Florida roundup: Teacher bonuses, single-gender schools and more

IMG_0001.JPGTeacher bonuses challenged: The state’s program for teacher bonuses is being challenged by Tallahassee lawyer Ronald G. Meyer, who says the award is being unfairly withheld from many deserving teachers, including three in Sarasota. The complaint will be heard by an administrative judge from the state Division of Administrative Hearings. Naples Daily News.

Single-gender schools: Do children — especially those struggling in school — perform better academically when separated by gender? Single-gender schools are controversial, but the number of them is growing quickly. Utah is studying the success of Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy in Tampa. Deseret News.

School’s use of restraints: Carlton Arms Education Center, a private school outside Mount Dora that specializes in teenagers and adults with serious intellectual and developmental disabilities, put its clients in mechanical restraints 28,000 times in less than five years. The school is owned by AdvoServ, which cares for 700 disabled children and adults at 77 facilities in three states. ProPublica.

Church vs. state: Pasco County school officials say some teachers are misinterpreting district policies and federal guidelines and wrongly limiting students’ religious rights. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter schools:  An analysis by the Associated Press shows that charter schools in 30 districts have closed after receiving as much as $70 million in state taxes since 2000. Associated Press, via Tampa Tribune. A state program that helps charter schools pay for classroom space and equipment has given more than $9 million since 2001 to Palm Beach County charters that later shut down, state records show. Palm Beach Post. In Alachua County, the state lost $1.2 million when seven charters closed. Gainesville Sun. In Miami-Dade, about $7.5 million in state money went to charters that closed. Miami Herald. Marco Island Middle Charter School’s partnering with the Collier County district to build a school is an example of how the charter-district relationship should be structured. Naples Daily News. Two Pinellas County charter schools are being closely watched by school officials after parent complaints, academic problems and concerns about the schools’ financial practices. Tampa Bay Times.

School improvements: A year-long program to identify at-risk middle and high school students in Hillsborough County and bolster their performance with the use of success coaches reports mixed results. Attendance is up and referrals are down, but only 45 percent of the middle school students are showing academic gains. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa’s Greco Middle School is seeing improvements in teacher retention and student discipline after making an effort to get students more involved in school activities. Tampa Tribune. Volusia County school officials create a three-year strategic plan, with goals on achievement, curriculum, financial management and more. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

No Child effect: School testing in Florida won’t change overnight, if it does at all, just because the No Child Left Behind Act has been updated. Here’s how the new law will affect the state. Palm Beach Post. WTSP.

Recess revival: Parents in Pinellas County are joining those around the state calling for a return of recess in elementary schools. A bill has been filed in the Legislature that would make recess mandatory, and some counties are moving ahead with their own plans. Tampa Bay Times.

Pledge of Allegiance: The Santa Rosa County’s state legislative delegation is holding a public hearing Tuesday to hear what residents think about saying the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms. Pensacola News Journal.

School vans unusable: The Nassau County School District paid more than $100,000 for four passenger vans it cannot use because they don’t comply with state safety regulations. The vans will be sold at auction. First Coast News.

School board scrutiny: Volusia County School Board members are adapting to increasing scrutiny and criticism about what they do and don’t do. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School lockdowns: After the latest threat, Palm Beach County school officials urge students to not panic and parents to talk with their children about the use of social media. Palm Beach Post.

Schools and homeless: Sarasota County’s plan to build a homeless shelter near Booker High and Booker Middle schools is a concern for many parents. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. An old elementary school in Volusia County may be turned into a homeless shelter. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Anti-bullying: After hearing complaints from parents about bullying in schools, Lake County school officials are considering an anti-bullying task force. Daily Commercial.

Profanity and prep sports: Why is there so much profanity in middle and high school sports? Related stories are found here, here and hereNorthwest Florida Daily News.

Educators in trouble: Two Duval County educators, a teacher and a dean, are suspended. The teacher is accused of pinching a student’s arm hard enough to leave bruises, and the dean allegedly made sexist and racist comments to female staff and students. Florida Times-Union. A former teacher’s aide at Highlands Grove Elementary School in Lakeland who just pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to have sex with a child under the age of 12 has been found dead, an apparent suicide. Lakeland LedgerTampa Tribune.

Schools and courts: A former volunteer coach for the East Lake High boys basketball team is arrested and accused of child abuse and child pornography. Tampa Bay Times. A longtime maintenance worker in the Palm Beach County School District is arrested and charged with grand theft and fraud by a public servant for claiming overtime while doing personal chores. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: The unequal administration of punishment by race in Pinellas County schools is a disturbing problem. Tampa Bay Times. The revised No Child Left Behind Act may not improve education. Council on Foreign Relations. Integrating arts education into science, technology, engineering and math programs is a pivotal decision by the U.S. Congress. Sun-Sentinel. Superintendent Diana Greene’s steady leadership is healing the Manatee County School District after previous problems. Bradenton Herald. It’s disappointing that Lee County school officials asked non-parents to leave a public meeting to discuss a new high school in Bonita Springs. Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: The Escambia County School District receives a $100,000 grant from the Sansing Foundation to increase computer science instruction to all grades. NorthEscambia.com. The Osceola County School District is the only system in the state with a mobile STEM bus. Osceola News-Gazette. Students at Mills Elementary in Palmetto get retailing experience at the school’s annual shopping mall. Bradenton Herald. Meanwhile, Manatee High School seniors learn about budgeting at the “Big Bank Theory” exercise. Bradenton Herald. The number of students benefiting from the English for Speakers of Other Languages programs is growing quickly. Daytona Beach News-Journal. About 4,500 Orange County students participate in agriscience programs like the one at Colonial High School. Orlando Sentinel. Project Elevate is integrating arts education with academics at four elementary schools in Sarasota County. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff