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Florida BOE approves new test cut scores and charter school review board, Duval restarts superintendent search, and more

Cut scores approved: A new scoring scale for the state’s standardized tests was approved Wednesday by the Florida Board of Education. The new “cut scores” that determine if students pass or fail the tests are more stringent than last year’s. Department of Education officials said 48 to 57 percent of the state’s students in grades 3-10 performed at grade level on the language arts exam last year, but if the new standards had been used that would have dropped to 47 to 52 percent. “The idea is to raise the bar and continue to move our students forward,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. “Students are resilient and traditionally have risen to the occasion.” Now that the scoring system has been set, school grades for the 2022-2023 academic year will be calculated, but will be informational only. Accountability consequences for struggling schools, such as increased state oversight, will resume after the 2023-2024 test grades and scores are issued. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel.

Charter review commission: A seven-member state Charter School Review Commission has been appointed by the Florida BOE to serve as an “alternate venue” for approving charter schools. School boards and state colleges and universities already can approve charters. “Why do we need a statewide commission?” asked Education Commissioner Diaz. “What this (rule) will do, it will allow this commission to take applications in multiple counties from an operator who’s coming into the state, or even an operator that’s within the state … and reduce the burden, the bureaucracy … to get this application in, reviewed, technically and approved.” He called the creation of the commission “a huge deal. The charter movement has gained so much success that it’s become kind of mainstream.” reimaginED. News Service of Florida.

New bathroom rules: A new state rule approved Wednesday by the BOE requires that Florida public and private colleges licensed by the Commission for Independent Education and certain other institutions must segregate bathrooms by sex assigned at birth, or provide a unisex option. Schools must show they’re in compliance by next April. Ignoring the rule can lead to discipline for students and a loss of state certification for faculty and other staff. WMFE. Florida Today. Tallahassee Democrat. Rules for the state’s new teacher apprenticeship program were also approved by the BOE. Under the program, paraprofessionals can become apprentices who get on-the-job training while being mentored by an experienced teacher as they work toward a degree and a teaching certificate with the district paying tuition and fees. Florida Department of Education.

Around the state: Duval’s school board has decided to restart a search for a new superintendent because it’s unhappy with the quality of the 10 candidates who did apply, Palm Beach’s school board votes unanimously to recognize October as LGBTQ+ History Month, a case of tuberculosis is confirmed at an Indian River County middle school, Broward’s school enrollment continues to drop, a Volusia school resource officer has been reprimanded for making insensitive remarks while detaining a 12-year-old student with special needs, the entire 7th grade at an Escambia charter school was placed on lockdown Wednesday for bad behavior, and Sarasota schools name a principal and assistant principal of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A decline in enrollment that started in the 2017-2018 school year continued in the past school year, district officials said this week. “We went down by approximately 3,200 students,” said Superintendent Peter Licata. “We’re seeing a trend, especially in Broward County, where families are moving out to less expensive areas in the state. Broward County has no more room for growth; they’re not constructing new developments; they’re building high-rises.” District data show the biggest declines in grades K-5 and middle school, with students switching to home-schooling or other alternatives. But, Licata said, the state’s new universal school vouchers “didn’t have as big an impact on school districts in terms of the number of students; many of those students were already enrolled elsewhere.” WFOR. District officials are offering $1,000 bonuses to try to cut down the school bus driver shortage. WPLG.

Hillsborough: A deal to lease the Blake High School soccer field to a professional women’s soccer team has been approved by the school board. Team owner Florida Community Events pledged to spend $4 million to renovate the complex, including upgrades to the turf field, locker rooms and bleachers. The team would play at Blake for three to five seasons, until it can build a permanent stadium. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Palm Beach: October was declared LGBTQ+ History Month by school board members at Wednesday’s meeting. The board voted 5-0 in favor, with no discussion, after hearing a half-hour of public comments that included just one person speaking against the resolution. Sun-Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC. A crisis intervention teacher at William T. Dwyer High School who admitted taking $60 from a student’s backpack resigned Tuesday, the day before the school board was going to vote on firing him. Matthew Csoka, 51, said he took the money in September and October 2022 because he had run out of gas and didn’t have his wallet with him. WPTV.

Duval: Unhappy with the quality of the 10 candidates for the school superintendent’s job, the school board decided Wednesday to restart the search process in 2024. “We were struggling with the applicant pool. … This job is too important to let the calendar force our decision,” said board chair Kelly Coker. Because of the delay, interim superintendent Dana Kriznar’s contract has been extended through June 30, 2024. Board members had hoped to name a superintendent by the end of this year, but now they expect to have a new superintendent by next June or July. Florida Times-Union. Jacksonville Today. WJAX.

Volusia: A school resource officer has been reprimanded for making insensitive and unprofessional remarks after he tackled and handcuffed a 12-year-old middle school student with special needs who ran out of the school last month. Ryan Riedinger, the SRO for DeLand Middle School, was responding to a report of what he described as “a student with special needs out of control and attempting to run off campus.” Riedinger’s supervisor investigated and determined that while the SRO followed proper procedures, he made “insensitive and unprofessional comments to the student contrary to his training.” Riedinger received a written reprimand and will be retrained on de-escalation techniques. WKMG. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sarasota: Kirk Hutchinson of Venice Elementary School has been named the school district’s principal of the year, and Sarasota High School’s Lindsay Gallof has been chosen as the assistant principal of the year. Both are now eligible for the statewide competition. WWSB.

Escambia: The entire 7th grade at Warrington Preparatory Academy was placed on lockdown Wednesday for bad behavior, sparking complaints from parents who said the students are not being allowed to attend their normal classes. School officials confirmed the students were on a “modified schedule” after several students intentionally flooded a bathroom, destroying seven classrooms. They said there have been disciplinary “problems across the board” that will no longer be overlooked, and that “We are having a behavioral reset.” Warrington had been a long-struggling school that was turned over in May to Charters Schools USA. WEAR.

Indian River: A case of tuberculosis has been confirmed at Storm Grove Middle School in Vero Beach, according to district officials. The Florida Department of Health has been notifying anyone who has had contact with the affected person and recommending that they be tested. WPTV. WPEC.

Jackson: School board members approved a contract agreement between the district and its teachers that will raise starting pay to $43,000 and give raises ranging from $650 to $975. Each teacher will also receive a $950 bonus, and two more steps were added to the pay scale. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: New College trustees are scheduled to approve a contract for new President Richard Corcoran at a meeting Friday. He’s being paid $699,000 a year now, and that could increase to as much as $868,000, with the total compensation package approaching $1.5 million or more. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida International University has agreed to pay $575,000 in back wages and damages to 163 women who earned less than men in similar positions between Aug. 1, 2017, and Aug. 1, 2018. WTVJ. A professor at the Florida Institute of Technology was arrested this week and accused of damaging a basketball player’s car. Police said Douglas Willard, 56, was seen on video near the player’s car with a crowbar in hand. The player told police he thought the damage was done by his ex-girlfriend or her “assumed boyfriend,” Willard. WKMG.

Opinions on schools: As seven former presidents of Florida public higher education institutions, we write to express our alarm at the impact new state laws may have — are already having — at colleges and universities in our state. These measures erode academic freedom, prohibit instructors from accurately conveying history to their students and, ultimately, limit students’ access to the full range of information and ideas they need to become engaged citizens. Tampa Bay Times. Manatee County residents don’t want the childish antics and political grandstanding that are the hallmark of some school boards. They just want officials who can make rational decisions not based on political bias but common sense, and that’s essentially what they’re getting from their school board. Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff