Florida schools roundup: Tests, school laundromats, black teachers and more

Testing in schools: The Florida Senate and House remain divided on how to reform the state’s standardized testing process. Both chamber’s bills push testing toward the end of the school year and direct the Department of Education to see whether national tests such as the SAT and ACT can be used in place of the Florida Standards Assessments. But the broader Senate bill would cut back on the number of exams taken overall, allow districts to administer the tests on paper instead of computers, and remove a requirement that teachers be evaluated in part on the results. The House bill doesn’t reduce the number taken, calls for most tests to be taken in the final three weeks of the school year, requires the results be returned to teachers within a week and sets specific instructions on how the results are reported. Orlando Sentinel.

School laundromats: Reducing personal problems as a means to academic success now includes doing laundry for students at some Lake County schools. Laundry rooms have been installed at Eustis Heights and Triangle Elementary schools as part of the district’s School Laundry Program, based on an initiative started in Fairfield, Calif. Students apply for entry into the program. If they’re accepted, they can drop off their laundry in the morning. It’s done by volunteers in time for the student to pick it up at the end of the school day. “The more we can take care of our students’ basic needs, the more we can take care of their academic needs,” said Eustis Heights principal Chad Frazier. Daily Commercial.

Impact of black teachers: Having one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduces low-income black boys’ probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent, according to a study of 100,000 black elementary school students in North Carolina. WUSF. Education Week.

School repairs: Repair projects begin this summer at 10 Palm Beach County schools, says Superintendent Robert Avossa. The projects are being funded by a penny increase in the county’s sales tax, approved by voters in November. The school district gets half the money generated, which is expected to amount to about $650 million over 10 years. First up are weatherproofing at six schools and paving of parking lots, tracks and basketball courts at four schools. Sun-Sentinel.

Florida, the choice example: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continues to hold Florida up as an example of how school choice should work. “Florida is a good and growing example of what can happen when you have a robust array of choices,” she has said. She has actively promoted the state’s use of tax credits to provide scholarships for almost 100,000 low-income students to attend private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program. Sunshine State News.

Online learning: Online classes in Florida have evolved from sitting before a computer and clicking to an interactive, flexible way to learn from home. Virtual schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties now have about 31,000 students who takes classes online on a part-time or fulltime basis. “At first, online classes were seen as different and in conflict with the traditional classroom,” said Daryl Diamond, director of innovative learning for Broward’s schools. “Now they are seen as a solution.” Sun-Sentinel.

Start times criticized: Hillsborough County school officials have received hundreds of emails about the proposed changes in school start times for the 2017-2018 school year, and about 80 percent of the emailers don’t like them. Most high schools will start at 7:15 a.m., with most elementary schools beginning at 8:35 and most middle schools at 9:30. The changes are proposed to smooth transportation and save money. Tampa Bay Times.

School safety: Students from the Matanzas High School Safety Committee lobby the Palm Coast City Council for street lighting, sidewalks and bike paths near the school. Two students, a walker and a bicyclist, have been struck and killed near the school since January. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School on Good Friday: Some parents are critical of the Pasco County School District’s decision to have classes on Good Friday. Neighboring counties Pinellas and Hillsborough are out of school. Superintendent Kurt Browning says the district is following past practice by closing schools for Good Friday only when it coincides with spring break. Tampa Bay Times.

School expanding: Two new buildings are going up at Wyomina Park Elementary School in Ocala. Work begins this summer on an eight-classroom building and a specialty classroom building, and is expected to be complete by the spring of 2018. The school, built in 1949, has 727 students, but only about half fit in the school. The rest are in portable classrooms. Ocala Star Banner.

Relocation analysis: Leon County School Board members will consider a 246-page cost analysis of the proposed move of the Adult and Community Education program and the Pace secondary school before voting at their meeting today. Tallahassee Democrat.

School calendar: The Volusia County School Board will consider a proposal to extend the Thanksgiving vacation to a week for the 2018-2019 school year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School sued over discipline: A lawsuit claims a Duval County school punishes some special needs students by placing them in a “discipline box” inside a preschool classroom. The suit alleges that the Duval County School District does not have an adequate policy in place to train and supervise special needs teachers at Love Grove Elementary School in Jacksonville. WJAX.

Teacher arrested: A teacher at Patriot Oaks Academy is arrested and charged with driving under the influence and child neglect. St. Johns County sheriff’s deputies say Kelsey Winistorfer, 30, ran her car into a ditch. Her two small children were in the car with her. WTLVSt. Augustine Record.

Teacher’s trial: A judge grants a state attorney’s request to hold a jury trial for former Somerset Academy teacher Brian Kornbluth, who was caught on camera kissing a 10-year-old boy on the lips in February at the Boca Raton charter school. Palm Beach Post.

Some charges dropped: Prosecutors have dropped more than 30 child sex charges against Charlie Hamrick, 54, a former Tate High School football coach. He’s now charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation, one count of giving obscene material to a minor and six counts of sexual battery on a child under 12. Pensacola News Journal.

Teacher faces firing: A Lecanto High School teacher could lose her job for not noticing a sexual assault that took place in her classroom last January, say Citrus County school officials. They are recommending that the school board fire Amanda Mathieu, who teaches art, music and drama. Mathieu is challenging the recommendation. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student hit by car: A 15-year-old Eustis High Curtwright Campus student is seriously injured when he was hit by a car as he tried to cross a street to get to his school bus stop. Daily Commercial.

Opinions on schools: If lawmakers are truly committed to enhancing the quality and competitiveness of the state’s university system — and ultimately the state’s economy — the Senate’s position will prevail. Sun-Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Students at the State College of Florida’s Collegiate School in Bradenton start a website, called RAD News, aimed at pushing back against fake news, from the left and the right. Bradenton Herald. The seven-member robotics team sponsored by the Pensacola Private School of Liberal Arts heads to a world championship robotics event next week in Houston for students in grades 9-12. Pensacola News Journal. More than 1,000 students compete in the Florida Junior Classical League’s 68th Annual State Latin Forum in Orlando. Gainesville Sun.