Charter student performance, book-banning bill and more

Charter students’ performance: Florida charter school students are outperforming their traditional public school peers in nearly every category of achievement, according to a report issued by the Florida Department of Education. Students in charter schools had a higher level of achievement on statewide assessment test in 63 of 77 comparisons, had higher learning gains in 88 of 96 comparisons, and had lower achievement gaps between white and minority students. The results show that “there is simply no denying that choice works, particularly for minority and low-income students,” says Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. redefinED. Gradebook. Florida Politics. Florida Daily. Florida Department of Education. Traditional public schools have higher percentages of students in poverty, so is the analysis fair? Florida Phoenix.

Book-banning bill tempered: The House PreK-12 Quality committee has watered down the language in a bill introduced to remove books with “pornography” from public schools. H.B. 855 had drawn opposition from school leaders and science advocates who called it censorship and an infringement of the rights of local school officials to decide on what materials they could use. The streamlined version removes provisions criminalizing the purchase of materials that are found to be “unacceptable,” language that separates literature from pornography, and changes the textbook challenge process to keep the decision in the hands of the local school boards. Gradebook.

Teacher bonuses: Two preschool teachers ask the Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations committee to consider making them eligible for bonuses through the Best and Brightest program. Preschool teachers and non-classroom educators such as counselors, advisers, teaching coaches and others are not eligible because they’re not defined in the law as a K-12 teacher. “It’s very disheartening to not be considered a classroom teacher when we are,” says Emily Wiskoff of Broadview Elementary School in Broward County. Gradebook.

Threat assessment failures: An auditing firm concludes that the Broward County School District is not following established procedures for conducting threat assessments of students who are thought to pose a danger to schools. Sixty threat assessments were randomly audited, and only 16 had “substantially completed” records. The auditors recommend the threat assessments process be computerized, and that the district establish a process to follow up on assessments. Sun Sentinel.

Therapy after suicides: The suicides last week of a former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student and a current one show the need for improved mental health services in the Broward County School District, say members of the school community. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Associated Press. Parents are urged by Broward school leaders to speak to their children every day about recovering from traumatic incidents and about suicide. Sun Sentinel. The father of a child who was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., committed suicide just a few days after speaking to Florida Atlantic University students at a violence summit. Palm Beach Post.

School security: The FBI and FDLE have given their approval for the Clay County School District to move ahead with the formation of its own police force. The district may now proceed with the hiring of officers to guard each of the district’s 42 schools. Sixteen Florida school districts have an internal police force. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJCT. Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt says if the Legislature votes to allow teachers to be armed, the district will follow. Panama City News Herald. WMBB. All Alachua County schools will begin monthly threat drills in April. Gainesville Sun. Classrooms are now being locked in all Monroe County schools, and the district is “vigorously” enforcing the requirement that all employees wear identification badges. Key West Citizen. High Springs Community School in Alachua County has a fulltime K-9 for its school resource officer. WUFT.

Hope Scholarships: The scholarship program for bullied students in Florida is off to a slow start, with just 91 awarded as of March 1, according to the Florida Department of Education. Legislation has been proposed to streamline the application process by having applications go directly to the organization administering the scholarship instead of through school districts. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship and several others. Florida Phoenix.

Charter school spending: An education advocacy group charges in a new report that the U.S. government has wasted $1 billion on charter schools that never opened or opened and later closed, and that the Education Department does not adequately monitor how charters spend the grant money they receive. The report is titled “Asleep at the Wheel” and was issued by the nonprofit Network for Public Education. Washington Post.

Fundamental high school: Osceola High School touts itself as the first and only fundamental high school in the state. Seventy-five percent of its students go on to college, and 98 percent graduate from the high school, which has earned an A grade from the state for each of the past seven years. WFTS.

Teacher recruitment: The Collier County School District has several programs offering incentives to fill the anticipated 300 teacher openings for the 2019-2020 school year. WINK.

Personnel moves: Tammy Berryhill, the Pasco County School District’s assistant superintendent for high schools job since 2016, is moving into a job helping Gulf Trace Elementary School prepare for the retirement of principal Hope Schooler. The move is intended to reduce the ranks in the administrative offices. Gradebook. Riley Elementary School principal Taita Scott has been moved to an administrative job, and is being replaced at the Leon County school by Tonja Fitzgerald, a former principal at Cobb Middle School. Tallahassee Democrat.

Notable deaths: Robert Porter, president and CEO of the Florida Virtual School since December, has died of a heart attack at the age of 60. Porter was hired to turn around the state’s public online K-12 school after a scandal involving general counsel Frank Kruppenbacher, who resigned last August. Orlando Sentinel.

Student dies in hit and run: An 8-year-old Cape Coral student is killed by a hit-and-run driver while she was walking to her school bus stop Monday. Layla Aiken is the second student to be hit and killed near a bus stop this year. Fort Myers News-Press.

‘Diploma mill’ alleged: The state is accusing the Ellenwood Academy LLC of issuing fake high school diplomas and is asking a court to shut it down. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody says the school has no instructors, and its diplomas are not accepted at any state university. WTVT.

Resource officer has stroke: Matt Robinson, a school resource officer at Milton High School in Escambia County, is recovering from a stroke he suffered at the school March 12. Pensacola News Journal.

Teachers arrested: A Miami-Dade elementary school teacher is arrested and accused of molesting five students in the past five months. Police say Alejandro Perez, 60, who teaches at Charles R. Hadley Elementary, is charged with six counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child and another six counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 16. Miami Herald. A Monroe County day-care teacher is arrested and accused of holding a child while allowing another child to hit him. Martha Balmaseda Marrero, 31, was charged with battery after the incident at St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church. Key West Citizen.

Teacher pleads guilty: A former preschool teacher in Orange County has pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious conduct when he performed a sex act on a 4-year-old student. Jayrico Hamilton, 26, who was working at the Bright Horizons Children’s Centers in Baldwin Park in 2017, will be sentenced in May. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The Florida House’s plan for Family Empowerment Scholarships would include families like mine and other single moms who are doing their best to help their sons with little or no assistance. Margie Viera, Florida Politics. Are you a parent with kids in school? If so, you should know that charter schools in Florida outperform traditional schools in just about everything you can measure. Lane Wright, The Capitolist.

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BY NextSteps staff