School suspensions: Florida Education Secretary Pam Stewart is talking with school superintendents about ways to cut down on out-of-school suspensions and on the disparity of suspensions by race. Almost 165,000 students received out-of-school suspensions in the 2014-2015 school year, and about 43 percent of them were black. Black students make up about 23 percent of the state’s student population. “That’s one of the areas that I think will make a huge impact and make a difference and actually improve education in Florida,” Stewart said. Politico Florida.
District’s last choice: The Florida Department of Education rejects a turnaround plan for Jefferson County schools for a third time. The district now has until Feb. 16 to choose from three offered options: It can close the schools, hire an external operator or let a charter company run the district. Jefferson County has just two schools and 700 students. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.
DeVos hearing: In her confirmation hearing to become U.S. education secretary, Betsy DeVos says she will be “a strong advocate for great public schools,” but “if a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child — perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet — we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative.” Associated Press.
Clay suspends testing: New Clay County School Superintendent Addison Davis suspends all district-level assessment testing, effective immediately. He says he wants to give teachers more time with students in the classroom. “This is nothing that is going to hinder their learning,” Davis told WJAX. “It’s just going to provide more time for our teachers to problem-solve, to have small group instruction and to work with our students one-on-one.” Gradebook.
Meetings agenda: School testing and choice will be the focus of next week’s legislative education committee meetings. The House committee will meet Tuesday to discuss “closing the opportunity gap” for low-income students, and the Senate committee will meet Wednesday to discuss ways to cut back on testing. Politico Florida.
Education bills: Two bills are filed in the Florida House that are intended to make college more affordable. One would allow students to use their Bright Futures scholarships to cover summer tuition, and the other increases the number of credit-hours an in-state student can take before incurring a 100 percent tuition surcharge. Both were filed by new Rep. Amber Mariano, R-New Port Richey, a 21-year-old University of Central Florida student. Gradebook. Politico Florida.
Out-of-school suspensions: Orange County School District principals must now consult with their bosses before imposing out-of-school suspensions on students for all but the most serious offenses. The new policy is meant to encourage principals to consider other options. About 1 in 15 Orange students were given out-of-schools suspensions in the 2014-2015 school year, which is slightly higher than the state average. For black students, the rate was 1 in 8. Orlando Sentinel.
School elections: The Manatee County School Board is considering a change in how school board members are elected. The current system elects board members to at-large seats, voted on countywide. Board member Charlie Kennedy wants to change that to single-member districts, arguing that would cut campaign costs and the influence of outside money. Making the change would require a countywide referendum. Bradenton Herald.