Florida schools roundup: AP exam success, charters, choice and more

florida-roundup-logoAP success: Nearly 58 percent of Florida high school seniors took one or more Advanced Placement exams in 2015, according to a College Board report. That percentage was second in the United States, trailing only the District of Columbia (70 percent). About 31 percent of Florida seniors scored 3 or higher on one or more of the AP exams. Only Maryland and Massachusetts had higher percentages of students passing the exams. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Naples Daily News.

Charters and choice: Two Senate bills, one on charter schools and the other on school choice, undergo significant changes and may get a vote today in committee. SB 524 deals with teacher bonuses, charter facilities financing, competency-based pilot programs and giving principals greater authority to make changes at struggling schools. SB 1166 would allow open enrollment for any student to attend any school with an opening, allow athletes to transfer and play immediately, and revamp charter school regulations. Step Up For Students. Politico Florida. Gradebook.

Computer coding: The Florida Senate passes a bill allowing Florida students to take computer coding to satisfy foreign language requirements. The bill now says public schools may offer coding classes in place of foreign languages, but do not have to. If a school does not, it “may provide students access to the course through the Florida Virtual School or through other means.” Miami Herald. Politico Florida. WFSU.

Alternative testing: State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, says he was only checking when he asked the Department of Education’s legal counsel if contracts hinged on the Legislature approving funding. He was told that was correct. Gaetz has pushed a bill that would allow schools to use tests such as the ACT and SAT instead of the Florida Standards Assessments. American Institutes for Research, the vendor that administers the FSA, has a six-year, $220 million contract with the state. Politico Florida.

Bennett lobbying: Former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett is now registered as a lobbyist in the state. Bennett, who resigned in 2013 during a charter school controversy, represents companies that specialize in Common Core implementation and alternative teacher certification programs. Florida Politics and AP.

Kindergarten readiness: A state report indicates that 94 percent of Duval County preschools are adequately preparing children for kindergarten. School officials are pleased, but caution that the scores are probably elevated by a change in the way the figure is calculated. Florida Times-Union.

“Unconscious bias”: Pinellas County Deputy School Superintendent Bill Corbett acknowledges “unconscious bias” plays a role in the disparity in the suspension rates between black and white students in the district. Corbett was speaking at a forum organized by the superintendent’s North County Minority Advisory Council. Tampa Bay Times.

School start times: Leon County high school students will have an option to start school an hour later. The Leon County School Board approved a plan that creates floating periods. Students could choose a 7:30-1:50 school day or an 8:30-2:50 one. Tallahassee Democrat.

School uniforms: A discussion at the Volusia County School Board meeting about school uniforms gets heated, with critics of the proposed policy making a last pitch to derail the plan. The school board is expected to vote March 15. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

College courses: Orange County students will get more chances to take college-level technical courses in their high schools under an agreement between the district and Valencia College say. Orlando Sentinel.

Events at Everglades: The principal at Atlantic High School has been reprimanded for entering her old school, Everglades Elementary, without permission and berating the school treasurer. Tara Dellegrotti-Ocampo was arguing about the school’s policy on hanging banners. Palm Beach Post. Meanwhile, the principal at Everglades, Amie Souder, resigned suddenly this week. No reason was given, and it’s unknown if there’s a connection between the incidents. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

Standards too high?: Zach Anspach says he was fired as boys basketball coach at Tavares High School because his academic standards for players were too high. “I was asking them to get at least a C. I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” he says. School officials say Anspach was let go for “not adhering to policy.” Orlando Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: The Polk County teachers union and the school district are closer to an agreement on pay, but remain at odds over the teacher evaluation formula. Lakeland Ledger.

Payments closer: A Florida Senate subcommittee approves a bill that would force the Palm Beach County School District to pay nearly $2 million to two students who were injured by district employees. Palm Beach Post.

School reserve fund: The Clay County School District’s reserve fund is at the state-mandated 3 percent level for the first time since the 2012-13 school year, officials say. That benchmark will allow the district to borrow at a lower interest rate. Florida Times-Union.

New school site: Lee County school officials make their pitch to the community to build a high school along the Imperial Parkway in Bonita Springs, citing cost as a significant factor in the decision. Naples Daily News.

Citrus Bowl renovations: The Indian River County School Board is unreceptive to a school staff request to speed up renovations and upgrades at the Citrus Bowl. Quickening the timeline would force the district to borrow $8 million. TCPalm.

Correcting history: A Eustis woman is on a mission to correct history. Gessner Harris says all the documents she’s seen on the integration of Eustis High School indicate it happened in 1966. But she says it was 1965 when she and three other black students began at the school. Daily Commercial.

Employee arrested: The director of the Seminole County Public Schools Office of School Safety and Alternative Placement is arrested and charged with shoplifting $863 worth of merchandise from a Kohl’s store near Oviedo. Erica Pooler, 37, will be placed on administrative leave, say school officials. Orlando Sentinel.

Students arrested: A school resource officer uses a Taser on a student to break up a fight at Wolf Lake Middle School in Apopka. Both students were arrested. WFTV. A seventh-grader at Hidden Oaks Middle School in Martin County is arrested after allegedly making threats against the schools. This is the third incident in the past week at county schools. TCPalm.

Student attacked: A 17-year-old boy is arrested and accused of lewd and lascivious conduct on a minor and interference with custody after allegedly removing an 11-year-old boy from school. Both were attending Pinellas Secondary School, which is designed for students with behavior problems. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: The Florida Legislature is looking for recruiting trouble if it allows high school athletes to choose schools. David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel. Cutting the Palm County School District’s administrative staff to free up more than $5 million for the system’s poorest schools is a decisive way to start working on a problem. Palm Beach Post. Legislators continue to shift money from public schools to privately run charter schools. Paula Dockery, Tampa Tribune. Teaching is a great job, but the evaluation system renders it soulless. Chris Mahn, Gainesville Sun. Second-guessers should consider the weather forecasts before complaining that Leon County school officials erred by closing schools Wednesday. Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Volunteers from Pasco County high schools are helping struggling elementary students learn to read in the Teen Trendsetters program founded by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Tampa Bay Times. Students at Seminole Middle School in Plantation have been collecting petitions to lobby for a postage stamp honoring Dred Scott, the enslaved man whose struggle for freedom helped spark the Civil War. Sun-Sentinel. Students at Jacksonville’s Long Branch Elementary School are using recycled crayons made by Vickie Robinson, a retired educator who volunteers in their class. She got the idea from Facebook. Florida Times-Union. A sixth-grade student at the Beacon of Hope school in St. Augustine will have a poem published in an American Library of Poetry compilation. Jae’Mauri Stroman, 13, is the only Florida student chosen. St. Augustine Record. Boynton Beach’s Christa McAuliffe Middle School finishes second in the national Edgenuity video contest. THE Journal.

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BY NextSteps staff