Tougher state test cut scores proposed, six apply for Duval superintendent’s job, school bus overcrowding and more

Test cut scores: Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr.’s recommendations to increase cutoff scores for the state’s progress assessments, known as the FAST tests, were presented to the Senate Education PreK-12 Committee on Tuesday. Juan Copa, deputy commissioner for accountability, research and measurement, said if Diaz’s recommended cutoff scores had been used to score exams taken last spring, about 50 percent of students from K-10 would be at Levels 1 and 2 for English language arts and at about 49 percent for mathematics. Levels 1 and 2 are the lowest on a scale where Level 3 is considered passing and Levels 4 and 5 are proficient. “Is it a more rigorous bar? Yes,” Copa said. “But is it a more rigorous bar that’s outside the norm in terms of what is achievable? No.” The state Board of Education will decide Oct. 18 whether to adopt Diaz’s recommendations. News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Six people have applied to replace Diana Greene as superintendent of Duval County school, Broward voters may be asked to approve a proposal to have the county’s inspector general also look for waste and fraud in the school district, Volusia’s superintendent apologizes to parents for a school board agenda item that seemed to indicate an elementary school would be closed, parents of Ocoee High students complain that their children often have to sit or crouch in school bus aisles because of overcrowding, Charlotte school board members hear from parents angry that books with LGBTQ+ content have been removed from school libraries and classrooms, and Bay County schools has received $70,000 as the district’s share of a national settlement with a vaping manufacturer. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Voters may be asked next year to decide if the county’s inspector general should also look for waste, fraud and corruption in the school system. County commissioners gave their tentative approval to the proposal on Tuesday. School board members, who have resisted previous proposals to include the district under the eye of the inspector general, and the county now have to work out the details, including ballot language, costs and contract terms. “I think this is something that should be done,” said commissioner Michael Udine. “I think this is something that should be welcomed by the school board.” If the measure is approved it would then go to voters, probably on the general election ballot Nov. 5, 2024. Sun-Sentinel. A teacher accused of abusing a 4-year-old with special needs at Forrest Hills Elementary School in Coral Springs has been let go, according to school officials. The case is being investigated by police. WPLG.

Hillsborough: The contract agreement reached between the teachers union and the district Monday night calls for a pay schedule that begins at $47,500 for new hires and reaches $72,490 for educators after 25 years of service. Meanwhile, school board members are also considering asking voters to approve a tax referendum to further increase teacher pay, a measure that voters rejected in 2022. It will be discussed at the Oct. 17 board meeting. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF.

Orange: Ocoee High School students are crouching in aisles and sitting on the floors of school buses because of overcrowding, according to parents who are complaining to district officials. District 7 school board member Melissa Byrd acknowledged that school buses throughout the district are over capacity because of a shortage of drivers. She said buses should not move with students sitting on floors, and she’s urging the superintendent to authorize two or three runs to get students to and from school if necessary. In the meantime, Byrd is encouraging parents to drive their children to school if possible. WESH.

Duval: Six candidates have filed applications to replace Diana Greene as the next school superintendent. Chief of staff Scott Schneider is the only current district employee to apply. He’s held that position since 2021. Other candidates are: Clifford Burns, superintendent at Andover Regional School District (K-8) in New Jersey since July 2021; Garrick Askew, assistant superintendent of operations at the Clarke County School District in Athens, Ga., since March 2022; Adam Taylor, a consultant at Darryl Richardson LLC who also super experience as a superintendent; Corwin Robinson, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former program administrator at St. Tammany Parish School System in Louisiana; and Annie Cruez-Samuels, the dean of academic affairs at Keiser University in Daytona Beach. WTLV.

Volusia: A school board agenda item that seemed to indicate Read-Patillo Elementary School would be closing was a “mishap,” Superintendent Carmen Balgobin told parents at a board meeting Tuesday, and was tabled by the board. “As your superintendent, I apologize to you because it does send the connotation with that wording that it’s been predetermined or that a conversation has occurred,” Balgobin said. “But from our staff standpoint, I want to assure you that it has not. And I know from a board standpoint, it has not, either.” Read-Patillo needs more than $20 million in repairs. WOFL. WFTV.

Sarasota: Out-of-Door Academy officials say the private school will open its third Sarasota County campus next fall. It will start with students in pre-K through the 1st grade, and a grade level will be added every year until it goes through 5th grade. The buildings on the property used to be the home of the New Gate Private School WWSB.

Leon: A 19-year-old man has been arrested and accused of setting fire to Killearn Lakes Elementary School in Tallahassee last week. Deputies said Daniel Foor, 19, is charged with arson and burglary. The fire caused “significant damage” to the boiler room and mechanical equipment, according to the sheriff’s office. Tallahassee Democrat.

Santa Rosa: School board members are expected to vote Thursday on an insurance plan for school employees that will mean higher premiums. Teachers union president David Godwin sat in on the meetings discussing the plan, which was unanimously approved by the committee. Now he said he wants the proposal tabled because the increase in unwarranted. WEAR.

Bay: The district is receiving $70,000 as its part of the 2022 settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the American electronic cigarette company Juul Labs for marketing their products to children. Schools in 30 states were part of the suit, which ended with Juul agreeing to pay $439 million. WMBB. Five students at three county schools have been chosen as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. They are Abdullah Mubarak and Ben Nguyen from Rutherford High, Jezreel Hinson and Kayli Zimmerman from Bay High, and Dawson Asiatico from Mosley High. WJHG.

Charlotte: More than two-dozen of the 120 people who attended the school board meeting Tuesday night spoke, and many were critical of the school district’s decision to remove books with LGBTQ+ content from classrooms and school libraries. Superintendent Mark Vianello told them while the district is committed to “all students,” it also has to follow state law. Charlotte Sun. WINK.

Flagler: Three school board members submitted nine questions to an outside counsel last month asking how they could fire school board attorney Kristy Gavin without getting sued. Colleen Conklin, Cheryl Massaro and Christy Chong submitted the questions as the request of their colleague, Will Furry. Since then, Massaro suggested that Gavin become a staff attorney answering to the superintendent, with the board hiring its own counsel. Flagler Live. Eleven Matanzas High School students were arrested after an on-campus brawl Monday, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. Three are charged with resisting a law enforcement officer and battery on school personnel, and deputies are recommending charges including breach of peace and disturbance of a school function against eight others. WOFL. WKMG. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

Columbia: Fort White Performing Arts Center has opened in Fort White High School. It’s the first auditorium for the school since it opened 24 years ago, said principal Principal Keith Couey. The cost was $6.5 million, and the auditorium will be used for community concerts, band and chorus practices and as a testing site. WCJB.

Monroe: Roosevelt Sands Jr., a community leader who worked as an occupational specialist at Key West High School for more than 20 years and for the Key West Housing Authority Board for 52 years, has died. He was 93. Key West Citizen.

Hamilton: An 8-year-old girl was critically injured Tuesday when she was hit by a car while trying to board her school bus in Jasper. Florida Highway Patrol troopers said the bus was stopped, with its stop signs and flashing lights activated, when the 19-year-old driver of the SUV hit the girl as she crossed the road. She was flown to UF Health Shands for treatment. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: As New College president, Richard Corcoran should receive a base salary of $487,110 to $867,777, with total compensation up to $1,547,324, according to an analysis done by the consulting firm Mercer for the college. Tampa Bay Times. University of South Florida officials announced Tuesday that the College of Public Health after the school’s founder, the late legislator and advocate Sam Bell. Tampa Bay Times. Most of the 20 people injured Monday after a security scare during a candlelight vigil at the University of Florida were treated and released with minor injuries, according to UF Health Shands officials. Gainesville Sun. WPLG. The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida is now offering expanded online information to give prospective students and families a better look at the 30 private schools’ performance. News Service of Florida. The average student applying to the University of Miami in 2021 had an SAT score of 1402, the highest in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The University of Florida was second at 1385, followed by Florida Polytechnic University at 1295 and Florida State University at 1280. Most Florida schools still use the SAT as a factor in admissions. Palm Beach Post. Average scores on the ACT college admission test have dropped to their lowest levels in more than 30 years. The average score for U.S. students this year was 19.5 out of 36. Last year, the average score was 19.8. Associated Press.

Scholarship simplicity: The new universal school scholarship law has provided richer benefits for Florida families but also more administrative challenges. John Kirtley, chairman of Step Up For Students, which administers most of the state’s scholarship programs and hosts this blog, said the key to managing this change is to “keep these programs as simple as possible. The more complex you make them, the harder they are to manage.” Kirtley made his remarks during a recent panel discussion of education savings accounts implementation at Harvard University’s “Emerging School Models” conference. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: It’s worth keeping in mind that any enrollment fluctuations in school districts are likely to stem from multiple causes, not just the growth of educational options. Travis Pillow, reimaginED.

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BY NextSteps staff