Bill would keep FSA tests and consequences through 2025, Ocoee scholarships and more

School testing proposal: Large-scale end-of-the year testing in schools would continue through at least 2025 under a bill filed for the legislative session by state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah. S.B. 1048 would also continue the use of standardized test scores to determine whether students are promoted from 3rd grade to 4th and graduate from high school. In September, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he wanted to end the Florida Standards Assessments held every spring and replace them with progress monitoring, or shorter “check-in” tests. DeSantis said the tests were “outdated,” took too much instructional time from students and didn’t provide “timely information” to parents. Diaz’s bill is the only one filed so far that provides details to DeSantis’ plans. The governor’s spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, said in an e-mail that the testing plan would take several years to implement. “We’re appreciative that Sen. Diaz is initiating several critical steps to implement this vision,” she wrote. The 60-day legislative session begins Jan. 11. Orlando Sentinel.

Also in the Legislature: Scholarships for descendants of the 1920 Ocoee Massacre would be expanded from 50 a year to 500 under a proposal filed by state Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee. Each student would receive $6,000, increasing the cost of the program to $3 million. “You can start to heal some of the racial divides and racial wounds of this country by not only acknowledging it but going a step further and financially addressing what was done financially 100 years ago,” Bracy said. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. WFTV. A Senate subcommittee has approved a bill that would expunge many felony arrests from the records of juveniles. A similar bill approved in the last legislative session was vetoed by Gov. DeSantis. Florida Politics. Some Republican legislators who have filed bills to ban the teaching of critical race theory are backing the University of Florida in a dispute with a professor over his proposed website description of his courses. Miami Herald.

Around the state: Collier County’s Kamela Patton is named superintendent of the year by two statewide organizations, Osceola school officials are suing a consultant they hired to help pick a health-care provider, Leon’s superintendent said the district dropped out of a suit against the state over face masks because “we were going to lose,” an Okaloosa County school resource develops a QR code so students can access the Fortify Florida reporting system without installing the app, and some Miami-Dade parents said the lag time between COVID cases being reported and being posted on the district’s website complicates their decision-making. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Some parents are concerned about the lag time between COVID-19 cases in schools being reported and that information getting to the school district’s online coronavirus dashboard. One of them, Amanda Prieto, said up-to-date information is vital to parents trying to make decisions. “It’s more important than ever that parents have that information … as we are in a situation where the protocols in our schools don’t match the CDC guidelines right now for K-12 schools, so that is complicated for parents,” she said. WPLG.

Hillsborough: A fire Tuesday night in the arts building at Leto High School in Tampa caused fire, smoke and water damage. No one was hurt, and the fire was contained before it could spread to other buildings. The cause of the fire is being investigated. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: An arrest has been made in Miami-Dade County in the homicide case of 14-year-old Ryan Rogers, a Dwyer High School student who was found dead Nov. 16, a day after he went missing. Palm Beach Gardens police will provide details of the arrest at a news conference today. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC. WPLG.

Osceola: The school district is suing a consultant it hired to help pick its health-care provider. At the time Gallagher Benefit Services was being paid almost $200,000 a year to act on the behalf of the district, the federal suit alleges, the company was collecting nearly $4 million in secret payments from insurance carriers. Cigna was hired at the recommendation of Gallagher, a decision that district is now calling an “unmitigated disaster” because Cigna allegedly failed to negotiate competitive prices for medical procedures and prescriptions. Florida Politics.

Collier: Two statewide organizations have named Collier’s Kamela Patton as Florida’s school superintendent of the year. Patton was chosen by the Florida School Boards Association and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. Patton, 58, joined the district in the summer of 2011 after spending most of her career with the Miami-Dade County School District. Naples Daily News. WINK.

Leon: Superintendent Rocky Hanna said this week that the district withdrew from a lawsuit against the state’s mask rule because even if the challenge was successful, there would have been little impact since COVID rates were declining quickly and the Legislature had subsequently passed a law banning states from imposing mask mandates. “At the end of the day, we were going to lose,” Hanna said. “Winning a small victory, long term, they were going to come back to Tallahassee to get exactly what they want.” But, he said, if COVID-19 infection rates rise in the community in the future, the district could impose mask mandates and resume the legal challenge against the state. Florida Politics.

Okaloosa: Max Bruner Jr. Middle School resource officer Jeramy Dobkins has created a QR code that allows any student to access Fortify Florida, an anonymous tool to report emergencies, without downloading the app. Dobkins said to some students, having the app on their phones is sometimes seen as being a “snitch.” The QR code can be scanned with a phone’s camera, sending students directly to the Fortify Florida website. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: On-campus vaccination clinics for children 5-11 years old will be held at various schools from Dec. 7-17. Shots will be given by school nurses and medical professionals from the health department. Gainesville Sun.

Citrus: Members of the Citrus County Retired Educators have donated more than 1,300 books to the Citrus County Education Foundation Supply Store for teachers to select for their classroom libraries. Citrus County Chronicle.

Colleges and universities: University of Florida students have been protesting against the school’s plan to build a natural gas power plant. UF trustees meet today to make a final decision. WUFT.

Around the nation: A fourth student has died after being wounded in a shooting at a Michigan high school on Tuesday, and a 15-year-old boy has been charged with murder, intent to murder and terrorism. Associated Press. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said he’ll commit $750 million over a five-year period to expand charter school enrollment, pay for new charter facilities, and train charter teachers and principals in 20 U.S. cities. New York is the only city chosen so far. Education Week. The 74.

Education podcasts: Megan Luten, a mother of three from Jacksonville whose 5-year-old daughter, Ellie, attends Catholic kindergarten with a Family Empowerment Scholarship Education Options scholarship, talks about the search for the right educational option for Ellie, why a Catholic education was the best fit, and how the expansion of the FES helped them. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: Tests that document the persistence of learning gaps don’t have to be perfect to be critically useful. Data from these assessments can provide critical leverage for focusing the attention of schools and policymakers on prioritizing the needs of persistently marginalized students most harmed by the pandemic. Conor P. Williams, The 74. A new law providing a tax break for the for-profit Full Sail University in Winter Park is yet another instance of government picking winners and losers, which the GOP denounces publicly but practices regularly. Orlando Sentinel. Where’s the outrage now after police concluded that a man lied and staged photos when making accusations about a school’s face mask “abuse” against his stepdaughter? Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. A debunked story about the Brevard County mask incident doesn’t matter as long as it fits Gov. DeSantis’ narrative. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.

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BY NextSteps staff