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Florida schools roundup: Retention confusion, computer science and more

florida-roundup-logoRetention confusion: A Department of Education spokesperson says school districts that are retaining third-graders because they opted out of state testing and don’t take alternative tests are misinterpreting the state’s directives. The state also does not require a student to take tests before a district may consider other exemptions for promotion. Some districts have said they won’t promote a student unless she or he has test scores, and cited DOE advice for reaching that decision. “Our primary guidance to the districts is to follow the law,” spokeswoman Meghan Collins says. “Obviously, the law says participation on the FSA (Florida Standards Assessments) is mandatory. But we never said you must retain a student who doesn’t have an FSA score.” Gradebook. The Manatee County School District backs off its position of automatically retaining students who don’t have a test score, and Superintendent Diana Greene criticizes the DOE for a “lack of direction and decisiveness.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. Parents in Florida’s opt-out movement are talking to lawyers about fighting some districts’ plans to automatically retain students who don’t take the Florida Standards Assessments or alternative tests. Politico Florida.

Computer science: The vice chairman of the Florida Board of Education says the state’s schools ought to require computer science instruction. John Padget suggests a three-year plan that includes adding teachers and credentials for math and science teachers, among other things. He hopes the Legislature will approve such a plan in its next session. Gradebook.

Discrimination suit: The Lee County School Board discriminates against blacks applying for administrative positions, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the district by four African-American educators. The lawsuit alleges that the board has a “pattern and practice of refusing to hire well-qualified African-American employees to administrative positions often under the auspices of lack of qualifications or purely concocted criticisms.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Alternative testing: State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who is leaving office due to term limits, hopes the Legislature will again consider his bill that would allow students to use alternative tests, such as the SAT or ACT, instead of the Florida Standards Assessments. Politico Florida.

Active shooter drills: About two-thirds of America’s schools now conduct “active shooter” drills, according to a survey by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Associated Press.

Student hurt in bus crash: Dillon O’Brien, 15, a student at Howard Bishop Middle School in Gainesville, is critically injured when his school bus was hit by a semi truck. The truck driver was cited for careless driving. Gainesville Sun.

Property sold: The Orange County School Board sells a 5-acre parcel of land just off I-4 in Eatonville for $1.4 million to HostDime, a data center. Orlando Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: A special magistrate sides with the St. Johns County teachers union on three of four issues that divide the union and the school district. The district and the union have 20 days to accept or reject the recommendations. St. Augustine Record.

Student smoking declines: Fewer Florida high-school students are smoking cigarettes, according to the Florida Department of Health. The rate of smoking by students is 6.9 percent, down from 11.9 percent in 2011. Orlando Sentinel.

Pushed out? A Jacksonville student claims she was pushed out of Ribault High School to bolster the school’s graduation rate. School officials say they were merely explaining the student’s options. Florida Times-Union.

Arrest at graduation: A 23-year-old woman is arrested and accused of trying to incite a riot outside the Fort Pierce Central High School graduation. Jamkiera Williams and dozens of others were denied entry because the arena at the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds was full. She and the others began screaming, accusing deputies of racism and tried to get around the locked gate. TCPalm.

Opinions on schools: We are shifting our focus from punishment to prevention, and this approach is working well in Sarasota County’s public schools. Lori White, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The importance of the school guidance counselor who is actually allowed to do his job cannot be overstated. Bill Hoatson, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Ten-year-old Paloma Rambana of Tallahassee, who is legally blind, has successfully lobbied the Legislature for about $1.25 million to fund services for children like her. People. Raffaella Swail, who was born with multiple disabilities, wins a national Yes I Can award from the Council for Exceptional Children. The 9-year-old is in third grade at the Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center in Bay Harbor Islands. Miami Herald. An anonymous donor has given $1.5 million to be divided among four Alachua County elementary schools. WCJB. Rose Ellen Greene donates $2 million to Education Effect programming at Jesse J. McCrary Elementary in Little Haiti. Miami Herald.  Panama City’s Deane Bozeman School gets a weather-tracking device, called WeatherSTEM, that allows for better weather information for school officials and will be a source of data for student research. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff