Florida schools roundup: Homework ban, Newpoint indictment and more

District homework ban: Marion County School Superintendent Heidi Maier is banning daily homework for the district’s 20,000 elementary school students. Instead, school officials are asking parents to read with their children for 20 minutes every night. Maier says the decision is based on research by Richard Allington, a University of Tennessee professor who found that reading to a child has more positive effects on children than homework. Ocala Star Banner.

Charter company charged: Newpoint Education Partners, a charter school management company, is indicted by a grand jury in Escambia County for alleged fraudulent billing of charter schools for computers, furniture and curriculum services, and concealing it by laundering the money through multiple bank accounts. Earlier this year the founder of Newpoint, Marcus May, and an associate were charged with fraud and racketeering in connection with the operation of 15 charter schools in Escambia, Bay, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. WJXT, Associated PressWFLA. Pensacola News Journal.

Safety for exchange students: Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is calling on the federal government to tighten screening of potential hosts for foreign exchange students. A host parent, the husband of a district administrator, was arrested recently in Cutler Bay on charges of molesting an exchange student. He then killed himself. Miami HeraldWSVN.

Foreign languages: About 21 percent of Florida K-12 students studied a foreign language during the 2014-2015 school year, according to a report from the American Councils for International Education. The national average is 19.66 percent. More than 80 percent of the Florida students take Spanish, and about 10 percent take French. Education Week.

House education spending: The U.S. House budget bill, released Wednesday, would cut $2.4 billion out of education spending. The Department of Education would get $66 billion, or about $7 billion more than the Trump administration proposed. The House budget includes no mention of the $1 billion public school choice program proposed by the president, or his $250 million in grants for states to support private school choice. Education Week.

Tops in physics: Seminole County continues to lead the state in its ability to convince students to take physics classes, according to rankings by Paul Cottle, an FSU professor and author of the blog Bridge to Tomorrow. And Hagerty High School is the most successful in Seminole County. Orlando Sentinel. Bridge to Tomorrow.

End-of-course exams: A Pasco County school advisory committee is recommending that end-of-course exams count for 10 percent of a student’s final grade for the semester in which they take them. Last year’s test scores were dismissed after teachers, parents and students complained that the tests did not reflect what they had learned during the year. Gradebook.

STEAM building: The Florida State University Schools will get $7.5 million from the state to help build a new K-12 research school that focuses on STEAM – sciences, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. The charter school will have to raise the rest of the estimated $15 million it will cost for the construction. Tallahassee Democrat.

School property: The Pasco County School Board is expected to buy 64 acres of land in Zephyrhills for a future high school. The agreed-upon price is $5 million for the eastern Pasco property appraised at $6.25 million. The landowner will claim the difference as a charitable donation. Gradebook.

AP test retaken: Twenty-two Suncoast High School students had to retake a European history Advanced Placement exam in June after administrators suspected that some of the students had cheated during the original test in May. A student said officials thought some students at the Riviera Beach school had gotten the answers online. The College Board, which administers AP exams, determined the whole class would have to retake the exam before anyone could receive credit. Palm Beach Post.

New schools: A new charter school in Manatee County, Rowlett Middle Academy, is close to full enrollment. “We’ve got 15 to 20 more spots. Enrollment is at 280, and we are going to close it out at 300,” says Brian Flynn, the former principal at the Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication, an elementary school. Bradenton Herald. Educational Pathways Academy, a private Christian school for 3rd- through 8th-graders with dyslexia, will open next month in Naples. Naples Daily News.

Personalized learning: For Justin Crouch, Lake County teacher of the year in 2016, personalized learning meant improving student test scores by almost 15 percent. Now he’s implementing the lessons he’s learned at the Florida Virtual School, where he can interact with students one-on-one and help them develop a pace and assignments that match their interests. redefinED.

School grades: More reports on state grades for school districts and schools. Pine Island-Eagle. Chiefland Citizen. Pensacola News Journal.

Personnel moves: The Alachua County School Board will vote next week on the appointment of two principals and a district administrator. Valerie Freeman would become director of educational equity and outreach, Cory Tomlinson the principal of Chiles Elementary and Stella Arduser the principal at Archer Elementary. Gainesville Sun.

Player dies at practice: Zachary Polsenberg, a 16-year-old junior football player at Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, collapsed June 29 at the end of practice and died Monday of complications from heat stroke. Fort Myers News-Press. The death prompts football coaches in Lee and Collier counties to redouble their efforts to keep players hydrated before, during and after practices. Fort Myers News-Press.

Accused, but still working: For more than a year after teacher Charles Krininger was removed from Satellite High School due to allegations of sexual misconduct, he was still teaching classes at Eastern Florida State College. Why? Because the Brevard County School District did not notify the college. Some school board members question that decision, but board attorney Amy Envall said there’s no legal obligation to do so, and the district could be held liable if Krininger is found not guilty of the charges. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: While we seek longer-term solutions to strengthening the teaching profession — better compensation, rational evaluation methods, stronger career pathways and retention strategies — we must not lose sight of the urgent need to develop the next generation of inspired and culturally diverse teachers. Elissa Vanaver, Miami Herald. A new law took effect on July 1 that corrects a glaring oversight by allowing employees of charter schools and the Florida Virtual School to qualify for a state-funded adoption incentive. Further expansion ought to be strongly considered. Lakeland Ledger. The backlash over school choice is blinding critics to what’s best for children. J. Robert McClure, Fort Myers News-Press.

Student enrichment: A free “Stop the Violence” football camp is being held Sunday for northeast Florida middle and high school football players. Florida Times-Union. WJAX.

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BY NextSteps staff