Florida schools roundup: Evaluations, recess, discipline, LGBT sign and more

Teacher evaluations: About 98 percent of the teachers evaluated in Florida during the 2015-2016 school year were rated either “highly effective” or “effective,” according to the Department of Education. Less than 1 percent of the state’s teachers got an “unsatisfactory” rating, and only 1.2 percent were rated “needs improvement.” The numbers have shown little change over the past few years. Evaluations are used by districts for raises and contract renewals, and by the state for determining eligibility for teacher bonuses. Okaloosa County was tops in the state with 97.6 percent of its teachers graded as highly effective, while Putnam County was lowest with just 1 percent. Gradebook.

Daily recess: A survey by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability reveals significant differences in how school districts offer recess, how often and for how long. Only 11 districts have some recess policy, and only eight of those made daily recess a requirement. Supporters of legislation to make daily recess mandatory in all Florida elementary schools argue the results show the need for statewide legislation, instead of allowing individual districts, schools or even teachers decide. Miami Herald.

Discipline disparity: Black students are twice as likely to be expelled as other children, four times more likely to be suspended and almost three times more likely to be arrested, according to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. And children with disabilities, especially black students with disabilities, are more likely to be disciplined than those without disabilities. Florida is below the national average in arrests and expulsions, higher in referrals and about the same on suspensions. WTVJ.

LGBT sign stays: A Milton High School junior will be allowed to keep a “So gay I can’t even drive straight” sticker in her car window. Rachel Campbell was cited by a school police officer for the sign, calling it a violation of a school policy prohibiting “offensive or obscene” tags or stickers. Campbell said she wouldn’t remove it, and now principal Tim Short says it can stay. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Vaccination opt-outs: Health department statistics show that 992 Duval County School District students have opted out of vaccinations, and 806 in St. Johns County. That’s a rate of about 1 percent in Duval and 2 percent in St. Johns. Florida allows parents to opt their children out of required immunizations for religious or medical reasons. WJAX.

Failing schools impact: Jefferson County’s failing system of schools, which will now be turned over to a charter schools company, has had a depressing effect on the county’s economy, according to several business and government officials. Tallahassee Democrat.

District and social media: The Bay County School District’s strict and specific social media policy is detailed after a teacher is placed under investigation for comments she made about a student on Facebook. Panama City News Herald.

Lottery for education: Florida Lottery officials say the agency has generated more than $1 billion for education for the 15th straight year, and did it earlier this year than in any year previously. Florida Politics.

Education honor: Carol Jenkins Barnett, president of Publix Super Markets Charities since 1991, wins the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy’s “Champion for Literacy” award at its 17th annual Florida Celebration of Reading. Lakeland Ledger.

Students to the rescue: Four football players from Bishop Moore High School in Orlando rescue a woman pinned under a truck wheel by lifting the truck off her. WESH.

Teacher arrested: A Dunnellon High School teacher is arrested after a 15-year-old girl accuses him of touching her inappropriately. Chester Pacana, 35, who teaches math at the school, is charged with lewd and lascivious behavior on a minor. WESH. Lakeland Ledger. Ocala Star Banner.

Opinions on schools: There are no winners from the firing of Sandy Balfour from the Academy of Environmental Science. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: Ponte Vedra High School junior Harrison Snowden forms a Helping Betty/Hubbard Club at his school to bright attention to and fight against domestic abuse. St. Augustine Record. Students from Millennia Gardens Elementary School in Orlando donate 1,000 heads of lettuce they grew in their hydroponics garden to SeaWorld’s Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Program. TCPalm. Piti Billups, an 8-year-old at Hernando Elementary School, goes on a successful one-girl drive to collect food during the Citrus County schools’ annual food drive. Citrus County Chronicle.

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BY NextSteps staff