3rd-grade reading scores up a little, sex education, academic standards and more

State reading scores: Reading scores of 3rd-graders on the Florida Standards Assessments test are up slightly, according to the Department of Education, but 20 percent of the students face the possibility of being retained. Fifty-eight percent of 3rd-graders scored at a Level 3 or higher, which is considered at or above grade level. That’s 1 percentage point higher than in 2018. The 20 percent who scored at Level 1, and could be held back, is the same as last year. State law requires students to score at Level 2 or higher to be promoted, unless they qualify for one of six exemptions. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Gainesville Sun. Boca News Now. Palm Beach Post. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Charlotte Sun. WWSB. Gradebook. Citrus County Chronicle. WJHG.

Sex education in schools: Educators in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties say they’re considering changes to sex education classes in schools. Earlier sexual activity by students and high teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates are alarming those educators. They say the amount of information about sex, and the detail of it, is inconsistent because the standards vary from district to district, and often school to school, because how explicit the lessons can be is controlled by local school boards. “It’s so grossly unfair to our kids that the risks they may be taking … are kind of dependent on the politics of their school board,” says Ellen Daley, a professor and researcher at the University of South Florida who specializes in adolescent health. Tampa Bay Times.

Comments on standards: Thousands of people who have responded to the Florida Department of Education’s invitation to comment on what they’d like to see in the new state academics standards are taking the opportunity to criticize the education system, schools, the emphasis on testing and more. More than 3,700 Floridians have left comments on the DOE website since it was launched in February. Many have suggestions on what they’d like to see in the replacement of the state’s version of the Common Core academic standards, and many have veered off topic to complain about the pressure students feel because of testing. Florida Phoenix.

Mental health services: About 220,000 Florida children don’t get the behavioral-health services they need, members of the members of the Florida Healthy Kids Corp. board of directors are told. Healthy Kids offers which offers health and dental insurance for children ages 5 through 18. Part of the problem is a lack of health providers, says Jeffrey Brosco, who directs Florida’s Title V funding program. News Service of Florida.

Security in schools: State Sen Lauren Book, D-Plantation, is meeting with Israeli security officials today to see what advice they might offer on ways to improve security in Florida schools. “They’re doing something right,” she said, “and I want to find out what it looks like.” Book is one of nearly 100 Floridians who accompanied Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Cabinet to Israel for a trade mission and meetings. Florida Politics.

Superintendent’s job: The Volusia County School Board is expected to decide Tuesday if it really intends to fire Superintendent Tom Russell. Board members voted 4-1 last week to begin negotiations to end Russell’s contract, but board attorney Ted Doran — who missed the last meeting — says the board can’t begin those negotiations without deciding first if it wants to fire Russell. “Virtually everyone got ahead of themselves,” he said. “Everybody’s (now) taking a big step back.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sales tax decision: The Jacksonville City Council is expected to decide June 25 if it will allow the Duval County School Board to ask voters to boost the sales tax by a half-cent to provide money for building and repairing of schools and upgrading technology. If the council gives the vote the go-ahead, it will then have to decide when the election will take place. Several council members and Mayor Lenny Curry object to the board’s request for a special election in November, saying it will be too costly and that turnout will be poor. School and city officials meet Wednesday to discuss the issue. Florida Times-Union.

Plans for extra money: The Polk County School District expects to collect an extra $32 million from the state in the next fiscal year. About $15 million is committed to state-mandated spending, such as Best and Brightest educator bonuses and to struggling schools in the turnaround program. About $7 million will be spent hiring new teachers and $9 million will go into the health insurance plan. Bay News 9.

Cost differential study: Volusia and Flagler county school officials are happy that the Legislature has ordered a review of the district cost-differential formula, though disappointed that it will remain in place for at least one more year. The state’s DCD is used to give more money to districts in areas with a high cost of living, which has meant less for districts such as Volusia and Flagler. The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research has been directed to calculate each district’s wage-level index and compare that with the price level index, then submit a recommendation for changes in the formula to the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis by Oct. 1. But if there are any changes, they’re not expected before the DCD expires July 1, 2020. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Vaping discipline or treatment? U.S. students typically are disciplined when they’re caught vaping at schools. But now some U.S. school districts are considering a different approach, one geared more toward treatment than punishment. “We’ve got to figure out how we can help these kids wean away from bad habits that might hurt their body or their mind or otherwise create behaviors that can create habits that will be harmful for the remainder of their lives,” says Raymond Manka, principal at Stamford High School in Connecticut. Associated Press.

Graduation dress code: Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill that allows high school seniors who are going into the military after graduation to wear their dress uniforms during commencement ceremonies. The bill was introduced after a Hillsborough County senior who had already completed basic training was turned down when she requested permission to wear the dress uniform at graduation in 2018. Gradebook.

School to be closed: Duval County school officials have notified the Florida Department of Education that long-struggling Northwestern Middle School is likely to be closed after the 2019-2020 school year. Parents whose children attend the school are expected to receive letters from the district this week, informing them that students can stay in the school for its last year or transfer to higher-rated schools. WJXT.

Court case figure graduates: A transgender St. Johns County student who sued the district two years ago after being prohibited from using the bathroom that conforms to his gender identity has graduated. Drew Adams graduated last week from Allen D. Nease High School with honors. He sued the district in 2017. Last July a court ruled that the district violated his constitutional rights, but the district is appealing that decision. Florida Times-Union.

Changing course requirements: Pasco County school Superintendent Kurt Browning is asking the school board to approve a plan to require all students to take at least one college-credit course or earn at least one industry certification before graduation. The requirement would start in the fall if the board approves. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: Frank Rodriguez, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County School District, is named superintendent for the Beaufort (S.C.) School District, which has a student population of 22,000. He’ll start July 1, and be paid $210,200 a year. The Island Packet. WCSC.

Notable deaths: Two students who just graduated from the IB program at Southeast High School in Manatee County are killed when the motorcycle they were riding on crashed into a bus in Peru on Friday. Albert Ales and Zachary Morris, both 18, were on their way to an archaeological park when they collided with a public bus. Bradenton Herald. WTSP. WFLA. Former Duval County interim superintendent and longtime Florida teacher and administrator Donald Van Fleet has died at the age of 88. Florida Times-Union.

School rating row: A school in Jupiter removes a claim from its website that it’s an A-rated school after a complaint. Jupiter Lighthouse Elementary School had claimed A status, but because it’s a K-2 school it isn’t assigned a grade by the state, according to the Florida Department of Education. WPBF.

Resignation in protest: A Polk County teacher has resigned after 20 years on the job in what she calls a protest against mandatory testing for students. Shanna Fox, a language arts teacher at Daniel Jenkins Academy, a Haines City middle school, posted a letter on social media that said, in part: “This toxic testing nightmare has stripped students of the opportunity to foster their creativity in every single subject area.” Lakeland Ledger.

Early learning bonuses: A grant program in Hillsborough County has money to give to qualified preschool teachers but not enough people applying for it. The WAGE$ program offers supplements from $200 to $3,000 a year for teachers who have worked at least six months at early childhood centers that qualify as School Readiness programs. The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County says about 4,500 teachers are qualified for the grant, but only 479 are participating or have an application pending. Gradebook.

Dogs find runaway student: Two Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office bloodhounds are credited with tracking down a student who ran away from school Friday. The student left Avalon Middle School in Milton and was thought to be in danger. The dogs tracked the student into a nearby woods, and found the child unharmed. Pensacola News Journal.

Complaint against administrator: The Sarasota County School District plans to hire an outside investigator to look into a verbal complaint of an undisclosed nature made against assistant superintendent and chief operating officer Jeff Maultsby. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School thief sentenced: An assistant bookkeeper for a Manatee County school is sentenced to five days in jail and 15 years of probation after pleading no contest to stealing $27,000. Typhani Butler, 31, pleaded no contest to a charge of scheming to defraud Braden River High School, as well as welfare fraud. She’s been ordered to repay more than $20,000 to the school. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: I’m glad the governor’s ticked off that 42 percent of children aren’t prepared for kindergarten. He should be. It’s embarrassing. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. To properly compare student test scores between states, adjustments need to be made for demographics. Patrick Gibbons, redefinED. In my three decades of working in law enforcement, I’ve heard thousands of students say the threat they made against a school was just a joke. And yet, somehow these so-called jokes are never funny, especially when it involves students and schools. John Mina, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Althea Fields, a 5th-grader and safety patrol at Gulf Gate Elementary School in Sarasota County, is one of just five U.S. students to receive the AAA School Safety Patrol Lifesaving Medal this year. She pulled a child out of the path of a speeding vehicle. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Hayden Fuller, a 10-year-old 4th-grader at Rayma C. Page Elementary School in Fort Myers, wins the Florida State Invention Convention competition for elementary students and will compete against 500 other U.S. K-12 inventors at the national convention this week in Michigan. He developed a portable, collapsible emergency climate-controlled shelter for preserving life after natural disasters. Fort Myers News-Press. Robert Hurley, a foster child who became the legal ward of a teacher, Amy Krusemark, graduates as the valedictorian of his class at Boca Ciega High School in St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay Times. Three students become the first graduates of the Morning Star Catholic School. a school for students with learning disabilities in Jacksonville. Florida Times-Union. A 95-year-old man walks across the stage to receive his diploma from Hillsborough High School on Saturday. Joe Perricone graduated in 1943, but had enlisted in the Army and was shipped to Europe before his commencement. WTSP. Valedictorians and salutatorians are honored at graduations in Lake County schools. Daily Commercial. Twin sisters Samantha and Sydney Householder were the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, at the Lake County Virtual School. Daily Commercial. The Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton becomes the first in the state to have a handheld device that measures air quality. Boca Raton Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff