Florida schools roundup: Testing, facilities funding, coding and more

Testing bill stalls: The Senate Education Committee temporarily postpones a vote on SB 926, the so-called “Fewer, Better Tests” bill to revise the state’s assessments program. The bill would push all testing to the final three weeks of the school year, require results back in a week, and order the Department of Education to study whether the ACT and SAT tests could be substituted for the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA). Several critics of the bill says it would do nothing to eliminate tests, despite its nickname, and could force the student passing rate down by tying the FSA passing scores to those of the more rigorous National Assessment for Educational Progress test. Miami HeraldOrlando Sentinel. Tallahassee DemocratNews Service of FloridaSunshine State News. WFSUGradebook.

Facilities funding: A bill filed in the Florida House would require school districts to proportionately split local property tax revenues with charter schools after the money districts set aside for construction debts is deducted. An analysis of the bill indicates that the state’s 556 charter schools would receive about $148 million, or nearly double what they now get. To qualify, charter schools would either be required to have 50 percent or more of its students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, or avoid consecutive years with a school grade below a B. redefinED.

Computer coding: The Florida House Pre-K-12 Quality Subcommittee deletes mention of allowing computer coding classes to fulfill foreign language requirements from HB 265. It’s the second straight year the idea has run into opposition in the House. The amended version of the bill emphasizes ways the Department of Education can push computer coding classes in public schools. Miami Herald.

School material challenges: The Senate and House both pass bills (SB 1210, HB 989) that would make it easier for parents and community members to see what materials and books are being used in schools and to challenge them if they find the materials objectionable. Gradebook.

Recess considered: The Leon County School Board will consider making daily recess mandatory for all elementary school students. A movement to create a statewide rule has run into trouble in the Legislature for a second straight year. WFSU.

Charter may stay open: The Manatee County School Board and the Manatee Charter School are close to reaching an agreement to keep the school open. Superintendent Diana Greene had recommended the contract of the charter school be terminated for problems with classroom management, low performance and paperwork problems. Bradenton Herald.

Educational ‘ecosystem’: A representative from one of the top charter schools networks tells the Senate Education Committee that when it looks to expand, it considers the whole “educational ecosystem.” Trisha Coad, director for new site development for the 200-charter school network Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), says the company looks for community demand, affordable school facilities, adequate public funding, respect for charters’ autonomy and high expectations when it is looking for new school sites. She says KIPP wants to expand into Florida, especially Miami. redefinED.

Impasse ended: The Manatee County School Board breaks the contract impasse between the district and the teachers union. Teachers will get slightly larger raises than the district proposed, but retroactive pay and lower health-care insurance premiums were denied. Board members said they wanted to stay above the state-mandated 3 percent level for reserves. Bradenton Herald.

Open enrollment: The Volusia County School Board is expected to vote tonight to update rules for the district’s open enrollment policy. The changes would bring the district in line with the new state law that allows students to transfer to any public school with a vacancy. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Testing for lead: Two scientists who found lead in water at 16 schools in Leon and Wakulla counties think the state should test every school. Dr. Ronald Saff, an internist and allergist, and Dr. Donald Axelrad, a professor at Florida A&M University, say the EPA’s current acceptable level of lead in water does not protect children. Their findings mirror those of Environment America, which issued a report in February that gave the state a failing grade on keeping lead out of drinking water. WUFT.

Discipline program: Since Lehigh Middle School adopted a program of discipline called restorative justice last summer, not a single fight has broken out. In the program, a panel of students mediate most cases of misbehavior by having the victim and the accused talk about the causes of problems and work toward solutions that don’t include suspensions. Intervention specialist Tina Werderman says the system puts the responsibility on the offending student instead of a teacher or administrator. “If you look at a traditional system, it asks the question of what rule did you break and what is your consequence going to be?” she said. “In restorative practice, it looks at it differently, where you ask what harm was caused, who was affected and how can you make it right?” Fort Myers News-Press.

Superintendent’s job: A controversy is developing in the job hunt for a superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools. Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is one of the two finalists, and interviews Wednesday, but many people in the community are criticizing the omission of the interim superintendent, Alycia Meriweather, from consideration for the job. WUOM.

Charter chief resigning: Nelson Stephenson, superintendent of the Cape Coral Charter School system for two and a half years, is resigning effective June 30. He declined to give a reason, though he clashed recently with the mayor over firings of teachers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Help for schools: Community groups are stepping forward to help several struggling St. Petersburg elementary schools by providing money, mentors and motivation for improvement. WUSF.

Survey guidance: Clay County School Superintendent Addison Davis says the first survey of teachers is providing valuable feedback in identifying the district’s strengths and weaknesses. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher honored: Michele Mohl, a teacher on assignment at Palmetto Elementary School in West Palm Beach, is one of 17 U.S. educators to win National LifeChanger of the Year awards sponsored by a Vermont-based financial services company, National Life Group. Palm Beach Post.


Social media forum: The Collier County School District is holding a virtual community forum Wednesday to talk with parents about keeping their children safe on social media. Naples Daily News.

Dismissal motion: Former Manatee High School Superintendent Rick Mills is asking a court to dismiss an amended complaint filed against him by the school’s former football coach, Joe Kinnan. Mills, the school board and a school investigator are all named in Kinnan’s lawsuit for alleged defamation. Bradenton Herald.

No evidence of collusion: There is no evidence that former Lakeland High School athletic director Justin Troller conspired with a teacher to get revenge on a student who accused Troller of misconduct, according to a Polk County School District investigator. Lakeland Ledger.

Student shot at bus stop: A Winter Springs Garden student waiting for her school bus was shot by a man who is accused of killing his former girlfriend and shooting five others just a few minutes earlier. Rakeya Jackson, 18, and a man near the bus stop who was also shot are in stable condition at a hospital. Allen D. Cashe was arrested and accused of the shootings. WKMG.

Boy flashed at bus stop: A registered sex offender is arrested and accused of exposing himself to a 12-year-old boy waiting for his school bus. Justin Ryan Duggan, 29, is charged with lewd or lascivious exhibition. Tampa Bay Times.

School cops lose jobs: Two school resource officers lost their jobs for trying to cover up the accidental taser shooting of a Leesburg High School employee. Master Deputy Raymond Mattiucci accidentally shot a security monitor, who fell unconscious to the ground and broke his wrist. Deputy Darrell Blanton then helped Mattiucci cover up the incident. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel.

Employee faces firing: A Marion County School District driver education employee may be fired for taking a school vehicle for personal use, crashing it at Dunkin’ Donuts and then trying to cover it up. Superintendent Heidi Maier is recommending the school board fire Malisa L. Stocker, a non-instructional employee at North Marion High School. Ocala Star Banner.

Opinions on schools: Only one person then on the Brevard County School Board or in leadership at the district has been willing to step up and take responsibility for the EDR software deal that was a colossal failure to protect public money. Only former board chair Amy Kneesey, who called for the FDLE to investigate, has publicly apologized for voting for the plan. Bob Gabordi, Florida Today. When the Lee County School Board decided not to move forward with drawing better election districts recently, it was a loss not only for students of color and their families but for the entire community. James Muwakkil, Fort Myers News-Press. From pre-kindergarten to the university, public education is about second chances. Or even 16th chances. Jack Payne, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Mark Merwitzer, a 17-year-old student at the School for Advanced Studies in Miami, is lobbying the Legislature to change the law to allow police officers to pull drivers over who are texting while driving. Miami Herald. Bolles Upper School is buying a $78,000 computerized cadaver table for biology and anatomy classes. The Anatomage table allows students to dissect a virtual human cadaver on a touch screen without the mess, smell or cost. Florida Times-Union.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff