Charter students’ performance: Florida charter school students are outperforming their traditional public school peers in nearly every category of achievement, according to a report issued by the Florida Department of Education. Students in charter schools had a higher level of achievement on statewide assessment test in 63 of 77 comparisons, had higher learning gains in 88 of 96 comparisons, and had lower achievement gaps between white and minority students. The results show that “there is simply no denying that choice works, particularly for minority and low-income students,” says Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. redefinED. Gradebook. Florida Politics. Florida Daily. Florida Department of Education. Traditional public schools have higher percentages of students in poverty, so is the analysis fair? Florida Phoenix.
Book-banning bill tempered: The House PreK-12 Quality committee has watered down the language in a bill introduced to remove books with “pornography” from public schools. H.B. 855 had drawn opposition from school leaders and science advocates who called it censorship and an infringement of the rights of local school officials to decide on what materials they could use. The streamlined version removes provisions criminalizing the purchase of materials that are found to be “unacceptable,” language that separates literature from pornography, and changes the textbook challenge process to keep the decision in the hands of the local school boards. Gradebook.
Board term limits: A bill that would place the issue of local school board term limits on the Florida ballot has been approved by a second House subcommittee. The vote was 11-4 in favor, mostly along party lines with Republicans supporting it, though members from both parties called for some changes. The Senate version of the bill has yet to receive a committee hearing. The bill would limit board members to eight years in office. It would require approval by 60 percent of both chambers to make the 2020 ballot, then 60 percent of Florida voters to be added to the Constitution. News Service of Florida. Gradebook. Florida Politics.
School security: Broward County School Board members approve policies designed to address safety flaws that were criticized after the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. All schools will have to identify corners in every classroom for students to hide safely in, and all school employees will be required to call a “Code Red” emergency if they see or hear anything threatening student safety. Sun Sentinel. WLRN. WPLG. Court cases provide guidance on the liability of schools and districts in keeping students safe. Education Dive.
Appointments retracted: Gov. Ron DeSantis has rescinded the appointments of Andrew Pollack and Thomas Grady to the Florida Board of Education. Pollack, whose daughter Meadow and 16 others died in last February’s shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and Grady had been appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott in the final days of his term. Pollack says he thinks DeSantis will reappoint him. DeSantis also canceled 44 other late Scott appointments. WLRN. Sun Sentinel. Gradebook. Fort Myers News-Press.
Audit requested: An audit of the Manatee County School District’s home-school records shows improved accounting of students who withdrew from traditional schools, but no follow-up to see if those students were actually being home-schooled. Another audit to answer that question is being planned. The state Department of Education has accused interim Superintendent Cynthia Saunders of inflating graduation rates by having district employees code students who were dropping out to pursue a GED degree as “withdrawn to home education.” Saunders could be sanctioned by the DOE. Bradenton Herald. Manatee County School Board members say they were not informed by Saunders or by former superintendent Diana Greene that Saunders was under investigation by the state. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Education lawsuit dismissed: A nearly 10-year-old lawsuit alleging that the state has failed to live up to its constitutional duty to fund a “high quality” K-12 public education system has been dismissed by the Florida Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision. The court majority upheld a lower court ruling that the phrase “high quality education” is not defined in the constitution, and what it does mean is a political question, not a judicial one. The court “lacks the institutional competence — or the constitutional authority — to make the monumental funding and policy decisions that the petitioners (the plaintiffs) and the dissenters seek to shift to the judicial branch. And there is not a hint of any manageable judicial standards to apply in making those decisions,” wrote Chief Justice Charles Canady. The group Citizens for Strong Schools filed the suit in 2009 and lost at the circuit court and appeals court levels. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. Politico Florida.
Choices for Florida BOE: Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, is one of two people appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Florida Board of Education. The other is Thomas Grady, a Naples lawyer and former state representative. Both will serve until Dec. 31, 2022. They were among 76 appointments Scott made last week on his way out of office. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. Gradebook. Politico Florida.
Safety in schools: Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ public safety advisory team backs the conclusions of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission report, wants law enforcement to have more authority in schools and suggests stiff penalties for schools that miss deadlines or ignore state rules on security. “We need to be unleashed into the schools,” says Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, and “show consequences to the kids so that when they grow up and turn 18, we aren’t actually creating a pipeline to the prison system.” Politico Florida. Florida Politics. The state safety commission report is in and recommendations for improving security for schools have been made. How does the Broward County School District stack up on meeting those recommendations? Sun Sentinel. Orlando area school districts will make changes based on the panel’s report. WKMG. Another Broward deputy is suspended for his actions during the school shooting. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.
Corcoran and accountability: In 2012, then-State Rep. Richard Corcoran supported a plan to require standardized testing for students at private schools that accept tax credit scholarships. Now that he’s education commissioner, though, he’s not commenting on that possibility. Gradebook.