Florida schools roundup: Scholarship growth, homework, gifted and more

florida-roundup-logoScholarship growth: More than 92,000 Florida students are now receiving scholarships for private schools through the state’s tax credit scholarship program. That’s an increase of about 17 percent over last year’s 78,664 students. Another 5,844 will benefit from Gardiner Scholarships for students with special needs. That’s an increase of about 18 percent over last year. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both programs. redefinED. Gradebook.

Homework guidelines: School is back in session, which means homework is back too. But how much is too much? Rule-of-thumb guidelines approved by the National PTA and National Education Association call for a maximum of 10 minutes of homework a day, multiplied by a child’s grade level. Fort Myers News-Press.

A path to gifted: A black father in Palm Beach County recounts what he had to do to get his twin sons into the overwhelmingly white gifted programs in their schools. Eric Davis says, “My biggest thing is, there are a lot of bright, young African-American students out there. They don’t get the same opportunities. Their parents don’t know the same secrets, the land mines to get into the programs – but they shouldn’t have to.” Palm Beach Post.

Contract negotiations: The Pasco County teachers union asks the school district for a 4 percent raise on the opening day of negotiations. The district is countering with an offer of a 2.65 percent increase, on average. The difference in the proposals amounts to $918,000. Gradebook.

‘Happy’ to settle: The company that administers the Florida Standards Assessments math and English tests says it is “pleased to have reached a positive resolution” with the state. American Institutes for Research agreed to pay an almost $5 million settlement for the technical difficulties schools and students had during the 2015 testing. Politico Florida.

School upheaval: After recent reports that St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton failed to properly protect its students from potential abuse, the school has fired its dean of students, Andy Mulligan. He had been at the school since 1992. Sun-Sentinel.

Racist comments: Some students from the First Academy in Orlando posted racist remarks on social media over the summer, which have been picked up and circulated by a writer from the New York Daily News. Steve Whitaker, the private Christian school’s top administrator, says he is “deeply grieved” and “appalled by such inappropriate comments posted by some of our students.” Orlando Sentinel.

Course elevated: An English honors class at Orlando’s Edgewater High School is being converted into an Advanced Placement English literature class. Orlando Sentinel.

Police resources: The Highlands County School Board is asking the sheriff’s office for help in investigating school incidents. Highlands Today.

Physics courses: While 24 Florida high schools with 1,000 or more students do not offer physics classes at all, 89 percent of the state’s high school students do have access to physics courses, according to the Florida Department of Education. Bridge to Tomorrow.

School elections: Nine candidates running for three seats on the Pinellas County School Board have spent about $150,000 collectively. Tampa Bay Times. After a Citrus County School Board candidate called for closing the “drug stores” operating at schools, the district releases statistics showing a decline in on-campus drug and alcohol offenses over the past few years. Citrus County Chronicle. The construction industry is a heavy donor in Orange County School Board races. Orlando Sentinel. School board races are supposed to be nonpartisan, but many Duval County candidates are happy to let their political leanings be known. WJCT. Six candidates for a Palm Beach County School Board seat have raised a collective $169,000 during the campaign. Palm Beach Post. Four candidates are running for school board seats in Escambia County. Pensacola News Journal. The race for the Sarasota County School Board District 2 race has been contentious. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Custodian to principal: Michael Leader, 51, started in the Volusia County School District as a custodian. Today, he’s principal at Freedom Elementary School in DeLand. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Text service: Citrus County school officials are urging parents to opt in for a text messaging service that would be used to pass along information during emergency situations. Citrus County Chronicle.

Suspect rides bus: A shirtless man boarded a Manatee County school bus, told the driver he wasn’t supposed to be on the bus, then was detained when the bus got to Manatee High School. Later, Erik Hall, 27, was arrested for trespassing on school property. He’s also a suspect in a house burglary. School officials say the school bus driver acted professionally and will not be disciplined. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald.

School vandalism: A day after vandals caused about $10,000 in damage at DeLand High School, DeLand Middle School is vandalized. The damage is much less extensive, school officials say. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: When it comes to Pledge of Allegiance waivers for school students, I guess you could say that we are a freedom-loving people here in Florida, at least for those freedoms we don’t mind tolerating. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. The retention case now in the hands of a Leon County judge underscores questions about the best way to evaluate students: Is a report card, based on a year’s worth of work, a better measure, or is a test the best option? Tallahassee Democrat. How is it that the state can provide the same documents under Florida’s Open Records laws that the Clay County School District is refusing to provide? Eric Cravey, Clay Today. Countries that perform best in educating their children pay teachers well compared to what they could earn in other occupations, and their colleges of education are highly selective. Dave Denslow, Gainesville Sun. The Violence Reduction Partnership pushes education to help prevent crime by keeping kids on track to graduate. Wifredo Ferrer and Keith Fletcher, Miami Herald.

Student enrichment: About 60 volunteers collect money to buy backpacks and supplies to hand out to about 900 Miami-Dade foster children in the Family Resource Center of South Florida. Miami Herald. Summer Rusher, a 17-year-old senior at Lemon Bay High School, is a placekicker for the school’s football team. She’s the first girl ever to suit up for the team. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A 14-year-old Eustis girl is heading off to Stetson University in DeLand. Danielle Carson has been homeschooled. Orlando Sentinel. A fifth-grade class at Laurel Oaks Elementary School in Naples raises $1,200 to buy military-themed teddy bears for children who have a parent deployed overseas. Naples Daily News. The inventors of Qubits guide students in the Flagler County STEM Academy at Wadsworth Elementary School through the process of turning an idea into a product. Daytona Beach News-Journal. After a student at Choctawhatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach is harassed for wearing a cat-ears headband, other students start wearing the headbands in a show of support. Northwest Florida Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff