Florida schools roundup: School grades, elected commissioner and more

IMG_0001.JPGSchool grades: State Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, files a bill that would give all Florida schools a grade of incomplete, arguing that the formula to determine grades requires learning gains that can’t be calculated. Gradebook. The recently released simulated school grade for Godby High School in Tallahassee demonstrates how the school is able to take advantage of a loophole in the state’s accountability system. Tallahassee Democrat.

Elected commissioner: Former Florida Education Commissioner Betty Castor is backing the move to make the job an elected position again, with Cabinet status. “I would argue strongly when we thought we would take politics out of education, what we did was to lose the advocacy and the understanding and the commitment to support education,” Castor says. WPOC.

Teacher bonuses: Older teachers who want to qualify for the state’s bonus pool are finding it’s not as easy at it sounds. Archived SAT and ACT results only go back to 1978, and the companies that administer the tests say they were deluged with requests for scores. So some teachers are retaking the college entrance exams. Sun-Sentinel.

Teachers talking: When Hillsborough School Superintendent Jeff Eakins invited teachers to speak at a series of recent town hall meetings, their frustrations poured out. Tampa Bay Times.

Bus service expands: The Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority is considering extending free rides for middle and high school students through June. Tampa Tribune.

Tuition-free courses: Orange and Seminole counties are adding programs that will bring tuition-free state college courses to high school campuses. Orlando Sentinel.

Charter schools: A charter school is looking at property in Golden Gate Estates in Naples, which prompts the area’s civic association to push for a voice in the decision-making process. Association officials worry about the additional traffic. The school would have 661 students in K-6 next school year. Naples Daily News.

Schools growth: The rapid rise in student growth in Lee and Collier counties is fueled by people coming from Miami-Dade and Broward counties, Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico and Haiti, according to enrollment data. The two districts have added 8,800 students this school year. Fort Myers News-Press.

Physics missing: Orlando’s Jones High School has not had a single student enroll in a physics class the past three years, and school officials say they will push to get students enrolled. Orlando Sentinel.

Vocational training: Amid the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math classes, some parents, especially in rural areas, want schools to re-create vocational courses such as agriscience, woodworking, shop and home economics. Gainesville Sun.

Principal arrested: Mary Pinson, principal at the Francis Marion Charter School, is arrested and accused of stealing $20,000 in school funds. A two-month investigation of financial mismanagement at the school led to the arrest, police say. Ocala Star Banner.

Evolution lawsuit: An 11-year-old boy and his father are suing the Palm Beach School Board, claiming the district is refusing to teach evolution due to pressure exerted by religious groups. WPBF.

Video controversy: A video of First Coast High School students cussing, jumping on desks and fighting, even with a teacher apparently present, is causing concern. The video was posted on Facebook by a parent who says it’s a typical day for her daughter. Florida Times-Union.

Superintendent finalist: Debra Pace, an assistant superintendent at the Brevard County School District and one of three finalists for the Osceola County school superintendent position, is profiled. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: The news that graduation rates across the United States are up is welcome, but educators need to keep applying pressure for further improvements. Tampa Bay Times. Unless the goal of legislators is to enrich the operators of charter schools, it is past time to fix the problem with charter school capital funding. Martin Levine, Nonprofit Quarterly. The Legislature’s drive to use teacher  SAT or ACT test scores, sometimes from decades ago, to determine eligibility for bonuses is the wrong approach and should be reconsidered. Tampa Bay Times. How to help you explain world events to your children. Ralph Cash, Sun-Sentinel. Brevard School Superintendent Desmond Blackburn earns respect with his approach of listening to people before setting his agenda for the district. Matt Reed, Florida Today. Subjecting a teacher to public ridicule, as Gadsden High principal James Mills did recently to a teacher by removing her from the classroom and making her sit in the hallway as a monitor, is poor management. Tallahassee Democrat. How well does your school district provide high school students opportunities to take physics? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Options for public school education must continue to include charter and magnet schools, argues Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. Miami Herald. School choice is an invaluable option for Hispanic parents. So why isn’t Hillary Clinton supporting it? Rachel Campos-Duffy, Tampa Tribune. Allowing students to substitute computer coding for a foreign language is a bad idea that does not help children become well-rounded students. Palm Beach Post.

Student enrichment: A birth defect left Raeshaun Potts with prosthetic legs, but it hasn’t stopped him from joining the Bartow High School marching band. Gainesville Sun. Businessman John Sanders gives $150 in cash gift cards to each fifth grader at Oldsmar Elementary, with this catch: $100 of the $150 has to be spent on other people. What some of the students spent it on surprised even the school principal. Tampa Bay Times. Royal Palm Beach High School’s My Fair Ladies club was founded to help empower women, but is broadening its approach to help others in need. Palm Beach Post. East Naples’ Manatee Middle School students are rewarded for good discipline with blankets. Naples Daily News. Bay High School students win honors for making public service announcements. Panama City News Herald. Leigh Dittman, a 15-year-old student at Gaither High in Hillsborough County, has raised more than $1 million at fund-raisers in the past 12 years for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Tampa Tribune. All 400 students at Inwood Elementary in Winter Haven contribute to a giant mixed-media work of art. Lakeland Ledger.