Florida schools roundup: Common Core, DeSantis, bonuses, Parkland and more

Next for Common Core: The imminent end to the Common Core standards in Florida schools has many state educators and parents worried about what they’ll be replaced with, how students will be affected, whether standardized testing will change and how much the change will cost. TCPalm.

DeSantis’ busy start: In just a few weeks in office, Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed eliminating Common Core standards, changing the bonus system for teachers and principals and eliminating the waiting lists for state K-12 scholarship programs. What’s next? Gradebook. Tampa Bay Times. Would the proposed bonus system solve Florida’s teacher shortage? WFSU. DeSantis’ proposal to rework the bonus program for teachers and principals faces several obstacles before it becomes state law. Florida Phoenix.

After the shooting: Nearly a year after the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, repercussions continue to be felt around the state. School security laws are still being made and updated, and students and parents are continuing their activism. Here’s an update of where the key players are and what they’re doing today, the memorials to the victims and the potential effects of heightened security in schools. USA Today. Sun SentinelMiami HeraldAssociated Press. GateHouseNaples Daily News. Palm Beach Post. Associated Press. WLRN. Education Next. WFTS.

School security: Seminole County school officials announce a change in lockdown procedures a few months after an unannounced drill at Lake Brantley High School led to widespread panic. Future drills will be announced to students, parents and staff before they are held. Orlando Sentinel. Are substitute teachers being trained on what to do in emergencies at schools? WKMG.

Changing school times: Volusia County school officials are finding out that adding a half-hour to elementary school days may require changes at other levels as well. Any adjustments will affect the school bus schedules, and while research shows that later school starting times is beneficial to high school students, some parents are resisting changes. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Contract negotiations: The Sarasota County School District and its teachers are preparing to open contract negotiations, but the district is insisting there is no money for raises and union officials say “none of the indications are good.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

New schools: Martin County school officials are moving ahead with plans to spend more than $60 million to build two elementary schools, one in Palm City and the other in Jensen Beach. Both schools will be two stories and house about 750 students. TCPalm. A $5 million STEM Center will open in May at the Benjamin School in North Palm Beach. Students of all ages will program robots and create virtual reality, among other things. Palm Beach Post.

School expansion: The Panama City Marine Institute is expanding its Maritime Program for high school students from half-days to full days in August. The institute says it expects to add 100 charter school students to study the usual core subjects, plus aerospace technology. Panama City News Herald.

Employee honored: Jeremy Shaw, who works in user services with the technology department, is named the Leon County School District’s school-related employee of the year. Tallahassee Democrat.

Education task force: The town of Jupiter creates an education task force to look at overcrowding and after-school activities in city schools. The group will leave school security to the Palm Beach County School Board and district officials. Palm Beach Post.

Studying the Bible: While the Atheists of Florida do not agree with a bill filed in the Legislature that would require all public schools to offer an elective course on the Bible and religion, it does believe the students should be taught a comparative religions course as long as it’s done in an objective way. Gradebook.

School program ends: Safety concerns have brought an end to a therapeutic horse riding program for special needs students at the Hillcrest School in Ocala. School officials say several sinkholes have opened in the horse pasture behind the school. “We are scared about the sinkholes,” says Karen Cunningham, president of the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association, which had volunteered the riding service. Ocala Star-Banner.

After the storm: Bay County school officials answer questions about the implications for closing three schools and the economic impact of the move. Panama City News Herald.

School staying open: Lake County school officials say they have no plans to close Eustis Elementary School. Such a move was hinted at during a recent school board meeting, but Superintendent Diane Kornegay told parents, “We are in the very early stages of discussing how best to accommodate future growth in the district using the resources we have, including Eustis Elementary.” Daily Commercial.

Chemistry enrollment down: Chemistry enrollment in Florida public high schools dropped again last year, and has now fallen 14 percent since the fall of 2015, according to the Florida Department of Education. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Private school leader quits: Mike Woodbury says he has resigned as CEO of Barnabas Christian Academy, formerly known as Nation Christian Academy, in Port St. Lucie. The Florida Department of Education has been investigating the school’s operations. Woodbury brought attention to the school last year when a profanity-laced rant at a Haitian basketball player at the school went viral. TCPalm.

Restorative justice: Several Lake County schools have adopted the “restorative justice” method of disciplining students, and school officials say each is showing a reduction of disciplinary incidents by 3 to 6 percent. While each class can set its own rules for how it applies the discipline, generally it’s done by students talking through the issue with the offenders and resolve it without resorting to suspensions. Daily Commercial.

School threats: In the year since the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, there have been at least 56 threats made — most of them by students — against Manatee County schools. Bradenton Herald.

Student arrested: A 16-year-old Lee County student is arrested for allegedly bringing a gun to Cypress Lake High School. He is charged with disturbing the peace and possession of a firearm while on school property. Fort Myers News-Press.

Dozen hurt at dance: More than a dozen people attending a school dance at a Lee County elementary school are treated after an irritant was discharged. Officials at G. Weaver Hipps Elementary School in Lehigh Acres say the irritant, possibly pepper spray, caused eye irritation and breathing difficulties. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: I feel like my position as a healer for my students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School can also be cultivated to help others. I want to be a face of hope. I’m here to live, not just exist. Stacey Lippel, Sun Sentinel. This state has been mired in mindlessness for so long that, by comparison, Gov. Ron DeSantis looks like a genius. Think about it. DeSantis said something so obvious — don’t base a 45-year-old teacher’s pay on test scores she posted when she was 17 – that you’d have to be a nincompoop to disagree. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Florida should re-examine whether a rigorous certification program produces better results than the status quo, in which so many teachers are rated “highly effective” under a flawed system. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The answer to the problems of Common Core is not to throw out standards that would allow comparisons of high school competence across America. It is for states to agree on robust standards, then let individual teachers have the freedom on how to teach to reach them. Tampa Bay Times. Only in Unionville are efforts to encourage exceptional teacher performance denounced and derided. Lakeland Ledger. There is nothing “controversial” about the proven science of evolution or climate change. These concepts have been validated repeatedly by people who are completely foreign to likes of Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley and the Florida Citizens Alliance — scientists who actually know what they are talking about. Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times. The Florida Department of Education must demand answers on the actions of Nation Christian Academy, a private school in Port St. Lucie. TCPalm. Florida lawmakers are hiring a consulting firm to study the current school funding formula. But any objective study should reach this obvious conclusion: Duval’s share of school funding should be protected — and certainly not cut. Florida Times-Union. Every state official and school choice advocate I recently met in Florida believes the state will be the first to have “universal” education savings accounts, opening private school choice options to all who seek them. But will Florida take the opportunity to go big now? Robert Pondiscio, Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The civics program in Florida is broken. The governor is correct: it is crucial for all of us, as citizens who wish to live in a society of positive political engagement, to fix it. R. Bruce Anderson, Lakeland Ledger. A new study from the Urban Institute on college enrollment/completion rates of Florida Tax Credit Scholarship students represents both a triumph and a call for additional action. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Florida’s educational voucher program is vindicated by a new study linking school choice to college success. Wall Street Journal.

Student enrichment: Students in the four-year Bonita Springs High School Aerospace Academy program are learning the basics about aviation with the opportunity to earn a private pilot’s license. Fort Myers News-Press. A Lake Alfred Elementary School art teacher’s Black History Month door decoration has gone viral. Chanique Davis’ door shows a black woman with dreadlocks, dressed in a colorful, traditional African clothing and wearing a crown. Lakeland Ledger. A team of engineering and design students from Lake and Orange counties has won the Real World Design Challenge state competition. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff