‘Devastating’ NAEP test scores, governor’s priorities, school name change and more

Students’ scores ‘devastating’: Results of U.S. students’ performance on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress tests were called “devastating” by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Just 35 percent of 4th-graders and 34 percent of 8th-graders scored high enough to be considered “proficient” in reading, and both declined by 2 percentage points from 2017. Math proficiency went up 1 percentage point for 4th-graders, from 40 percent to 41, and stayed the same for 8th-graders at 34 percent. In Florida, 47.5 percent of 4th-graders were proficient in math and 37.7 percent in reading, while just 30.6 percent of the state’s 8th-graders were considered proficient in math and 33.9 percent in reading. “Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest performing students are doing worse,” said Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which released the “Nation’s Report Card” report today. WLRN. Politico Florida. The 74. WTSP.

Governor’s priorities: Passing a law to raise starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500 a year is one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top two priorities for the 2020 legislation session, he said Tuesday at the annual Associated Press gathering. “This coming legislative session really needs to be the year of the teacher,” he said. But he opposes the across-the-board raises requested by the state’s largest teachers union, calling it politically motivated. Top legislative leaders expressed skepticism about DeSantis’ plan because of the cost, estimated at more than $600 million. “We cannot make a commitment to a specific number at this point until we fully understand where we are budget wise (and) how the mechanics of (DeSantis’ plan) work,” said Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Phoenix. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. WFLA. GateHouse. Pensacola News Journal. WUFT. DeSantis also said the state’s new academic standards will be released before the end of the year, and that he’s considering having high school seniors take a U.S. citizenship exam as part of the civics component of the new standards. WFSU.

School name change urged: Orlando’s Stonewall Jackson Middle School should drop the reference to the Confederate general and simply call itself Jackson Middle School, a school advisory committee is recommending. Rolando Sanz-Guerrero, the panel’s chairman, said since the school is already widely known as Jackson Middle, it could keep its logo, sports uniforms, doormats and more. The Orange County School Board may consider the change at its Nov. 12 meeting. Orlando Sentinel.

District’s COO resigns: Jeff Maultsby, the chief operations officer for the Sarasota County School District, resigned a day after the superintendent announced plans to fire him. Maultsby was accused of sexually harassing his assistant, and an external report released Oct. 16 concluded the charges were substantiated. Now the school board will consider what action it might take against Superintendent Todd Bowden, who was criticized in the report for not adequately addressing the complaints until they were widely reported. The school board meets Nov. 5 to discuss the report. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WUSF. WWSB. WTSP.

Minimum age for arrest: A month after two 6-year-olds were arrested in separate incidents at an Orlando charter school, state Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee, has introduced a bill that would ban the arrest of any child 11 years old or younger except in extraordinary circumstances. In the Orlando case, at the Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy, the children were never prosecuted and the arresting officer was fired. WFTV.

Charter school losses: The Cape Coral Charter School Authority is in financial distress because of debt for its buildings, City Manager John Szerlag has told the city council, though there is no immediate threat of closure. The debt service on the schools’ buildings is $3.2 million a year, and the district is expected to fall below the state-required 5 percent reserve balance by 2024. The charter district broached the subject of a partnership with the Lee County School District, but Lee officials balked because of the upgrades needed in the Cape Coral buildings. WBBH. WINK. WFTX. Lehigh Acres Citizen.

Vaping suit considered: Palm Beach County school officials are considering joining districts around the country in suing the leading e-cigarette maker for creating a national “epidemic of youth vaping.” School board attorneys are advising the district to hire two attorneys that are recruiting school districts to sue Juul Labs. “This litigation would be aimed at combating the epidemic of youth vaping in district schools,” the district said in a statement. “Schools are continuing to struggle to contain this harmful and dangerous behavior, and have been forced to divert resources to monitoring and disciplining the rapidly growing number of students using vaping products on school grounds.” Palm Beach Post.

Contract negotiations: A contract agreement between the Brevard County School District and its teachers was ratified by about 98 percent of the 3,338 teachers who voted, and then was approved by the school board. The agreement calls for raises of 4.1 percent for most teachers and up to 6.5 percent for highly effective, veteran teachers. Florida Today.

School combinations considered: The Broward County School Board is considering several proposals to combine elementary and middle schools in Hollywood as a way to halt the exodus of students to charter schools. School officials want to offer Hollywood families the option of sending their children to K-8 schools, and also are considering adding middle school grades to Hollywood Hills High School. Sun Sentinel.

No treat here: More than 200,000 Floridians have signed an online petition lobbying for no school the day after Halloween. School districts called trick instead of treat, and said  schools would be open. Polk County school officials, for instance, had a little fun with the request, posting online that while they respect the “spirit of grassroots activism behind the petition, our school nurses will be ready to assist you with any candy-related ailments when you return … on Friday.” Sun Sentinel. Gainesville Sun. WFLA.

School board elections: Russ Rywell, a teacher and debate coach at Miami Beach Senior High School, has announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat on the Miami-Dade County School Board. The seat is held by Martin Karp, who is not seeking re-election. Other declared candidates are Lucia Baez, Raquel Bild-Libben, Marcela Gomez Bogomolni and Isaac Salver. Florida Politics.

New district building: The St. Lucie County School District’s new administration building is dedicated. About 350 district officials have been spread around the county since Hurricane Irma damaged the previous school board offices in 2017. “It’s great, great for our employees, a long time coming,” said Superintendent Wayne Gent. “We’re just very excited we’re going to be able to serve our community and our schools like we always have, but all in one place together as a family.” TCPalm.

Employees honored: Five finalists are named for the Bay County School District’s support employee of the year award. The winner will be announced, along with the district’s teacher of the year, on Dec. 7. Panama City News Herald.

Court upholds firing: An appeals court has upheld the Hernando County School Board’s 2018 firing of then-superintendent Lori Romano. The board cited several reasons for the dismissal, including her mass firing of 47 teachers from the struggling Moton Elementary School. Romano appealed with an argument that the board hadn’t proven a cause to fire her. Gradebook.

Teacher, school settle: A former music teacher has agreed to a settlement to end a lawsuit he filed against a Boca Raton private school. Saint Andrew’s School officials alleged that Christopher Waite had improper relationships with students. Waite resigned in 2015. Sun Sentinel.

School bus recall: Brevard County school officials are working with Thomas Built Buses to determine how many of the district’s school buses are affected by a company recall. About 50,000 U.S. school buses have been recalled because they may not have the proper padding to protect students in a crash. Florida Today.

Teacher arrested: A Broward County middle school teacher has been arrested and accused of solicitation, sexual battery act on a minor by a custodian, cruelty toward a child and obscene communication with a child. Leverick Johnson, of Miami, is a teacher and junior varsity football coach at the Somerset Academy charter school’s Chapel Trail Campus. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Locker room assault: Officials at Oviedo High School in Seminole County say they will take disciplinary action against several football players who are alleged to have sexually assaulted a teammate in the locker room. The mother of the victim says she will press for criminal charges. WFTV.

Traffic troubles: Lake Placid police officers are threatening to ticket parents who park along a road leading to Lake Placid Middle School as they wait for their children to get out of school. The road is posted with no parking signs, and the car line along the road usually forms more than 10 minutes before the school ends at 3:15 p.m. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Sarasota County School Board members need to end this dark chapter of school administration by firing Superintendent Todd Bowden, regain control of a district that has lost its moral compass and, most of all, protect our kids, teachers and staff. Keith Mercier, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Josh Thompson, a graduate of Lake County Technical College’s GED program, is named Florida’s adult education student of the year. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff