Florida schools roundup: Testing troubles, grades, school police and more

florida-roundup-logoTesting troubles: Bandwidth has been expanded, security upgraded and testing software improved. But, experts warn, there’s no way to guarantee trouble-free computerized testing when the Florida Standards Assessments writing tests begin Feb. 29. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Tribune.

Testing dispute: State business leaders are avoiding direct criticism of Gov. Rick Scott over the state Department of Education’s decision not to raise the passing scores for the Florida Standards Assessments. But they’re continuing to push for higher standards. Politico Florida.

School grades: About 5 percent of the state’s schools received a different final grade than they did when simulated grades were released in December. Politico Florida. Sixty-six South Florida schools received F grades, a record high. Broward County had 29, Miami-Dade 20 and Palm Beach 17. Sun-Sentinel.

District police force: The Orange County School District is budgeting $1.5 million to start its own police force. The mission is to enhance security through measures such as campus checks and weapons screenings, and to work with local law officers already patrolling the schools. Orlando Sentinel.

School uniforms: The debate over school uniforms is a topic of conversation in Escambia County. Earlier this month, dozens of girls at Washington High School were ordered to change clothes after coming to school in leggings that didn’t meet the dress code. Pensacola News Journal.

Charter schools: Somerset Academy’s plans for three charter schools can move ahead after the state Board of Education overturns decisions by two school districts denying the applications. Somerset can start a middle school in St. Lucie County and an elementary and middle school in Indian River County. The districts can appeal the decision. TCPalm. A proposed charter school in Collier County is delaying its opening until August 2017. Collier Charter Academy officials have squabbled with residents over its proposed location in Golden Gate Estates. Naples Daily News.

Brother’s Keeper: My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative started by President Obama, is partnering with city leaders, the Miami-Dade County school district and the mentoring program 5,000 Role Models of Excellence to improve student achievement by making sure minority children attend school. Miami Herald.

Lawsuits expected: No students were seriously injured when a school bus crashed into a retention pond in Tampa last September. But now the Hillsborough County School District is bracing for the lawsuits. Three law firms representing five Bryant Elementary School children and two parents say they intend to sue for medical and emotional damages. Tampa Bay Times.

GED passing score: The passing score for a GED degree, starting in March, will be 145 in each of the four content areas, according to Florida Department of Education regulations. The previous passing score was 150. Florida Courier.

Black achievement: Pinellas County School Superintendent Mike Grego will issue a report today on black student achievement. Gradebook.

Abstinence program: The Charlotte County School District and the Florida Department of Health are partnering in an abstinence-only education program at Port Charlotte Middle School. The program is funded through a $100,000, three-year state grant, amd is called iChoose Sexual Risk Avoidance Program. Charlotte Sun, via WFTV.

School name change: The man who has a school named for him wants to tweak that name slightly. Alexander Dreyfoos is asking the school board to add the words “and Sciences” to the end of Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Palm Beach Post.

Bigger screens: The Broward County School Board approves spending $81 million for thousands of devices with 11-inch screens. Students complain that their current school-issued laptop screens with 9.5-inch screens are too small. Sun-Sentinel.

Discipline privacy: The Manatee County School District will no longer explain publicly why a student has been expelled. Six students have been expelled this school year. Only one had been expelled the previous six years. Bradenton Herald.

Consultant criticized: Alachua County teachers are accusing a district consultant of inappropriate behavior. The school board decided the charges weren’t serious enough to end Mark Rolewski’s contract, but did shorten it by 10 days. Gainesville Sun.

Employees honored: Jeffrey Johnson Sr., who teaches at the Dale Cassens Educational Complex, is St. Lucie County’s teacher of the year. Charles Pilson of Manatee Academy was named school related employee of the year. TCPalm. Andrea Vineyard, a special education teacher, is named Lake County’s teacher of the year. Daily Commercial.

Volunteer honored: Susie Pelphrey, a volunteer at Shadowlawn Elementary School in Green Cove Springs, is honored as one of the state’s top school volunteers. Florida Times-Union.

Comeback trail: Steve Van Gorden, who resigned as Zephyrhills High School principal in 2014 after several accusations of sexual harassment, is running for the Hernando County School Board. Gradebook.

Notable deaths: Thalia Broudy, a Liberty City Elementary teacher who fought for civil rights and against prayer in Miami-Dade public schools, has died at 88. Miami Herald. Clark Douglas Burris, who founded Miami Beach High School’s Rock Ensemble in 1972, is memorialized by students at a musical celebration of his life. Burris, 73, died Jan. 28 of complications from multiple sclerosis. Miami Herald.

Teachers arrested: A Miami Palmetto Senior High School English teacher is arrested and accused of sexual battery of a minor. Police say Jason Meyers, 41, had an inappropriate relationship with an underage female student. Miami Herald. A Highlands County middle school teacher is arrested and accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy. Stacy Lynn Hooks, 38, was placed on administrative leave with pay. Tampa Tribune. An East Ridge High School history teacher is arrested and accused of having sex with 17-year-old student. Marshall Jungreis, 41, has been reassigned to another Lake County school while the case is being investigated. Daily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: Charter schools should be held to the same standards and accountability as regular public schools rather than being used as yet another tool to dismantle Florida’s public education system. Tampa Bay Times. The legislative favoritism toward charters is another sign that privatization and profits outrank traditional public schools. Bradenton Herald. Charter schools are benefiting in this Legislature at the expense of public schools. Diane Schrier, Ocala Star Banner. Legislators should let high school student-athletes attend their school of choice. William Mattox, Florida Politics. The Santa Rosa County School District needs a school impact fee to keep up with growth. Antonio Apap, Pensacola News Journal. The bills requiring recess for elementary school students and allowing any student to enroll in any school that has a vacancy are examples of the Legislature creating problems instead of solving them. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Instead of starting a high-priced private school, why doesn’t billionaire Jeff Greene invest in public schools? Julie H. Littky-Rubin, Palm Beach Post. Change is hard but necessary for Duval County schools. Florida Times-UnionThe Duval County School Board and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti need to sit down, work out their differences and move on. Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union. It’s time for the Marion County School District to change the way it educates our children. Ocala Star Banner. Why are the exact same measurements expressed so differently when it comes to school grade? St. Augustine Record. Voters rightly decided in 1998 to make the education commissioner an appointed position instead of an elected one. There’s no reason to reverse that decision. Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Madelyn Almond, a homeschooled student from Escambia County, advances to the 89th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Pensacola News Journal. Tallahassee Democrat. Students at Indialantic Elementary School gets a lesson in compassion when they visit the SPCA animal shelter in Titusville. Florida Today. Viera High School junior Ben Stern lands a deal on Shark Tank for his eco-friendly shampoo ball. Mark Cuban gave Stern $100,000 for a 25 percent stake in his company, Nohbo Ball. Florida Today. Ten-year-old Chancellor Gary is eliminated from the Lifetime network show Child Genius: Battle of the Brightest. The Stuart boy was among 12 children competing for a $100,000 scholarship. TCPalm. Melrose Elementary students hear opera firsthand when several members of the St. Petersburg Opera Company perform in the cafeteria. Tampa Bay Times. A bridge made of balsa wood withstood 217 pounds of pressure at the Balsa Wood Bridge-Building Competition in Tampa. The bridge was designed by an all-female team from Terrence Community Middle School. Tampa Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff