Florida schools roundup: School grades, testing, score reports and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool grades: The Florida Department of Education could issue school grades as early as Tuesday. Many think their meaning will be tainted by the controversy over the Florida Standards Assessments tests, which are a major component of the grades. Tampa Bay Times.

Alternative tests: Education experts are split on the benefits of a proposed bill that would give school districts the choice of using tests like the SAT and ACT instead of the Florida Standards Assessments. Politico Florida.

Score reports: Newly designed reports are meant to make it easy for parents to see how their children scored on state testing. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Sunshine State News.

Education bills: Some of the less-publicized education bills are moving in the Legislature. Here’s a look at a few, and where they stand. Gradebook.

Construction spending: The chairman of the House Education Budget Subcommittee brushes aside school superintendents’ denial that they’re wasting school construction money. Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, says he won’t change his plans to press for more accountability. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. WFSU.

After-school funding: Florida Senate leaders are discussing changes to the state’s after-school programs. They want to increase funding but spread it around to more agencies. Agencies that have been providing after-school services, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Clubs, worry about the effect on their programs. Miami Herald.

School start times: A study in the journal Sleep links later high school starting times to lower rates of tardiness and discipline issues. THE Journal.

Per-student spending: Palm Beach County’s school system spent more per student than any of Florida’s large school districts in the 2012-13 school year, according to a new federal report. Palm Beach Post.

Union vote: Calhoun County teachers file a petition to organize a union. Calhoun is the only county in Florida without a teachers union. Jackson County Floridan.

Sign language teachers: Florida is just one of five states with no standard for sign language interpreter qualifications in K-12 programs. A bill to change that is now moving through the House. WFSU.

Graduation rates: School officials in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties want to boost graduation rates. Experts and school officials say the best way is to closely monitor at-risk students. TCPalm.

Chronic absenteeism: Bay County school officials are worried about students missing too much school. More than half of the system’s students were chronically absent or at risk of being chronically absent during the 2014-2015 school year. Panama City News Herald.

Gifted concerns: The Florida Gifted Network is concerned that word changes in the rules governing gifted education could jeopardize future funding. State officials say the language change won’t affect funding, and say the goal is to expand the service. Gradebook.

Emergency plan: Miami’s Brownsville Middle School launches an emergency response plan that uses color-coded grids to let responders know quickly where to go. Miami Herald.

Land sales: The Volusia County School District is proposing selling two properties that were originally purchased as new school sites. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Magnet expansion: The Palm Beach County School Board will consider placing magnet programs in five schools that are significantly under capacity. Sun-Sentinel.

Charter schools: Two St. Johns County charter schools are expected to get contract renewals, but a third one is closing. St. Augustine Record.

Rezoning issues: Some Stowers Elementary School parents worry the school’s ethnic and economic diversity will be threatened by a proposed rezoning. Tampa Tribune.

Superintendent talk: Polk County School Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy was exonerated last week of legal wrongdoing, but could be a prime topic at Tuesday’s school board meeting. LeRoy was accused of sexual harassment and favoritism by an associate superintendent. Lakeland Ledger.

School calendar: The Collier County School Board will reconsider its decision to start school Aug. 10. Parents and teachers don’t like the earlier start date, and have been lobbying for a review. Naples Daily News.

Call for ideas: More than 100 ideas have been submitted in a contest to find ways to improve kindergarten readiness in Escambia County. The Studer Institute will award $25,000 to the best idea from a school employee and $25,000 for the best recommendation from an individual or group within the community. Pensacola News Journal.

Opt-out survey: Researchers at Columbia University want to survey  parents who have chosen to opt out of school testing for their children. Palm Beach Post.

School bus conversions: Will the Lake County School District save money by converting school buses to compressed natural gas? The Lake County School Board is looking into the possibility. Daily Commercial.

Academic coaches: The Haines City Commission decides not to spend $4,000 a year for academic coaches to athletes at Haines City and Ridge Community high schools. Winter Haven News Chief.

Teacher honored: Jessica Ehlinger is named Clay County’s teacher of the year. She’s a first-grade teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School in Orange Park. Florida Times-Union.

Top virtual educator: Briane Harris is named Florida Virtual School principal of the year. Harris is an instructional leader and principal for the school’s science team. Ocala Star Banner.

Crossing guard honored: Katherine Sasso is named the Florida Department of Transportation’s 2015 school crossing guard of the year. She’s been a crossing guard at Middleburg Elementary School in Clay County four years. Florida Times-Union.

Help for counselor: Colleagues are rallying around Terri Parrish, a guidance counselor at Clay County’s Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High School. Parrish, a paraplegic, is battling an infection that set in after shoulder surgery. Florida Times-Union.

Teachers in trouble: Brown County School Superintendent Robert Runcie is recommending that three teachers be disciplined. One is accused of sleeping in class. Another accused a teacher and her students of cheating in a contest, and a third threatened to crush a student’s skull. Sun-Sentinel. A Bartow High School math teacher is charged with driving under the influence after driving into a concrete mailbox. He had been at the Lake Wales Mardi Gras parade, deputies say. Tampa Tribune.

Guns at schools: Several students are arrested for bringing guns into two Jacksonville high schools Friday. Florida Times-Union.

Social media threats: More threats against schools are being made through social media. Authorities say they tend to take those threats more seriously because it’s easier for the criminals to hide their identities. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: An unfair evaluation process is contributing to the state’s teacher shortage. Sun-Sentinel. The school accountability process needs to be revised. Barbara Jenkins, Orlando Sentinel. Later high school starting times show clear benefits. Corinne Porcher and Jana McConnaughhay, Tallahassee Democrat. It’s good for kids to have the physical activity that recess provides, but mandating recess should not be at the top of a priority list. Joe Brown, Tampa Tribune. Requiring recess is necessary only because the state has required so many other things. Rick Christie, Palm Beach Post. The investigation into the action of Polk School Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy is over, but the questions are just beginning. Lakeland Ledger. The Alachua County School District needs to address teacher morale problems. Gainesville Sun. The Volusia County School Board has not made a case that requiring school uniforms is vital to improving schools. Scott Kent, Daytona Beach News-Journal. If students are forced to take the Pledge, are they really showing allegiance? Tony Moon, Pensacola News Journal. I seem to be more anxious about the SAT than my high school junior. But, he assures me, there’s an app for that. Robin Sussingham, WUSF. The discussion of educational priorities needs to be broader than computer coding vs. a foreign language. Paul Cottle, Tallahassee Democrat. A property on the Imperial Parkway in Bonita Springs is the best location for a new high school. Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: More than 100 high-school and middle-school students brainstorm ideas for community service. Students from 10 schools are participating in the Reclaiming Young Black Males for Jacksonville’s Future program. Florida Times-Union. Students at Goodyear Elementary School have a week full of fund-raising planned to help for classmate Elijah Keith Tanner. Elijah, 7, is undergoing chemotherapy in Savannah for T-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Florida Times-Union. Lindsey Simpson, a 17-year-old senior at Trinity Christian Academy, uses her free time to volunteer in a variety of areas. Florida Times-Union. Herschel Williams, one of the two surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor winners, will talk to Northport K-8 School students today. TCPalm. Employees of Florida Hospital Waterman donate $15,000 for playground equipment to Gateway Christian School. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff