SAT scores dip, teacher pay and bonuses, school officer fired for arrests and more

SAT scores down: The average Florida 2019 high school graduate scored 999 points out of a possible 1600 on the SAT test, according to the College Board, down from 1014 a year ago. The average math score for Florida students was 483, compared to the national average of 528, and the average reading score was 516, compared with the national average of 531. The national average was 1059 this year, down from 1068 in 2018. More than 190,800 state students took the test, compared with 177,000 last year. The national average score also dropped slightly, from 1068 to 1059. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher pay, raises: The process to improve teacher salaries in Florida has begun, with legislators and key superintendents around the state starting to talk about how much the state can afford and how to model a new pay plan. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran say boosting teacher salaries is a priority for the legislative session that begins Jan. 14. “I feel really cautiously optimistic that this will be the year we’ll recognize the importance of teachers through a salary increase,” said Bill Montford, a Democratic state senator from Tallahassee and president of the superintendents group. “The governor and commissioner have committed to making a substantial stand for teacher salaries this year. I commend them for that. It’s long overdue.” Gradebook. Florida ranks 48th in average teacher pay in the United States, according to the latest study by the financial survey site WalletHub. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Patch. Education Week.

Teacher bonuses: Teachers at 52 percent of Florida’s public school are eligible for bonuses through the state’s Best and Brightest Scholarship Program, according to data from the Florida Department of Education. The $284.5 million in bonuses will be spread among teachers at 1,737 schools. Eligibility was changed during the 2019 legislative session, with lawmakers tying the bonuses to school improvement instead of evaluations. Last year about 91 percent of the state’s teachers received some bonus money. Politico Florida.

Officer fired, charges dropped: The Orange County school resource officer who arrested two misbehaving 6-year-old students at a charter school last week has been fired, and no charges will be brought against the children. Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon fired Dennis Turner, who was retired from the department but brought back as a reserve officer to work at Lucious and Emma Nixon Charter School. State Attorney Aramis Ayala also said her office plans to remove the arrests from the children’s records. Orlando Sentinel. Spectrum News 13. WKMG.

Life support for player ended: The family of a 17-year-old Pinellas County high school football player who collapsed during Friday’s game has taken him off life support. Marcia Nelson said she is donating the organs of her son, Jacquez Welch, and doctors told her that could help save seven lives. Welch, captain of the Northeast High School team, collapsed after making a tackle and was later found to have bleeding on the brain. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Classroom spending: Florida school districts would be required to spend at least 80 percent of the money they receive from the state’s funding formula in the classroom if S.B. 360 is approved in the next legislative session. Filed by state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, the bill would count salaries and bonuses for teachers, materials and technology for students as classroom costs. News Service of Florida.

Florida company loses contract: The Chicago school district is the latest to end its association with a Fort Lauderdale company that runs alternative schools intended to help dropouts earn high school diplomas. All four Bridgescape schools operated by EdisonLearning, formerly known as Edison Schools, have been closed because, as Chicago school district CEO Janice Jackson told her school board, “In this case, the district has acted on a provider who failed to provide a quality education for our children.” The district claimed that students weren’t getting direct instruction and that EdisonLearning’s lessons were too easy, which the company denies. Edison runs six full-day alternative schools in Florida, and has plans to open four more next year. Chalkbeat.

Mayor gets an earful: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted an appeal to Duval County teachers to email him details about their classroom maintenance issues, vowing that “if your management can’t fix basic needs like air conditioning, we will.” Teachers and others are taking him up on his offer, though some are using the forum to criticize Curry for opposing the school district’s request for a November vote to raise the sales tax so schools could be replaced and repaired. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Paying for a hurricane: The Lee County School District is considering taking a $25 million loan while it waits for reimbursements from claims made when Hurricane Irma roared through the area in 2017. The storm caused about $31 million damage to schools, and 103 claims were filed. So far, the district has received just $4 million from insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The loan would tide the district over in case of another emergency or unexpected expenses. Fort Myers News-Press. Several Manatee County schools damaged by Irma will be repaired with federal grants administered through the Florida Department of Education. Bradenton Herald.

Bat removal gets pricey: The cost of removing bats from Belleview High School in Ocala is now more than $50,000. The Marion County School Board approved a $33,320 payment to a pest removal company to remove the bats, and is being asked to approve another $18,000 to seal all entry points. Ocala Star-Banner.

Legislative wish-list: Citrus County school officials are asking their legislative delegation for a change in the law to allow prosecution of people who make verbal threats against schools. The law currently requires the threats to be in writing. Citrus County Chronicle.

Grant to train teachers: New and early career middle school math teachers in Palm Beach County are getting two years of extensive instructional training in the district’s new curriculum, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. WLRN.

Personnel moves: Kim Newberry, who has been the interim director of the Pasco County School District’s human resources department for the past two months, has been named the permanent director. Gradebook.

Phones and school zones: Starting Oct. 1, using a cell phone in school and construction zones will be illegal. Drivers who break the new state law could be fined $60 and be assessed points on their driver’s licenses. WZVN.

District being sued: The Charlotte County School District is being sued by a family whose son was injured in an accident caused by his school bus driver. The driver ran a red light in Punta Gorda in May 2018, according to the suit, and a 17-year-old student suffered “a non-incapacitating injury.” The driver was cited and disciplined, but still works for the district. Charlotte Sun.

School threats: The father of an Alachua County student has been arrested and accused of making threats against students and staff at Westwood Middle School in Inwood. Police say John McCarthy wrote that he would “have to drown kids and kill adults” at the school if officials didn’t address what he called a bullying incident against his son. Gainesville Sun.

Students arrested: An 8th-grader in Miami-Dade County is arrested and accused of threatening to kill minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Police say the 13-year-old Leewood K-8 Center student made the threats in a group chat, in which he also declared that “white lives matter too.” Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: There are compelling reasons why Bernie Sanders, and his supporters, must reconsider their views on charter schools and voucher programs. Let’s articulate the reasons and encourage those inclined to agree with us a chance to catch up. Catherine Durkin Robinson, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Citrus High School senior Ryan Chandler, 17, who works at Weber Glass Inc. in Lecanto, drafted 78 windows and sunshades being installed at the Orlando Sanford International Airport. Citrus County Chronicle. Lake County’s Tavares High School is one of just 24 in Florida to be recognized as a Special Olympics unified champion school for its programs for students with special needs. Daily Commercial. Three Alachua County middle school students are chosen as semifinalists in the 2019 Broadcom MASTERS competition, a national science, technology, engineering and math competition. Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff