Testing investigation: Six conservative legislators are calling on the Florida Department of Education to investigate whether three school districts deliberately limited the number of low-performing 7th-graders taking the state end-of-course civics exam in order to earn better school grades from the state. Sen. Dennis Baxley and Reps. Jason Fischer, Michael Bileca, James Grant, Bob Rommel and Jennifer Sullivan, all Republicans, and the Florida Coalition of School Board Members suggest that the Duval, Manatee and Polk districts limited the number of struggling students taking the test in order to boost the grades of schools and keep charter schools from moving in under the Schools of Hope law. District officials say they are simply having many of the struggling students take the test as 8th-graders, when they might be better prepared, which state law allows them to do. Gradebook. redefinED.
School security: A school safety agreement is reached between the Sarasota County School Board and Sheriff Tom Knight. The district will pay 80 percent and the sheriff 20 percent of the $1.6 million for 11 deputies to cover 10 schools, plus a lieutenant and two sergeants. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. More than 100 people have applied to become armed guardians to protect Manatee County schools. Most have law enforcement or military backgrounds, officials say. About 40 will be hired. Bradenton Herald. The city of Clermont agrees to provide resource officers for three elementary schools and a K-8 charter school. The Lake County School District will pay the city $279,653 for the officers, and a one-time fee of $211,280 for equipment, including new police cars. Daily Commercial. A coalition of law enforcement groups is looking at ways to make schools safer. The initiative is led by Max Schachter, whose son Alex died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Feb. 14. Schachter’s group, Safe Schools for Alex Foundation, organized the meeting of the eight groups after he discovered there is no nationally recognized list of recommendations to improve school security. Sun-Sentinel. As individual districts work to meet the state mandate for an armed guard in every school, the Florida Department of Education is working to finish setting up its Office of Safe Schools to coordinate the security efforts. Damien Kelly, formerly a public corruption inspector for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is its director. WFSU.
School grades improve: The number of Florida schools getting a grade of A or B from the state this year is up 2 percentage points, from 56 to 58 percent, according to the Florida Department of Education’s annual report. The state also says the number of schools receiving a D or F dropped a percentage point, from 8 to 7 percent, and 96 percent of the schools that got an F last year moved up at least one grade. More than 3,200 schools were graded, and 1,027 received an A. Districts were also graded, and 53 of the 67 got an A or B, up from 48 last year. The grades are calculated with an 11-category formula that includes student achievement, learning gains on state tests and high school graduation rates. Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Here are reports from individual school districts: Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Palm Beach, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Brevard, Leon, Sarasota, Manatee, Highlands, Lee, Collier, Lake, Alachua, Marion, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, St. Johns, Clay, Nassau, Baker, Hernando, Volusia, Flagler, Bay, Escambia, Citrus, Jefferson, Gadsden. No Florida charter school will be closed, since none received back-to-back F grades from the state. redefinED.
Ruling hits unions: The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that public labor unions, such as teachers unions, cannot compel workers who do not wish to join to pay dues to support for collective bargaining. Forcing dissenting employees to pay dues to a union is a violation of First Amendment protections, wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito for the majority. The case, Janus v. AFSCME, overturned a precedent set in the 1970s that allowed unions to collect dues for contract negotiations and other labor activities from workers who didn’t join. You can read Wednesday’s decision here. The 74. New York Times. Associated Press. Tallahassee Democrat. Chalkbeat. Education Week. Politico. More on the decision and the possible ramifications. The 74.
School security: The Florida Department of Education and the Attorney General’s Office are collaborating to build a suspicious activity reporting app for students and others that would allow them to anonymously report “unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities” to local law enforcement. The app, called Fortify FL, is scheduled to be launched before the beginning of the next school year. Tampa Bay Times. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Task Force wants “as many security enhancements in place before the start of the school year,” says member Max Schachter, whose son Alex died in the shootings Feb. 14 at the school. He says the task force is developing short-term and long-term solutions in perimeter security, cameras, doors, locks and glass, and predicts metal detectors will be in place at the school in the fall. Sun-Sentinel. Security needs are putting a strain on the Broward County School District budget, and 35 administrative positions are eliminated as the district tries to close a $13.6 million deficit. Sun-Sentinel. Bradford County deputies begin training 16 school employees who volunteered to carry guns at schools under the state’s guardian program. WJXT. Sarasota County School Board chairwoman Bridget Ziegler wants to meet with local law enforcement officials to clarify their partnership as the district prepares to start its own police department. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Thirty-five people died in school shootings during the 2017-2018 school year. Education Week.
Portable classrooms coming: The 25 classrooms that are now closed because of the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High will be replaced by portables this summer, according to school officials. Superintendent Robert Runcie says most, if not all of the classrooms will be in place by Aug. 8, when teachers return to school. The school board approved a $2.5 million contract for the replacement portables and 17 others. The building where the shootings took place will be torn down after confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz’s trial. Sun-Sentinel.