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Florida schools roundup: Opt-out case denied, alternative exams and more

Opt-out decision: The Florida Supreme Court announces it will not consider a lawsuit brought by parents against several school districts for retaining their 3rd-graders because they opted out of taking the Florida Standards Assessments tests. The decision lets stand a court of appeal ruling that the lawsuits should have been filed in the home counties of the districts, rather than in Leon County. News Service of Florida.

Alternative exams: Florida students who fail two key tests needed to graduate have alternative tests they can take – but the standards for those alternatives could be changing. Students have to pass the algebra 1 test and the 10th-grade language arts exam that is part of the Florida Standards Assessments to earn a diploma. Students who fail can take the SAT or ACT for language arts, or the PERT for algebra. But a state panel is recommending that the PERT be eliminated, with the PSAT replacing it, and that the passing score on the SAT be raised from 430 to 500. The Florida Board of Education will decide on the proposed changes. Orlando Sentinel.

Gardiner scholarships: The expansion of the state’s Gardiner scholarships for students with disabilities has been so broad and rapid that even the namesake, former state Sen. Andy Gardiner, worries that the program is straying from the original intent to provide help for children with the most severe disabilities. The program has grown from $20 million in 2014 to $100 million this year, and the criteria for qualifying has broadened so much that students with peanut allergies now are eligible for vouchers. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the program. Politico Florida.

Turnaround schools: Today, the Florida Board of Education will consider a turnaround plan for the newly combined Gadsden County High School, which is merging East and West high schools. Both schools received D grades from the state this year, and both have had ongoing disciplinary problems. The plan would likely mean a change in administrators, teachers, curriculum and the length of school days. Turnaround plans will also be considered for Hawthorne Middle School in Alachua County and Hamilton County High School. Tallahassee Democrat.

Hiring cutback: The Volusia County School District expects to have 117 fewer teachers when schools reopen next month, as the district tries to scale back spending to close a $2.5 million deficit. The cutbacks could save as much as $4 million, according to school officials. The district had about 4,600 teachers last year and is expecting 400 new students this year, and will take advantage of the new state calculation for meeting class-size requirements. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Ending homework: Manatee County School Board member Charlie Kennedy wants to follow Marion County’s example and eliminate homework for elementary school students. Kennedy took to Twitter to lob the question to the superintendent: “A great idea whose time has come — parents reading to kids is much more useful than homework — what do you think @Dr.DianaGreene?” Bradenton Herald.

New schools: A population boom will require the Hillsborough County School District to build at least 20 new schools in the next 15-20 years, according to the district’s five-year facilities plan. The cost will be more than $1 billion, and that’s in addition to about $900 million needed for repairs and upgrades. School officials say they don’t have the money. WFLA.

Math, physics teachers: The number of teachers passing the Florida Teacher Certification Exams for physics and math for grades 6-12 is declining, according to data for 2013-2016 from the Florida Department of Education. Bridge to Tomorrow.

School expansion: Tuesday, the Monroe County School Board will consider a plan to build a $3.5 million sports complex on property adjacent to Marathon Middle/High School. The plan includes parking, raising the fields and adding space. Meanwhile, the Marathon City Council will again make a pitch to the school board to make some of the land available for a community pool. Keynoter.

Personalized learning: Betheny Gross, an education research analyst who helped lead a study of schools implementing personalized learning, talks about the learning method in a Q&A. redefinED.

More awards: The Department of Education honors two teachers with awards. Robert Patterson, a fifth grade teacher at Veterans Elementary in Pasco County, is presented with the newly established Dr. Brian Dassler Outstanding Teacher/Leader award, and Samantha Hooper, a fourth grade teacher at Key Largo School in Monroe County, is given the Mary J. Brogan Excellence in Teaching award. Gradebook. Also honored by the DOE and the Florida Parent Teacher Association is Daughtrey Elementary School’s walking school bus program. In it, volunteers collect students to create a line of walking children every day to the Manatee County school. Bradenton Herald.

District celebration: Walton County school officials are celebrating being ranked the sixth-highest achieving district in the state in the overall rankings of Florida Standards Assessments testing results. DeFuniak Springs Herald.

Personnel moves: Gov. Rick Scott appoints Ben Gibson to the Florida Board of Education. Gibson, 33, a former deputy general counsel in the governor’s office, succeeds John Padget. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

School vandalized: Seven teenagers break into Henry H. Filer Middle School in Hialeah and vandalize it, setting off a fire extinguisher and causing about $2,000 in damage to computers, printers and phones. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: There are 192,000 teachers in Florida, and only one – Tammy Jerkins from little Leesburg – gets to be the state’s top educator. Daily Commercial. With luck, every school board in Florida will fight to overturn H.B. 7069 and protect public education. Sun Sentinel. On Wednesday, the Palm Beach County School Board will decide whether the district should join Broward County in suing the state over the new, controversial education law. The board should weigh the request from the superintendent, then say “yes.” Palm Beach Post. I am not arguing that election of a superintendent is better than appointment. I’m arguing that election versus appointment is not the dispositive factor when it comes to turning our schools around. Don Gaetz, Pensacola News Journal. We’re seeing some of the first measurable signs that the introduction of the community school model at C.A. Weis is a positive transformation. Pensacola News Journal. Reform, in the realm of public education, never seems to take a day off. And the flavor of the day in Polk County is a community school program. Lakeland Ledger. Lake County has been a straggler in educational achievement among the area’s school districts. There’s been improvement, but it faces some stiff headwinds. Orlando Sentinel. The common thread in all of the state’s education bills is legislators usurping control of local school boards and school districts. These same lawmakers who shout and stomp their feet at any sign of interference from the federal government are interfering even more in local schools. It is hypocrisy. Tampa Bay Times. The Legislature’s education bill draws a well-deserved challenge. St. Augustine Record. Our community deserves a full debate about the plan for a large charter school before it moves forward. While this proposal is the first of its kind in Alachua County, state and federal support for charter schools mean it likely won’t be the last. Gainesville Sun. Educator Mary McLeod Bethune belongs in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., as a replacement for Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: About 50 students attend Camp MetroTown at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens to learn about social injustice and ways to cope with it when it’s directed at them. Miami Herald. Students get learning with their free lunches at the West Palm Beach public library. The summer lunch program, now 2 years old, provides for up to 200 children. Palm Beach Post. Seventeen Escambia County schools will participate in the Community Eligibility Provision, which provides free meals for students. That boosts the county total to 47. Pensacola News Journal. Free summer meals are available to Lee County children until July 28. Fort Myers News-Press.

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BY NextSteps staff