Florida schools roundup: Blacks and fundamental schools, testing and more

IMG_0001.JPGFundamental problem: More black students than ever are applying for fundamental schools in Pinellas County, but black enrollment is at an all-time low. It’s largely the result of a series of school board decisions to close some schools and change admittance rules for the fundamental schools. Tampa Bay Times.

School testing: The Department of Education is warning states that they still are responsible to deal with schools that show high rates of students opting out of standardized testing. Education Week. Both the federal and state governments are trying to cap the amount of time students spend taking tests. But the effect in Florida will probably be minimal. Palm Beach Post.

Education bills: A bill is filed that would create a social services-oriented pilot program for the state’s poorest and lowest-performing schools. Meanwhile, legislators are still working on a bill that would give students and schools the option of replacing state assessment tests with nationally recognized ones. Gradebook. A move to improve oversight of home-schooled children is not likely to be taken to the Legislature. Bradenton Herald.

Single-sex schools: The benefits of single-sex education are inconclusive, but that’s done nothing to dampen their popularity. From 2004 to 2014, the number of single-sex public schools in the United States jumped from 34 to 850. The Atlantic.

Gifted schools: The Orange County School District plans to open schools for gifted middle school and elementary students. School board chairman Bill Sublette says the district hopes to bring back gifted students whose parents now send them to private schools. The timetable is to open the schools in three to six years. Orlando Sentinel.

School attendance: Manatee County schools are reducing chronic absenteeism after hiring 25 “graduation enhancement technicians” to intervene with students in high-poverty schools before absenteeism slips into truancy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Candidates and education: Presidential candidates are neglecting education issues, according to a poll commissioned by Communities in Schools in Florida and seven other states. The Heartland Institute.

Graduation rates: High school graduation rates are on the rise, but experts worry that the standards have become so easy that the value of a high school diploma has been cheapened. New York Times.

Education improvement: The number of people with graduate or professional degrees has risen to 17.3 percent in the Tampa Bay area. Nationally, the rate is 10.4 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Tampa Bay Times.

School grades: The vice chairman of the Florida Board of Education, John Padget, criticizes Education Commissioner Pam Stewart’s proposed grading rules in a letter to his fellow board members, and proposes his own. The board votes on school grading rules and Florida Standards Assessments cut scores on Jan. 6. Miami HeraldGradebook. Orlando Sentinel. When preliminary school grades were issued by the state, Immokalee High School’s was missing. The oversight was a mistake on the state’s part, officials acknowledge. Naples Daily News.

Data driving program: The Santa Rosa School District is using intensive data analysis to predict which students are at risk to not graduate, then uses the data to provide specific help for those students. From 2010 to 2014, the graduation rate for at-risk students has risen from 45.8 percent to 55.7 percent. Pensacola News Journal.

Global competition: Twelve Broward County schools are giving a voluntary test to 15-year-olds that will be used to compare the schools to international standards. Sun-Sentinel.

Poverty’s persistence: The number of children receiving free or reduced-cost lunch at Sarasota County public schools is up 4 percent during the past two years. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Aid eligibility: Several Florida school districts are part of a national initiative to let districts know what students have filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which determines eligibility for all types of college aid. Orlando Sentinel.

School impact fees: On Thursday, the Manatee County Commission will consider reinstating a school impact fee for new homes. The fee has been suspended since 2009. Bradenton Herald.

Early education fight: The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County wants to take some administrative duties from the school district, saying it can do the work more efficiently. The school district says further discussions are needed. Tampa Tribune.

Feds and education: State Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, proposes a nonbinding resolution in the Legislature that calls for an end to all federal government involvement in education on the state level. The New American.

Intervention program: More than 40 Alachua County families agree to participate in a school district intervention program that gives special attention to at-risk students. Gainesville Sun.

Library diplomas: Broward County public libraries will offer online courses that lead to a high school diploma. Sun-Sentinel.

Up and coming district: The Lafayette County School District has been chosen the top “up and coming” district in the state, according to a report by StartClass.com. The survey considers math and reading assessment proficiency and graduation rates. WTXL.

Outside school activities: The Jacksonville Children’s Commission has created an Out of School Time Design Team, which aims to better coordinate and improve after-school and summer learning time. Florida Times-Union.

Sex education: State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, has filed a bill that would provide more detailed and age-appropriate sex education in schools. WFSU.

Class sizes: Both Collier and Lee counties were largely in compliance with class-size requirements, largely because of the flexibility the state provided in calculating average class sizes. Naples Daily News. Lee County is appealing its penalty for being 2 students over the limit, saying the noncompliance was an isolated incident. Naples Daily News.

Dual languages: Duval County is experimenting with dual language immersion studies at several schools. It has students learning half the time in one language and half the time in another. Florida Times-Union.

Bus chaos review: A review of records shows that the problems with school buses at the start of the year in Palm Beach County were known by mid-level administrators for months but not communicated to the district’s top executives. Palm Beach Post.

School calendar: The Leon County School Board is considering starting school later in the day next year. WFSU.

Student advancement: The Foundation for Florida’s Future, found by former Gov. Jeb Bush, is lobbying the state to allow students to move up based on mastering content instead of by age or even grade. Politico Florida.

Top education stories: Here are the top education stories in Florida for 2015. Sunshine State News. Is the passage of a sales tax referendum to benefit schools the most overlooked northeast Florida story of 2015? Florida Politics.

Public records fight: The St. Johns County School Board is embroiled in a public records dispute with a parent. The parent, Jeff Gray, says the district’s policy on releasing public records doesn’t follow state law, but the district contends Gray’s refusal to follow the policy is “antagonistic and disruptive to the lawful, orderly and safe operation” of district schools and offices. St. Augustine Record.

Teachers unions: Six months after the American Federation of Teachers took over the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, the union is looking to increase membership. Orlando Sentinel. The Lake County teachers union is taking its case against the school district over planning time to arbitration. It’s the first time that’s happened in 20 years. Daily Commercial.

Teacher chosen: Francie Snyder, a gifted teacher for the Manatee County School District, is one of 14 teachers chosen by Discovery Education to help shape and lead a new K-12 program. Bradenton Herald.

Charter school honors: The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools names James Kidd, president and CEO of SouthTech Academy and SouthTech Preparatory Academy in South Florida, School Leader of the Year. Sun-Sentinel.

New district building: The Indian River County School District is unveiling its new $7.3 million offices at an open house Jan. 11. TCPalm.

Notable deaths: Jania Cooper, an assistant principal at Glendale Elementary in Indian River County, dies when she is hit by a car driven by her boyfriend. TCPalm. Jeanne Morris, a 2o-year member of the Seminole County School Board, has died at age 72. Orlando Sentinel.

Sisters retire: Sister Marie Schramko, 98, the founding principal when Fort Lauderdale’s Cardinal Gibbons High School opened in 1961, and Sister Janet Rieden, 81, who has taught art history there since 1963, are retiring and moving to Illinois. They are the last nuns on the faculty. Sun-Sentinel.

Employees in trouble: A 35-year-old teacher from Garden Grove Elementary in Winter Haven is arrested and charged with possession of marijuana. Lakeland Ledger. A 35-year-old paraprofessional at St. Cloud Middle School is arrested and charged with having sex with a minor between the ages of 12 and 17. Orlando Sentinel. A Tallahassee teacher convicted in November of failing to report suspected abuse of a child is sentenced to two years of probation and 250 hours of community service. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: How did Florida and southwest Florida do on education in 2015? Naples Daily News. Much remains to be done on charter schools. Naples Daily News. School accountability is a top priority for 2016. Naples Daily News. Legislators should revisit the oversight and financing provided for charter schools. Tampa Bay Times. Pinellas school leaders have let down black students by creating a flawed fundamental school process. Tampa Bay Times. The Legislature should give voters the opportunity to decide if they want an elected education commissioner. Tampa TribuneTampa Bay Times. A bill to improve the educational options for developmentally disabled children deserves support. Tampa Tribune. If legislators properly finance the move to offer computer coding as a foreign language alternative, then broadening its availability in state high schools makes sense. Orlando Sentinel. Not providing sexual education for public school students is a social injustice. Aubrey Dolbeck, Gainesville Sun. It’s disconcerting that the Florida Department of Education can give a school an A grade when just 62 percent of its students are considered proficient. Roger Pinholster, Tallahassee Democrat. Florida education in 2015, by the numbers. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The teacher bonus program is divisive and demeaning. Michelle Dillon, St. Augustine Record. Don’t celebrate the revised No Child Left Behind Act yet; it’s likely Florida will continue to misuse high-stakes tests results. Sun-Sentinel. Three reasons why Florida should focus more on STEM classes. Orlando Business Journal. Two bills filed in the Florida Legislature seem to target the teaching of evolution and climate change. National Center for Science Education. Parents who enable their children to use illegal substances will not help them become better adults. Laurie Futterman, Miami Herald. A youth minister is reaching at-risk Jacksonville students with a message of empowerment – and pizza. Florida Times-Union. Florida’s home schooling laws need to be tightened. Bradenton Herald. The Legislature should close the loopholes in the state’s textbook selection law. Keith Flaugh, Naples Daily News. Freedom means tolerating a lot of things you may not like, a lesson gleaned from the recent controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance. Northwest Florida Daily News. The Florida Board of Education should follow the recommendation of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart on setting the Florida Standards Assessments cut scores. St. Augustine Record. There are better ways to reward teachers than using their SAT and ACT scores to determine bonuses. TCPalm. Mandatory recess for elementary students? Absolutely. TCPalm.

Student enrichment: Miami area filmmakers urge students at South Miami Senior High School to be persistent and make movies. Miami Herald. Twenty Lee County schools benefit from a fund-raising drive organized by in a joint effort between BJ’s Charitable Foundation and DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding site designed for teachers. Fort Myers News-Press. St. Gerard Campus’ fashion show raises more than $45,000 for the school. St. Augustine Record. The nonprofit Computers Advancing Education, which refurbishes donated computers and gives them to students, is nearing 32,000 computers donated. Florida Today. Project Soaring Sounds pairs McLaughlin Middle School and Fine Arts Academy students with Polk State College music students for private lessons. Lakeland Ledger. The Vero Beach band is named grand champion at the Peach Bowl parade. TCPalm. Math students at Fort Myers High School take 21st place in a national math competition called Team Scramble. Fort Myers News-Press.