. Miami Herald. Sunshine State News. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. The bill is a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, but he somehow missed the vote even though he was present in the chamber. He said he intended to vote after the roll call, but it was locked down before he could. Miami Herald.

Education budget cuts: Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., R-Hialeah, says he will release details next week on a pair of House education budget-cutting exercises. One of the plans trims higher education and K-12 spending by $232.7 million, while the other cuts $485 million. Diaz says specific cuts under the plans may or may not be part of the House’s final education budget. Politico Florida.

Guns in schools: Two Republican senators from Miami-Dade can control gun bill votes on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and one of them has publicly stated she opposes the guns in school zones proposal. Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, also opposes several other gun-related bills, but says that doesn’t mean she would oppose any gun bill. Sen. René García, R-Hialeah, says he can’t support any gun bill that doesn’t include a mental health component. Miami Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

AP test improvements: Florida is fourth among U.S. states in the percentage of graduating seniors who passed at least one Advanced Placement exam, and more than half the growth came from low-income students, according to the Florida Department of Education. The percentage of low-income graduating seniors in Florida who passed an AP exam went up 500 percent from 2006 to 2016. redefinED. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Extra pay, middle school marriage and more

florida-roundup-logoPayment questioned: A Broward County School District audit reveals that the district paid a former district police employee about $23,000 over her approved salary in 2015. Jillian Haring was a special assistant to the district police chief, making $60,664. But she was also being paid for other duties that the district did not need, according to the audit. Haring now works in the district’s special education department. Sun-Sentinel.

Middle school marriage: The Bonita Middle School student had an arranged marriage at 13 and was a mother at 14. Now she’s 20, and her 31-year-old husband has been arrested and faces charges of lewd and lascivious behavior. And Lee County school officials are left to wonder how the situation could have gone unnoticed for so long. Fort Myers News-Press.

School choice: At its quarterly meeting, the Florida NAACP debates the role of charter schools. The national NAACP recently passed a resolution calling for “a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.” But there is dissent in the ranks about the issue. WOFL. redefinED.

Magnet programs: While Alachua County’s magnet school programs offer great opportunities for high-achieving students, critics say there are too many barriers for entry for students of different academic backgrounds. School officials say they are working hard to identify and encourage students of all backgrounds to apply. Gainesville Sun.

Legislative priorities: Common Ground, a group of organizations that has called for the end of Common Core standards, now says it wants the Legislature to end the Common Core-aligned Florida Standards Assessments in both English and math. Sunshine State News.

Religion in schools: State Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, writes on her Facebook page that the motivation for filing a bill to protect religious expression in schools is to get prayer back in schools. Daniels is a minister and founder of Kimberly Daniels Ministries International. Florida Politics. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Homework, new tests, spending oversight and more

florida-roundup-logoHomework fight: Miami-Dade teachers and parents spar at a school board meeting over the amount of homework students are being given. Parents say too much is being assigned, cutting into family time. Teachers say the homework is needed because testing takes too much instruction time away from students. Miami Herald.

Testing transformation: Pinellas County school officials say younger students at struggling elementary schools are doing much better in new literacy tests than students in third, fourth and fifth grades. The differences are most apparent on language arts tests. Officials credit the use of biweekly tests, which are helping teachers see how well they’ve taught to the state standards and to catch students’ weaknesses earlier. Tampa Bay Times.

Spending oversight: The Broward County School District is asking the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education to oversee the district’s spending of $800 million it is receiving from a voter-approved bond to renovate schools. Sun-Sentinel.

Students from Cuba: The Miami-Dade County School District is preparing for a “potential influx of child and adult learners” emigrating from Cuba after the death of Fidel Castro on Friday, says Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. CNN.

Education secretary: Betsy DeVos, a strong advocate of school choice with deep Florida ties, is nominated to be President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of education. redefinED. News Talk Florida. Politico Florida. Education Week. Groups that oppose the Common Core school standards are unhappy with the selection of DeVos as education secretary, even though she is now saying she does not support the standards. Sunshine State News. What will education in Florida look like with Donald Trump as president? Tampa Bay Times.

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Florida schools roundup: Common Core, school threats, SAC funds cut and more

florida-roundup-logoCommon Core: National support for the Common Core State Standards has fallen to the lowest level in five years, according to a report iEducation Next, a journal published by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Education Policy and Governance. Only about 42 percent of those polled support the standards, down from 90 percent in 2012. The report also shows that support remains as high as ever for testing, charter schools, tax credits to support private school choice, merit pay for teachers and teacher tenure reform. Sunshine State News.

School threats: School officials struggle to stay ahead of rumors and social media when it comes to online threats made against schools. Tampa Bay Times. Parents of students at Coral Springs High School are questioning how a former student could get on campus with a loaded gun. District officials say the school does not have a limited access single point of entry, which they plan to address with proceeds from an $800 million bond referendum, but there are no guarantees that it can’t happen again. Sun-Sentinel.

Money for SACs cut: The Hillsborough County School District has cut funding for school advisory committees, saying it has run out of money for the programs. SACs help districts put together improvement plans and vote on how to spend school bonuses. Tampa Bay Times.

Opt-out and election: Members of the Opt-Out Florida Network create a voter guide outlining candidates’ positions on state testing, and are campaigning for those who also oppose the state’s use of the Florida Standards Assessments. WFSU. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: SAT scores, homeless, address checks and more

florida-roundup-logoSAT scores: National and Florida SAT scores have dropped between 1 and 6 percentage points in reading, writing and math this year from last, according to the College Board. Miami-Dade County bucked the trend, with scores for graduating seniors up in all three areas. Miami Herald. Lee and Collier students perform better this year on the SAT than they did a year ago, and stand above state averages. Fort Myers News-Press. Volusia County students’ SAT scores rose, while Flagler’s fell. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student homelessness: There are almost twice as many homeless students in Treasure Coast counties this year than there were five years ago. St. Lucie, Indian River and Martin counties count 1,282 homeless students this year, up from 739 in 2010-2011. In Martin County, the number has more than tripled in that time. TCPalm.

Address checks: As school districts turn to rezoning to solve overcrowding at certain popular schools, parents are lobbying districts to first crack down on those who are attending schools using false addresses. In Broward County, one such check found 60 children with address discrepancies – enough to avoid rezoning schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Opt-out winner: Brandy Paternoster of Broward County talks about her successful legal fight against the school system to get her two children promoted to fourth grade after they opted out of the Florida Standards Assessments tests. Sun-Sentinel.

Desegregation talks: Plaintiffs in the 50-year-old desegregation case against the Pinellas County School District say they’re frustrated by the lack of progress in discussions with school officials. They say the district is slow to get them student performance data, and then slants its summaries to make the district look better. Tampa Bay Times.

Bush on education: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talks about charter schools, Common Core, school spending and integration in a Q&A. The 74. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Education budget boost, teacher shortage and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation budget: The Florida Board of Education is requesting that the state increase per-pupil spending from $7,183 this year to $7,359 next year, with the overall budget increasing about 3.4 percent to $20.9 billion. The proposal would kill the current teachers bonuses program and create a new $43 million plan, and boost funding for Bright Futures scholarships by $29 million. If approved at today’s meeting, the request goes to Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature. News Service of Florida.

Teachers needed: More than a month after school has started, several central Florida school districts are still trying to fill almost 100 open teaching positions. Orange County has 62 openings, Lake 22 and Seminole 11. Orlando Sentinel.

Cash gift for teachers: The mayor of Parkland wants to give $25,000 of the city’s money to give to teachers as a gift. With matching grants, the gift money could grow to $45,000. Sun-Sentinel.

School grades: Some Florida schools improve their grades from the state after appealing the grades they were originally given. Gradebook. Virtual schools in Florida are among those to receive final letter grades from the state. redefinED. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: No homework, school choices, recess drive and more

florida-roundup-logoNo homework: Mandatory homework is out at Henry S. West Laboratory School, a public K-8 in Coral Gables. School officials say students will no longer be graded on homework or penalized if they don’t finish the optional assignments. Principal Barbara Soto Pujadas says the school’s families are overstressed and overscheduled. Miami Herald.

Neighborhood schools: The concept of neighborhood schools is shrinking, as school choice, magnet schools and charter schools give students and their parents more options than the school around the corner. More than 130,000 south Florida students are now in charter schools, which is double the number from a decade ago. And next year, parents can send their children to any public school in the state that has space available. Sun-Sentinel.

Recess for schools: Duval County parents start a petition drive to have 20 minutes of recess every day in every elementary school in the county. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is resisting, saying he doesn’t want to force the requirement on teachers even as he is encouraging them to accept research that says students do better academically if they get free time. Florida Times-Union. Associated Press. Continue Reading →