Florida schools roundup: Open enrollment, gifted clusters and more

Open enrollment: Thousands of south Florida students are applying for spots in schools outside their attendance zones under the state’s new open enrollment law, and some school officials say it could be the start of a trend of children returning to public schools. In Broward County, 11,602 students applied for transfers from their zoned schools, and almost 3,500 of those were from charter schools. In Palm Beach County, 4,505 students applied under open enrollment, and about 500 of them were from charter or private schools. “We are seeing a significant jump in people wanting to come back into the school district,” says Broward administrator Patrick Sipple. “It may be too early to call it a trend. But there has been more interest because of the new law.” Sun Sentinel.

Gifted clusters: The system of pushing gifted students to 16 select elementary schools in Palm Beach County could be changing. This fall, students at 20 elementary schools will have their own gifted programs. Students at 47 others will still be sent to the clusters, which were formed in the 1990s to help the district place enough certified teachers and talented students at the same school to have full-time classes. The benefits for the 20 schools keeping their gifted students include better test scores and potentially higher school grades. The challenge for those schools is putting together a specialized program, as required by law. Palm Beach Post.

Legislative payback? Could the fear of retribution from legislators keep some school districts from joining the Broward County School Board in a court challenge of H.B. 7069? No one is commenting and no threats have been made, but there is a history of the Legislature proposing bills against the interests of school boards, their members and the Florida School Boards Association after being challenged on its education policies. Gradebook. Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa will ask the school board at a meeting July 19 to consider joining Broward County in a lawsuit against the state over H.B. 7069. Palm Beach Post.

Personalized learning: The Lake County School District is pulling the plug on its personalized learning project it embarked on three years ago with the help of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant. But test score improvements were hard to quantify, and then Diane Kornegay replaced the retiring Susan Moxley as superintendent. The board decided to end the project. “We got hung up on a program,” Kornegay said. “It is not about a program. It is about great instructional practices in the classroom.” redefinED. Exactly what is personalized learning? There is no shortage of interpretations. redefinED.

Testing casualties: Hundreds of Florida teachers are being fired because they didn’t pass the Florida Teacher Certification Exam. The test was revised in 2015, and failure rates skyrocketed. For example, the math passing rate in 2014 was 80 percent, and this year it was 57 percent. The State Department of Education says the tests are monitored and adjusted annually, and officials defend the revisions. WFTS.

Homeless students: More than 1,500 county students live in shared housing situations, and another 80-plus are homeless, according to the Florida Department of Education. The problem is the gap between the county’s high cost of rental housing and wages. “You don’t have enough base for a family to function without enough beds for everyone to sleep in … for kids to do homework,” says Karen Barber, the district’s director of federal programs. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

Witness’ name deleted: The name of a key witness in the embezzlement case against the Bak Middle School treasurer was deleted by the Palm Beach County School District. The witness is Bev Smith, an office assistant at the school and mayor of Palm Springs. “The person whose name was redacted is a spouse of a current or former law enforcement officer,” said district inspector general Lung Chiu, citing a state law that allows those names to be withheld. Palm Beach Post.

Bills review: The Santa Rosa County School Board reviews bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick specifically praised H.B. 293 as “beneficial.” It requires a study of states with high-performing middle-schoolers for tips that could be used in Florida schools. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

School grades: More reports on grades for school districts and schools. Gulf Breeze NewsSuwannee Democrat. Suwannee DemocratGradebook. Apalachicola Times. Daytona Times.

School board elections: Meghan Hamer will challenge incumbent Cynthia Armstrong for the District 3 seat on the Pasco County School Board. Gradebook.

Teacher arrested: A former Satellite High School teacher is arrested and accused of lewd and lascivious conduct with a student. Charles E. Krininger III, 40, was put on administrative leave in February 2016 after the student complained he had molested her. He had been a teacher in Brevard since 2002. Space Coast Daily. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: The Legislature is getting too cushy with charter school operators and giving them money public schools need. The Broward County School Board is right to spend $25,000 on initial fees to fight the education bill. Gary Stein, Sun Sentinel. Separating rumors from facts about the construction of Bonita Springs High School. Lee County School Board member Cathleen Morgan, Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: Two Immokalee High School students win a contest by creating an app that informs parents and children about various clubs, sports and volunteer activities. Alex Hernandez’s and Angelina Grimaldo’s app is called Energos. Naples Daily News. Four Hillsborough County schools post a 90 percent or higher graduation rate of students earning International Baccaulaureate diplomas this year. The national average is 67 percent. Gradebook.

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BY NextSteps staff