Florida schools roundup: School testing and grades, No Child and more

IMG_0001.JPGSchool testing, grades: A Department of Education simulation projecting school grades indicates that despite fears more schools would fail because of the new Florida Standards Assessment tests, little would change in the distribution of grades. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is lobbying for her version of passing score standards. Superintendents support Stewart’s proposal, but still want to suspend school grades until two years of data are in, while some legislators and business leaders think Stewart’s standards are too low. The State Board of Education will decide the issue Jan. 6. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Lakeland Ledger. Tallahassee Democrat. Meanwhile, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, says the Legislature will continue to work on bills that would allow schools to use tests other than the statewide standardized exams for such things as teacher evaluations and school grades. News Service of Florida, via Gainesville Sun. WFSU.

No Child bill: The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approves the revised No Child Left Behind Act, and President Obama says he will sign the bill into law today. The changes allow states greater control over public schools, particularly in the ways student and teacher performance are assessed. New York Times. Associated Press. Florida Times-Union.

School superintendents: The DeSoto County School Board is asking Gov. Rick Scott to remove Superintendent Karyn Gary while the state attorney investigates charges that she hired two administrators and fired another without board approval and forged the board chairwoman’s signature on a contract. WINK. A YouTube video of Sebastian River High principal Todd Racine breaking up a fight won’t affect the district’s support for him, an Indian River County schools spokesman says. TCPalm.

Teacher pay: Pinellas teachers will receive raises of 4 percent, retroactive to July 1, on Feb. 6. Gradebook.

Town hall with teachers: Hillsborough School Superintendent Jeff Eakins answers questions from teachers at a town hall meeting. Gradebook.

Consultant’s plan: Education Resource Strategies outlines what it’s found so far in a $570,000 look at the Palm Beach County School District: The district’s students do well in a peer review, but poorer students are lagging; per-student spending is high for Florida, but not comparable nationally when special needs are considered; and principals find it difficult to identifying ineffective teachers and getting them out of the classroom. Palm Beach Post.

Employee discipline: The Palm Beach County School Board approves the firing of two teachers – one who met late at night with a female student “to chill” and the other for pushing a student down after asking him to pick up a cockroach. Palm Beach Post. The former dean of students at Sebastian Middle School has been suspended without pay for the rest of the semester and will be reassigned for his use of force to remove a student from the cafeteria. St. Augustine Record.

STDs in schools: STD rates are rising rapidly among Florida teens, and school districts are trying to keep students informed and safe. WFTS.

New board offices: The Hillsborough County School Board will get new offices, but the once-discussed $600,000 budget has been pared to $40,000, according to a district spokeswoman. Gradebook.

Board sues photojournalist: The St. Johns School Board is suing a photojournalist who recorded several school bus drivers skipping required pretrip inspections. Photographyisnotacrime.com.

Wormy rice: Rice is pulled from the menu at Killarney Elementary School in Winter Park after a student found mealworms in his food. Orlando SentinelUPI.

Bomb threats: A series of hoax bomb threats at schools in Duval and Clay counties disrupt schools and prompt some officials to call for stricter control of social media. Florida Times-Union.

Charter records request: South Florida attorney Robert H. Fernandez has filed public records requests for three Duval County School Board members who voted against an application for a new Charter Schools USA operation in Jacksonville in October. The school was approved. Florida Politics.

Opinions on schools: The Florida Standards Assessment is not the appropriate measure for accountability in Florida’s schools . Daytona Beach News-Journal. Earlier school start dates won’t improve test scores, but they do have an impact on family life. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Denying the reality of problems at five St. Petersburg schools undercuts improvement efforts. Tampa Bay Times. Paying bonuses to teachers because they did well on an SAT or ACT test years ago isn’t one of the Legislature’s best ideas. Orlando Sentinel. The Polk County School Board is to be commended for making time for recess in elementary schools. Lakeland Ledger. The national rhetoric that devalues teachers is just wrong. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: A senior at West Palm Beach’s Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches wins a $100,000 scholarship in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & technology. Maria Elena Grimmett is honored for her work to identify a new water purification method. Business Wire. Tampa’s Hillel Academy is partnering with Tampa Urban Benefit Farms to supply food pantries with fruits and vegetables grown hydroponically. Tampa Bay Times. Celebrity chef Jeff Henderson tells troubled teenagers in Tampa stories of stealing and drug-dealing when he was young. Tampa Tribune. Lakeland Kathleen High School is awarded $100,000 from State Farm for a video promoting safe driving. Lakeland Ledger. Dozens of Collier County schools join the worldwide “Hour of Code” movement to get students interested in writing computer code. Naples Daily News. Students at Panama City Advanced School got a better understanding of the problems of people without easy access to water by walking a half-mile to get a gallon of water and a half-mile carrying it. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff