SAT exam goes digital, final exam options for students, new principals at schools and more

In the Legislature:  A pair of bills in the Florida state Legislature could allow Satanic priests to volunteer in Florida schools. Senate Bill 1044 and companion House Bill 931 let public schools allow volunteer chaplains to provide student counseling services. “We are empowering the school districts to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children, in their communities, and setting the requirements that they feel would be necessary to protect their children and make sure that any type of counseling is legitimate counseling,” said state Sen. Gayle Harrell. Under the U.S. Constitution, the state can’t dictate which religious groups are eligible to volunteer, which would open the door for groups like the Satanic Temple to allow their clergy to provide services to students. Fox 35.  Meanwhile, community members are split over a proposed bill that would allow religious chaplains to counsel students in Florida schools. While some see the benefit in offering more services, others are opposed and say religion has no place in public schools. The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Palm Beach: Between the beginning of the 2023-24 school year on Aug. 10 and Feb. 15, four books were challenged in Palm Beach County through complaints to individual schools, district records show. Only one was removed from the shelves temporarily. The last book to be formally challenged in Palm Beach County was the Bible. The objection was denied four times and remains on school library shelves. Palm Beach Post.

Hillsborough: The school board here approved principal appointments at two schools on Tuesday. Tampa Bay Times.

Pinellas: Students in this county could find it easier to opt out of their final exams next year under a plan that would allow students to exempt semester exams for as many as three courses in which they are averaging a “C” grade or better over both quarters and have not missed more than five days in those classes. The plan was presented to the school board Tuesday. Like other school systems, Pinellas has seen a spike in absenteeism that has lingered in years since the pandemic.  Tampa Bay Times.

Pasco: The school district here has agreed to change the way its schools treat students with disabilities as part of a settlement that is related to a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation. The DOJ announced the settlement with the school district on Tuesday after a lengthy investigation found Pasco schools engaged in disability discrimination. The investigation also identified issues with the way schools conducted threat assessments. Tampa Bay Times.

Polk: Southwest Middle School unveiled its $55 million transformation, which offers the latest educational technology in three new buildings. “We have the ability every single day to change the trajectory of a child’s life,” said Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Fred Heid. “But we need an educational environment that will allow that to sustain over time. And I’m very proud of the work that went into this facility to ensure that we honor, recognize and maintain the legacy and the history of those who came before the students who are here today.” LkldNow.

Marion: High schools in this county can nominate one student each week for Student of the Week. Candidates include students who have shown outstanding academic and school achievement and community service. Nominations are due Thursday. Ocala Star Banner.

SAT news: The SAT, a college admissions exam completed using paper and pencil, is now officially digital. This week, students in the U.S. will begin taking the new SAT on their own devices or on school devices. The test is also one hour shorter, down from three hours, and has shorter reading passages. The revamped test is aimed to make grading easier and cheating harder. Students can take the test at a high school or a test center. “Today’s students, they do a lot of their living digitally, they do a lot of their learning digitally and they do a lot of their test taking digitally,” said Priscilla Rodriguez, who oversees the SAT for the College Board, the organization behind the test. NPR. The 19th.

Course removal: Last month, Florida officials removed sociology as one of the core courses that students can choose to finish their studies at public colleges and universities. In its place, the state inserted a new option for students, which is an introductory course surveying U.S. history up to 1877. That class spans U.S. history from the discovery of the Americas to the end of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Tampa Bay Times.

Colleges and universities: The president of Edward Waters, the state of Florida’s oldest historically Black college and university, or HBCU, is dealing with old perceptions as the university grows. In response to a leader who said that the school had not done enough to make itself visible to the Jacksonville business community, A. Zachary Faison took to X to say, ““EWU has been present in Jacksonville for nearly 160 years. It is the literal birthplace of any and all semblances of higher education in this city and community,” Faison posted, in part, to the social media platform. “Saying that we aren’t ‘present’ or are ‘unknown’ because of a lack of effort or acumen on behalf of the current and/or former leadership is a disingenuous cop-out that patronizingly (reeks) of victim blaming.” Jax Today. After the University of Florida announced on March 1 that it was eliminating all positions related to diversity, equity and inclusion following a new Florida board of Governors regulation that labels expenses related to DEI as prohibited expenditures, students continued reacting to the decision. Lorena Bacallao, a UF student, said “As a school that takes so much pride in so many different things, like research and being the first, or being innovative … I feel like it would have made more sense for the university to be the one that [said]: ‘No, we’re not doing this – this is a right,’ but they did the opposite.” The Gainesville Sun.

Opinions on schools: As. Gov. Ron DeSantis admitted, the tide of censorship in Florida schools and colleges has gone too far, and it’s long past time to reverse this destructive trend. Katie Blankenship, Miami Herald. There’s a trend in Florida education to rewrite history by putting the lives of oppressed people in a rosy light. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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BY Camille Knox