Florida schools roundup: Accountability guidelines, retention, tests and more

florida-roundup-logoAccountability guidelines: The U.S. Department of Education proposes accountability guidelines that allow states discretion in using test scores, academic growth and other measures to identify failing schools and struggling students. The transfer of authority to states is part of the Obama administration’s Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. Associated Press. Education Week.

Rules of retention: Parents of third-graders from around the state who opt out of state testing and decline to take alternative tests are discovering that school districts don’t feel they have discretion to promote the students to fourth grade. There are cases in Manatee and Seminole counties of high-performing students who may be held back by the state’s rules requiring test scores for promotion. Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, says the policy is “insane” because it “would mean that a third-grader who takes the FSA and scores poorly can still be promoted. Yet, an outstanding student who regularly produces proficient school work will be retained simply for not taking the exam.” Gradebook. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WTSP.

AP test issue: The College Board is looking into allegations that 140-150 Lake Nona High School students who took Advanced Placement chemistry, environmental science and physics exams were sitting too close together. Last week, 114 students at the school had to retake the AP psychology exam because their desks were 4 feet apart instead of the required 5 feet. Orlando Sentinel.

Bathroom fight: Gov. Rick Scott is getting pressured to join 11 other states in suing the Obama administration for telling school districts to permit transgender students to use their bathroom of choice or risk the loss of federal funds. Florida Family Policy Council president John Stemberger says Scott needs to “protect our children.” Palm Beach Post.

Discrimination suit: The Pasco County School Board is being accused in federal court of demoting an assistant principal after she asked how her schedule might work if she were to become a parent. Buffey Simon Leonard first filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which did not find in her favor. Settlement talks have not produced a settlement. Gradebook.

Sickness at school: Department of Health officials are investigating whether a norovirus is responsible for the illnesses of about 60 children and two teachers at Palm Beach Gardens Elementary School. Symptoms include vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Palm Beach Post.

Delay for new school: Construction on a new St. Johns County school has been delayed by escalating costs. The single bid for a K-8 school in the Aberdeen area was 30 percent above budget, so construction plans are being revised. The school’s projected August 2017 opening may slide to August 2018. St. Augustine Record.

Education academy: Pasco County’s River Ridge High School will start a teaching academy in the fall. District officials say they hope the academy becomes a pipeline to train students who then come back to teach. The only other teaching academies in the state are at St. Augustine High School and Seminole High School in Pinellas County. Tampa Bay Times.

Program keeps funding: A program to help troubled students will receive money from the Jax Journey after all. The Alternative to Out of School Suspension program will get $244,931, down from the $800,000 it received last year but enough to keep the program going. Officials at the Jax Journey threatened to end funding because the program wasn’t serving enough students. Future funding will be tied to the number of students served. Florida Times-Union.

Spelling bee: Students from New York and Texas are named co-champions of the National Spelling Bee. It’s the third straight year with a tie at the top. Associated Press. More on Florida contestants. Florida Times-Union. Orlando Sentinel. Pensacola News Journal. Florida Today. Fort Myers News-Press. TCPalm. Naples Daily News. St. Augustine Record.

Geography champ: National Geography Bee champion Rishi Nair says winning was a “surreal” feel, but he’s not anxious to compete again. Tampa Bay Times.

New president protested: Some parents are protesting the appointment of Rev. Roy C Marien as president of the John Paul II Catholic High School in Tallahassee. Marien has written two sexually explicit teen novels. The parents say that disqualifies him, especially considering the sex abuse history of the Roman Catholic Church. Tallahassee Democrat.

Home school convention: More than 20,000 people are attending the Florida Home School Convention this week in Orlando. Florida leads the nation with about 80,000 students being home-schooled. WFTV.

Teacher arrested: Kenneth Alexander Oxsalida, a 29-year-old Lake Placid High School teacher, is arrested and accused of sexual misconduct with two 16-year-old female students. WFLA.

Student arrested: A 15-year-old Lincoln High School student is arrested and accused of posting a bomb threat against the school on social media. Tallahassee Democrat.

School vandalism: Two men are arrested and accused of vandalizing Haines City High School early Thursday. Police also say four girls, seniors at the school, were charged with trespassing. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: Nationally, black children are 66 times less likely than their white counterparts — and Hispanic students 47 times less likely — to be placed in gifted programs. Adeyela and Bradley Bennett, Miami Herald. Incoming Senate President Joe Negron believes Florida should do better by its college-bound students. We agree. Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship program has been dimming for far too long. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa is on the right track in focusing on third-grade reading as a crucial component to school success or failure. But even with those efforts, no one should underestimate the challenges facing children living in concentrated poverty. Palm Beach Post. The cause of gender dysphoria is unknown. But one day, just like ulcer disease, it will be understood, and people then might wonder what the fuss was all about. John Agnew, Fort Myers News-Press. We encourage everyone to quit spending on lawyers and courts and instead invest in our teachers and children by providing them with the resources and options necessary to pursue their dreams. Dominic Calabro, Florida Politics.

Student enrichment: Videos produced by students at East Ridge High School will be shown next week on Lake Sumter Television, a public-access channel. Orlando Sentinel. Two Golden Gate High School Junior ROTC students, Jacob Roberts and Hunter Gonzalez, are awarded medals for heroism. The medals are the U.S. Army’s highest medal of honor for cadets in training. Naples Daily News.