Florida board to consider SAT and ACT alternative, most book challenges filed by 2 people, 2 on leave for Flagler assembly for black students, and more

Alternative test: Florida’s Board of Governors is expected to vote Wednesday to allow scores from the Classic Learning Test (CLT) to be used in students’ applications to universities. Approval would give students a third test option in addition to the SAT and ACT, and they could also use the scores in their applications for Bright Futures Scholarships. The change would begin immediately and make Florida the first state to authorize the CLT, which bills itself as an exam that focuses on the Western tradition and texts, as an option to meet standardized test requirements at its public universities. It has been used primarily by home-schooled students and accepted at mostly Christian colleges. Orlando Sentinel. As part of its budget request of $24.6 billion, Florida’s Department of Education is asking for $6 million to develop advanced courses that can be alternatives to the Advanced Placement courses offered by the College Board. Politico Florida.

The book challengers: About 1,100 book challenges have been filed in Florida in the past year. More than 700 of them came from two counties that make up less than 3 percent of the state’s public school enrollment, and about 600 of those challenges came from two people — a 57-year-old father from Clay County, Bruce Friedman, and Pensacola high school teacher Vicki Baggett. The data show how the book challenge processes by a small minority of activists can overwhelm school districts. Tampa Bay Times. Here are the four books that received the most complaints. Tampa Bay Times. Internal e-mails between members of the Leon chapter of Moms for Liberty point to the conservative activist group challenging hundreds of books, and detail how members plan to go about it. USA Today Florida Network.

Around the state: The principal and a teacher at a Flagler County elementary school have been placed on administrative leave after black 4th- and 5th-graders were called into assemblies and told by a teacher that their test scores were too low, among the dozens of new rules approved this week by the Florida Board of Education were two that could have a daily impact on students, the body of a Florida Gulf Coast University student who fell out of a boat was found in Lake Como on Thursday, the number of teaching jobs unfilled in northwest Florida school districts is down since last year, Monroe school board members approved a plan this week to hire certified teachers who will handle classes virtually, and Volusia school board members approve a four-day school week for a charter school for pregnant teens. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Palm Beach: Palm Beach Gardens School is one of the schools in 11 districts that has adopted the University of Florida’s artificial intelligence program into its curriculum. The goal of the program is to give students the skills necessary for an AI-enabled workforce. They will be taught to identify AI around them, see how AI works in in different fields, and create their own AI systems. Palm Beach Post. Five employees of Palm Beach Central High School, including the principal and two assistant principals, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of failing to report the sexual assault of a 15-year-old student in April 2021. One of the students accused in the assault is the son of assistant principal Daniel Snider, who was one of the five placed on leave. All five employees have been reassigned to positions that have no contact with students, pending the outcome of the charges. Sun-Sentinel. WPEC.

Lee: Renovations are underway at the historic Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, which was nearly destroyed when Hurricane Ian swept through the area last fall. School board members agreed this summer to demolish one building on the campus and spend $6 million to save and repair the historic building. Construction is expected to be completed in November, and about 50 students who have been attending classes at other schools will return. WFTX. WBBH.

Volusia: School board members recently approved a four-day school week for the Chiles Academy charter school, which helps pregnant students complete their education and learn to care for their children. Classes are now held Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second floor of the historic Bonner Elementary School in Daytona Beach. Principal Abby Ferguson said her students “have lots of things that interfere with attendance” and needed something different. The four-day week is an experiment that will be re-evaluated at the end of the school year. WOFL.

Collier: A Naples 6th-grader has written a book that recounts her experience during Hurricane Ian last fall. Sutton Shanahan said she was scared when water ran into homes on her street, which inspired her to write The Little Hurricane Helper. It chronicles her feelings and actions during and after the storm. “Everything that I did in the book is what I actually did in real life, like me handing out the ice cream in the book,” she said. “I took my little wagon, and I filled it with ice cream and I put an ice cream sign on it. I went around the neighborhood and gave it to workers that were helping.” She also started a nonprofit called Kids 4 a Cause that encourages children to get involved in helping their communities. WFTX.

Sarasota: A 12-year-old Sarasota Middle School student was recently taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies and then involuntarily committed under the Baker Act after deputies determined he “poses a significant danger of causing injury to others in the near future.” A search of the boy’s home found several unsecured weapons and maps of his former school, Lakeview Elementary, that noted the locations of security cameras and two specific teachers. The boy has been suspended. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia, northwest Florida: The number of teacher job openings is down from last year in the northwest Florida school districts of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Bay and Walton, officials are reporting. Escambia had 77 jobs to fill at this time a year ago, but was down to 59 a few days after school opened this year. Santa Rosa has 15 openings, down from 18 a year ago, while Okaloosa is reporting 53 unfilled jobs, down from 75. For all five districts, the number of teaching jobs unfilled on the first day of school was 104 lower than last fall. Local officials caution that the number of openings will fluctuate until enrollment stabilizes after Labor Day. WUWF.

Martin: A Martin County High School automotive maintenance teacher was arrested Thursday and accused of possession of child pornography and solicitation of a minor. School district officials said Antonio Capilupi, 34, has been barred from district property and the superintendent has recommended he be fired by the school board. WPTV. WPEC.

Flagler: The principal and a teacher at Bunnell Elementary School have been placed on administrative leave after black 4th- and 5th-graders were called into assemblies and told by a teacher that their test scores were too low, and to stop clowning around or they could miss out on college and end up shot or dead. Interim superintendent LaShakia Moore first apologized for singling out the black students, and Thursday she put principal Donelle Evensen and teacher Anthony Hines on leave for their roles in the incident. School board chair Cheryl Massaro also offered yet another apology. “The district does not, does not support in any way the activity that took place at Bunnell Elementary School,” she said. “To the parents and students affected by these actions of the Flagler County community, we make no excuses but extend our apology, all of our apologies. It should not have happened. If we had known about it, it wouldn’t have happened. But it came to knowledge after the fact.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WMFE. WTLV.

Monroe: School board members approved a plan this week to hire certified teachers to handle classes virtually. The district will pay Elevate K-12 between $90,000 and $274,000 a year to provide up to three certified teachers who will instruct through video calls while a teacher’s aide is in the classroom with students. It’s not ideal, said Superintendent Theresa Axford, but the teacher shortage is pushing the district to try something different. “Our choice is, do we put a substitute in that class teaching chemistry and physics — which you know is not going to be an optimum situation — or do we use this service and see how it goes?” said Axford. WLRN.

Colleges and universities: The body of a Florida Gulf Coast University student was found in Lake Como on Thursday, a day after he fell off a boat. Graham McGrath, 19, was one of 14 people on the boat but the only student, according to Sheriff Carmine Marceno. “We don’t see any physical signs of trauma,” said Marceno. “They were having a great time and unfortunately things turned tragic pretty quickly.” Fort Myers News-Press. WBBH. WINK. WFTX. Miami Herald. University of North Florida trustees have approved a strategic plan to boost enrollment from its current 16,000 to 25,000 in the next five years. WTLV. Police are investigating reports that scammers are threatening to release explicit photos of several University of Central Florida students to their families and friends unless they’re paid off. WKMG. WTSP.

Other rules approved: Among the dozens of new rules approved this week by the Florida Board of Education are two that could have a daily impact on students. One would allow students to have over-the-counter medicines for headaches in schools and at school activities, and the other gives students a presumption of innocence if they intervene to stop a school fight and use “only the amount of force necessary … to restore or maintain the safety of others.” Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: Millions of Americans with student college loans will have to start repaying them next month. The federal Department of Education has created a repayment plan that calculates payments based on a borrower’s income and family size, and forgives balances after a set number of years. Florida Phoenix. A majority of U.S. school districts are expected to cut staff in the next year as federal COVID relief funds run out. Especially at risk are behavioral-health personnel, tutors, reading specialists and teachers for summer learning programs that were added to help students recover from the effects of the pandemic. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: Entrepreneurial educators are creating programs that are pedagogically and philosophically varied, allowing more parents to choose education options that better reflect their preferences and values. From faith-based programs and classical microschools rooted in the traditional liberal arts, to Waldorf-inspired learning pods and self-directed home-schooling centers, families are increasingly able to select their ideal learning environment. Kerry McDonald, The 74. A crucial objective of education is to encourage curiosity and inquiry in our students. Any parent in their right mind can see that this will never be accomplished by eliminating anything that’s remotely questionable. Dan Reiter, Florida Today.

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BY NextSteps staff