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Florida schools roundup: Magnet schools, charters, Common Core & more

Magnet schools: A Broward County high school’s Aerospace Technologies and Design program teaches students to design, build and fund rocket-building projects, just like NASA. Sun Sentinel. Once a struggling school, this Palm Beach County magnet has become one of the premier public high schools in the country. Palm Beach Post. A new Advanced Placement Academy challenges traditional students to push themselves further. Fort Myers News-Press.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools: The Orange County school system is investigating a charter school that wrongly threatened to dismiss students for failing the FCAT. Miami Herald. A Marco Island Charter Middle School student wins an essay contest, and a college education. Naples Daily News. Pasco’s superintendent recommends approving a charter for students with learning disabilities. Tampa Bay Times. Pinellas and Pasco school districts plan to oppose the new law requiring standard contracts for charter schools. The Tampa Tribune.

Dual language: The Palm Beach County school district brings in 15 teachers from Spain to help the district’s dual language program for the next three years. Sun Sentinel.

Common Core: So far, the Department of Education has received almost 16,000 emails and online comments concerning the new standards, including a 74-page document from former state Board of Education member Roberto Martinez. The Buzz. The Pasco County school board considers adopting a resolution supporting the standards. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher pay: Last-ditch efforts to prevent Orange County teachers from waiting another four months for salary increases appear headed for failure. Orlando Sentinel. Among the 11 largest public agencies in the county, the Polk County School District has the highest percentage of employees that make less than $50,000 a year. The Ledger.

SAT: The average SAT scores for Palm Beach County’s Class of 2013 dips slightly from the previous class of graduates, as did the number of county students taking the college entrance exam. Palm Beach Post. FCAT: A new report from the Pasco school district indicates a steady stream of third-graders have been retained during the past five years because they can’t pass the state test. Tampa Bay Times.

Assessments: Lee County administrators decide to de-emphasize district-created tests, which at one point were worth 65 percent of first-quarter grades in reading and math. Now, they’re worth 30 percent. Fort Myers News-Press. Parents across Southwest Florida are teaming up to fight high-stakes testing in the classroom to ease the pressure placed on their children and teachers. Fort Myers News-Press.

School violence: Among the state’s six largest districts, Duval County Public Schools reported the steepest decline in incidents of violence, threat or disruptions. Florida Times-Union.

Mentoring: Students participating in the Take Stock in Children program commit to remain drug and crime-free, maintain good grades and meet with their mentor weekly. In return, they receive a 2-year tuition scholarship to a Florida state college. Naples Daily News.

Technology: With more investments in classroom technology and a statewide push for online testing, the Pinellas school district is cracking down on security. The Tampa Tribune. Pinellas County Schools distributes about 4,000 laptops to families with third- and fourth-graders at 36 low-income schools as part of a $4 million initiative to curb the digital divide. Tampa Bay Times.

School boards: Hillsborough’s new board attorney likes the debates on the dais. Tampa Bay Times.

Something different: A Lake County teacher uses exercise balls instead of chairs in her first-grade class to help control squirmy students. Orlando Sentinel.

Flags: Brevard County students push for a bill that requires government flags in Florida be made in America. Florida Today.

Drugs: Red Ribbon Week offers teachers a chance to initiate honest classroom discussions about the chronic adolescent problem of drug use. Florida Today.

School buses: The Palm Beach County School District is having a hard time finding a welcoming neighborhood for its big yellow buses. Palm Beach Post.

Conduct: The Broward school district dramatically alters its discipline policies and launches an intervention program to reduce the number of arrests for non-violent offenses that appears to be working. Sun Sentinel. Since the 2013-14 school year began in August, seven people on a national database of sex offenders or predators visited schools on the Treasure Coast. TC Palm.

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BY Sherri Ackerman

Sherri Ackerman is the former associate editor of redefinED. She is a former correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times and reporter for The Tampa Tribune, writing about everything from cops and courts to social services and education. She grew up in Indiana and moved to Tampa as a teenager, graduating from Brandon High School and, later, from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications/news editing. Sherri passed away in March 2016.