Schools’ graduation rate up: Florida’s high school graduation rate hit a record high last spring at 86.1 percent, according to figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Education. That’s 3.8 percentage points higher than the 2017 rate. Also impressive is the improvement made by minority students. Black students graduated at a rate of 81 percent, up from 64.7 percent in 2014, and the rate was 85.1 percent for Hispanic students, up from 75 percent four years ago. “Today’s announcement is particularly important because it not only shows across-the-board progress, it highlights success in closing the achievement gap and leveling the playing field for all students,” said outgoing Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. Florida Department of Education. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Enrollment down: Florida has 17,000 fewer K-12 school students this year than projected, according to a report from the Legislature’s Office of Demographic and Economic Research. The state budget had funding for 2.848 million K-12 students. The revised forecast is 2.831 million, 7,955 more than last year but 17,142 fewer than expected in the 67 school districts. “Most of the revision is due to less than expected net in-migration to the public school system, combined with fewer than expected hurricane-affected students remaining in 2018-19 from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” according to the report. News Service of Florida.
BOE and Corcoran: The Florida Board of Education will consider Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ choice of Richard Corcoran as education commissioner at its just-scheduled Monday meeting. The seven-member BOE is tasked with approving an education commissioner, and in the past has conducted national searches. But BOE chair Marva Johnson and vice-chair Andy Tuck are both on DeSantis’ education transition team, and Johnson has indicated she’s open to DeSantis’ choice. News Service of Florida. Gradebook. Capitolist. WUSF.
School lockdown delay: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School officials were confused over who had the authority to order a lockdown when a school shooter opened fire Feb. 14, leading to a delay of several minutes in declaring a “code red” that orders students to hide behind locked doors, according to district emails. As a result, some students were caught in hallways and shot. Sun Sentinel. Two newspapers ask a Broward County court to make witness interviews from the Parkland school shootings open to the public. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Parkland shooting survivors-turned-activists are among 10 finalists for Time magazine’s 2018 person of the year award. Sun Sentinel. The St. Johns County School District is adding 16 resource officers at schools next month. WJAX.
Cold closing schools: A cold front is expected to bring freezing temperatures and icy conditions into north Florida today. The Walton, Escambia, Jackson, Holmes, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa school districts have closed all schools, and Bay County is limiting after-school activities. Northwest Florida Daily News. WMBB. WEAR. Pensacola News Journal. Destin Log. Panama City News Herald. The Leon County School District won’t be closing schools because of the weather today. Earlier this month the district closed for two days when cold weather, snow and ice moved into the area. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.
Pension payments: Florida school districts will have to contribute an additional $54.4 million into the state pension fund this year, if a bill before the Legislature is approved. The state is forecasting a lower rate of return on the $160 billion pension fund, which would require school districts, colleges, universities, county governments and state agencies to pay a collective $178.5 million to ensure that there’s enough money to pay retirement benefits. News Service of Florida.
Computer coding bill: A bill promoting computer coding in schools, by allowing students to use it to satisfy foreign language requirements, is amended to include a requirement that a set percentage of schools in each district offer computer science courses, and providing financial incentives for teachers to become certified in the field. The amended bill is approved by the Senate Education Committee and now moves to the appropriations committee. Gradebook.
Education budget: In his budget proposal, Gov. Rick Scott wants local school boards to keep property taxes at their current levels so rising property values can produce extra funds for school districts. Florida Education Secretary Pam Stewart concurs, saying it’s the only way districts can get the extra funds they need. But the Florida House balked at that suggestion last year, calling it a tax hike, and is expected to resist again when the Legislature convenes next month. Stewart says the districts need the extra money to supplement what they get from the state and help pay for the influx of students from Puerto Rico and other islands that were devastated by hurricanes. “We’d find ourselves unable to do that (get to the $7,497 per-student spending called for in Scott’s budget) if we didn’t leave the RLE (required local effort) at the current level,” she told members of a Senate education panel. News Service of Florida. WFSU. Florida Politics.
Puerto Rican migration: Quality education is one of the primary motivations for Puerto Rican families moving into Florida, and particularly central Florida, according to Orlando real estate consultant Jose Hoyos. “They say, ‘I am here because these public schools are like the private schools in Puerto Rico,’ ” he says. “They don’t mind working here for $10 an hour because their children are getting a good education.” The number of Puerto Ricans in five central Florida counties (Orange, Osceola, Hillsborough, Polk and Seminole) grew by more than 115,000 between 2010 and 2016, U.S. Census reports show. Orlando Sentinel.
Reporting sexual abuse: The Miami-Dade County School Board approves a program to help students at all grade levels to spot inappropriate sexual behavior, and how to report it, and to help parents spot signs of sexual abuse in their children. The board sets a February deadline for having a completed plan on classes and communication. Miami Herald.
Finding gifted students: Educators from Washington state are looking to the Miami-Dade School District as a model for increasing and diversifying the students who are accepted into gifted programs. Miami-Dade uses a two-tier system to determine gifted eligibility: middle-class and affluent students need IQ scores of at least 130, while low-income children or English-learners can get in with scores of 117 if they demonstrate creativity and academic achievement. Plan B was approved by the Florida Legislature in 1991, though not many districts use it because of the expense. Seattle Times.