Florida schools roundup: Reading test scores, achievement plan and more

Third-grade reading results: Eighty-one percent of the state’s third-graders posted passing scores on the Florida Standards Assessments reading exam this year, according to the Florida Department of Education. Fifty-eight percent of students scored at Level 3 or high, meaning they met grade-level expectations, which is an increase from 54 percent last year. The 19 percent who scored at Level 1 – about 43,300 students – face retention if they can’t pass an alternate test or demonstrate proficiency through a portfolio of classroom work. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-UnionSarasota Herald-Tribune. Space Coast Daily. Brevard Times. Bradenton Herald. Associated PressNews Service of Florida.

New achievement plan: An agreement is reached on a 10-year plan to eliminate or greatly narrow the achievement gap between white and black students in Pinellas County. The Concerned Organization for the Quality Education of Black Students had been suing the Pinellas County School District, alleging that it was shortchanging black students throughout the educational process. The agreement, reached Friday, addresses the lingering issues on graduation, student achievement, advanced coursework, student discipline, identification for special education and gifted programs and minority hiring. District officials have committed to providing quarterly progress reports and responding in a more timely manner with reliable information. Both sides are calling the agreement a “turning point” for the district. Tampa Bay Times.

From high school to med school: Four graduates of Florida Atlantic University High School have been admitted directly into the FAU College of Medicine. The four students will begin training as doctors in 2018 and be eligible for residency at age 22 or 23. It’s believed to be the only program of its kind in the United States. FAU High is a school where students can earn high school and college credits at the same time. Sun Sentinel.

Education bill: More than 10,000 people have contacted the governor’s office to register an opinion about H.B. 7069, and so far about 75 percent want Gov. Rick Scott to veto the bill. A pro-school choice group calls the numbers skewed, saying thousands of emails supporting the bill didn’t make it past the security firewall because they all came from a single email address. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay area legislators divide along partisan lines when discussing the education bill at a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce meeting. Florida Politics. Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins and school board chairwoman Cindy Stuart send a letter to Gov. Scott urging a veto of the education bill. It reads, in part: “The Legislature has written a series of blank checks of totally unlimited amounts payable to charter school operators and drawn on the bank accounts of the local property taxpayers.” Gradebook.

Charter schools: Two charter schools in Hialeah offer parents volunteer credits if they write a letter to Gov. Rick Scott urging him to sign the education bill. Mater Academy Lakes High School and City of Hialeah Educational Academy are offering parents 5 hours of credit toward their volunteer hours for their support. The Mater website has an alert that reads, in part: “This is the strongest legislation supporting the charter school movement since charters were first established in Florida 20 years ago.We need all of our Bear Family to show their support for H.B. 7069 and encourage your friends, family and children to get involved as well.” Miami Herald. Do charter schools properly serve students with special needs? The research is contradictory. Associated Press.

Town halls on H.B. 7069: The Miami-Dade County School District will hold six town hall meetings this week “to discuss the financial forecast for Florida and the proposed budget for public education for next year.” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and other officials are lobbying for a veto of the education bill. Miami Herald.

More K-8 schools: The move away from standalone middle schools and toward K-8 educational centers is accelerating in south Florida. Miami-Dade County has plans to open 47 K-8 schools in the next few years, while Broward County plans four and Palm Beach County three. School officials say research shows that K-8 schools give students an improved sense of social connection and better academic results, and provide a continuity that helps students, parents and the schools. Sun Sentinel.

School construction: More than two years after voters approved an $800 million bond program to repair schools, Broward County school officials say they have scheduled the first three projects. Coconut Creek, Cypress and Eagle Creek elementary schools will get new air conditioning systems, roofs, fire safety improvements and other building upgrades. The work is scheduled to begin between July and September, and be finished by June 2018. Sun Sentinel. The Monroe County School Board will consider spending $723,000 to create a new bus loop at the Horace O’Bryant School in Key West. Keynoter.

School impact fees: The Manatee County School Board will consider raising impact fees on residential construction, and ending the practice of collecting just 75 percent of the fees initially. Bradenton Herald.

Reading program: A specialized, intense reading program called Reading Recovery is being made available to struggling students in all 23 county elementary schools. It had been used in just 10 Title I elementary schools. The program is a half-hour one-on-one session, four times a week, between a student and teacher. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Montessori movement: A move to add Montessori magnet schools to the two already in Duval County is on hold until a new superintendent is hired. Meanwhile, district officials vote to make entry into the existing schools by lottery. Previously, Montessori preschool students got preference for admission into kindergarten at John E. Ford and J. Allen Axson elementary schools. Florida Times-Union. A fourth Montessori preschool opens in Collier County in August. Naples Daily News.

Contract agreement: Members of the United School Employees of Pasco, which represents teachers and other school-related workers, overwhelmingly ratify a contract with the Pasco County School District that gives them 3 percent raises, retroactive to the start of school. The vote ends a nearly year-long dispute. Gradebook. Teachers and the Polk County School District await a special magistrate’s recommendation on how to end the contract dispute that began a year ago. Lakeland Ledger.

Teacher survey: The headline from a Hillsborough County survey of teachers was that 80 percent feel good about their job and schools. But responses from teachers at the district’s struggling schools tell a different story. Tampa Bay Times.

Teachers blast council: St. Lucie County teachers rip Port St. Lucie City Council members who blamed the county’s schools for the county’s economic problems. Council members say their remarks were taken out of context. TCPalm.

Personnel changes: Melissa Bidgood, an assistant principal of Wiregrass Elementary School in Pasco County, is named principal at Veterans Elementary School in Wesley Chapel. Gradebook. Carla Wiggins is appointed assistant principal of Lake Gibson Middle School in Polk County. Her predecessor, Samara Routenberg, was murdered in February. Lakeland Ledger. Three principals at Indian River County schools are not being recommended for reappointment. TCPalm.

Diabetic students: The number of K-12 students in Sarasota County schools with diabetes is up 50 percent since 2011, according to the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Confederate flag ban: The principal at Chiles High School bans the Confederate flag from campus at least until the end of the school year. Last week saw several disputes between students about flying the flag. “This week has been a teachable moment for our student body about passionate feelings in regards to symbols or imagery among our various races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations on our campus,” said principal Joe Burgess. Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher arrested: A Port St. Lucie High School chemistry teacher is arrested and accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student. Tiffany Michelle Geliga is charged with two felony counts of sexual assault by persons 24 years or older on a victim 16 or 17. The school district has placed Geliga on non-teaching duty, pending the results of an investigation. Palm Beach Post. WPEC. TCPalm.

Teacher reprimanded: An Ocala Catholic high school teacher has reportedly been reprimanded by the Diocese of Orlando for quoting criticisms about the Islam religion made by Saint John Bosco (1815-1888). More than 16,000 have signed a petition to the diocese supporting Mark Smythe, a sixth-grade teacher at Saint John Bosco at Blessed Trinity Catholic School. Christian News Wire.

Aide may be fired: The Citrus County School Board will decide whether to fire a teacher’s aide who is accused of pushing a disruptive pre-K student into his seat so hard that the chair slammed into a wall. Laura “Kathy” Dunham, an aide at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, also falsified her job application by failing to disclose a 2004 allegation of child neglect, say school officials. Citrus County Chronicle.

School investigation: Allegations of recruiting have been lodged with the Florida High School Athletic Association against the Winter Haven High School baseball  team. Baseball coach David Schafer denies the allegations. Winter Haven News Chief.

Opinions on schools: Two groups that faced off in court have come together to agree on a detailed, measurable blueprint that aims to eliminate the gap within a decade, and the Pinellas County School Board should vote next week to ask the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court to approve the “Bridging the Gap” plan. Tampa Bay Times. As Duval County school superintendent, Nikolai Vitti was a man of nonstop action. Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union. School administrators have a tough job of trying to keep things civil in a potentially incendiary world of secondary education. But before they punish people for speaking freely, especially in a political environment, they ought to remember many things we say might offend someone. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. The Alachua County School Board needs to listen to the community when it makes major decisions such as hiring a new superintendent. Gainesville Sun. By hiring Karen Clarke as the new superintendent, the Alachua County School Board missed an opportunity to begin to heal the rift caused by the firing of former Superintendent Owen Roberts. Jackie Davis, Gainesville Sun. I’m disappointed a dispute about Confederate flags has developed among students I know and love, and am embarrassed about the racism it highlights. We are failing our kids if we let misconceptions about the Confederate flag fester in our schools. Stephanie Anne Smith, Tallahassee Democrat. I hope Gov. Scott and his staff are thinking about whether HB 7069 would give more of the state’s students the opportunity to work with strong teachers. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Sarah Tang, a senior at Lake Region High School in Polk County, is named a National Merit Scholarship Program finalist. Lakeland Ledger.