Class-action suit filed over troubled AP exams, free testing for teachers ends, final grades and more

AP test problems spur suit: A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the College Board on behalf of thousands of students who encountered technical troubles that prevented them from submitting the Advance Placement exams they took last week. The suit filed Wednesday in California demands that the College Board grade the tests as is instead of requiring students to retake them in June, and asks for more than $500 million in damages. “The College Board was immediately made aware by numerous sources, including counselors, educators, advocates and families, that there were serious concerns that the at-home AP exams would not be fair to students who have no computer, access to Internet or quiet workspaces from which to work, or to under-resourced students in general,” the lawsuit states, but did not act. After last week’s problems, the College Board said students who had technical troubles submitting the test this week could send their answers by email. That option was not extended to the students who had problems last week. Gradebook. Florida Phoenix. Education Week. Forbes. Washington Post.

Teachers’ free testing ends: The state has abruptly ended free certification testing for teachers. The suspension of the fees, which can run into the hundreds of dollars, began March 23 for the tests that teachers must pass to work, and teachers were supposed to be able to register for the fee waiver at least through July 31. The state Department of Education cited a lack of money for the decision. About 50,000 teachers used the program to sign up for about 100,000 certification tests, costing the state about $13 million. WFTS.

Determining final grades: As schools near the end of this coronavirus-disrupted academic year, districts will soon have to issue final grades for students. The decisions largely belong to teachers, and they must decide whether to grade as they have in the past or to take the unique learning situation into consideration and be forgiving even if students haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt. A survey of the states by Education Week showed that 16 advocate or require a “do no harm” approach in final grades, and 11 states encourage promotion. In Florida, the guidance is to treat distance learning like real school even though many of the things teachers rely on to determine grades, such as final exams, were eliminated this year. “Since day one I have been preaching that less is more, we need to be as forgiving as possible,” said Mike Gandolfo, president of the Pinellas County teachers union. “We don’t know what these kids are going through at home.” Gradebook. WTXL.

Reopening schools: A blend of classroom and online learning, one-way hallways, staggered start times and even voluntary attendance are among the options being consider for the reopening of schools in the fall by the Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk school districts. Pasco school officials are also reaching out to parents for input on what they’d like to see. Creative Loafing. Tampa Bay Times. Miami-Dade and Broward school superintendents stressed the need for flexibility in putting together plans for the next school year. “I believe that we will be in a situation where we’ll have multiple options and alternatives and they might even vary by school,” said Broward’s Robert Runcie. “We may have students and teachers who have underlying health conditions so we need to enable them to be able to both teach and learn in the distance learning format so we’re going to have a hybrid of all those things going on.” Meanwhile, Palm Beach County school board members make a pitch for more federal aid. WTVJ. WPBF. WPTV. Northeast Florida school districts are considering whether to follow the Duval County School Board’s decision to buy masks for students and staff. WJXT. While state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, acknowledged that the effect of the pandemic on education funding is still not shown, she said it remains a priority for the state. Stargel, who chairs the Senate Education Appropriations Committee, was speaking about education at the Southern Group virtual education conference on Wednesday. Florida Politics.

Graduation plans: In-person graduation ceremonies for Hillsborough County high school seniors will be held July 13-26 at the Florida State Fairground if conditions permit, district officials announced Wednesday. WFTS. Fifteen public and private schools in Marion County have scheduled in-person graduation ceremonies between May 22 and June 17. All of the schools will limit attendance to comply with social distancing guidelines. Four private schools have not yet announced their plans. Ocala Star-Banner. Madison County High School will hold an outdoors, in-person graduation at the school Friday night. WCTV. Venice and North Port high schools are planning in-person graduation ceremonies, with social distancing guidelines being followed, later this summer. WWSB. Berkeley Preparatory School, a private school in Tampa, is planning a traditional graduation ceremony May 31 at the school’s football field. Masks are optional. Tampa Bay Times.

More on the coronavirus: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos acknowledged in an interview on Wednesday that she is “absolutely” using the coronavirus pandemic to advance her long-time goal of using public money to support access to private schools. “This whole pandemic has brought into clear focus that everyone has been impacted, and we shouldn’t be thinking about students that are in public schools versus private schools,” she said in an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York. Chalkbeat. Getting schools reopened and digital communications back online will be instrumental in recovering after a hurricane, former FEMA director Craig Fugate said Wednesday at the Southern Group’s virtual education conference. Florida Politics. About 40 percent of Brevard County parents of students recently surveyed by the district said they’ve gotten used to managing their children’s online learning, but 35 percent said they’re struggling to keep their children on task. Space Coast Daily. The Bay, Collier and Monroe county school districts will continue providing meals to students throughout the summer. In Bay County, school bus drivers will deliver on Tuesday and Thursdays. In Collier, meals will be available at 20 schools on weekdays. Monroe County is offering meal pickup three days a week at schools, and is also delivering to needy students. Panama City News Herald. WJHG. WFTX. Key West Citizen.

Notable deaths: Jack Lamb, a longtime teacher, administrator and Hillsborough County School Board member, has died at the age of 85. In 2015, the district named one of its newest schools Progress Village Lamb Elementary School, in his honor. Tampa Bay Times.

Personnel moves: Kyle Sheer, the assistant principal at Gerald Adams Elementary School in Monroe County, has been named the school’s next principal. He will replace Fran Herrin, who becomes the district’s executive director of teaching and learning. Key West Citizen.

School board elections: Three candidates are in the running for the District 1 seat on the Pinellas County School Board currently held by Joanne Lentino, who is not running for re-election. Laura Hine, Victor Connelly and Stephanie Meyer will face off in the primary Aug. 18. If no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters advance to the November runoff. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics.

Bullard up for award: WWE star Titus O’Neil, whose real name is Thaddeus Bullard, is one of the finalists for ESPN’s Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award given to an athlete for leadership that creates a positive influence on his or her community. Bullard has been a huge supporter of Sligh Middle Magnet School in Tampa, donating money and spending time as a mentor at the school. There’s even been a proposal to rename the school after him that has become controversial because it’s spilled over into school board politics. Tampa Bay Times.

Ex-teacher sentenced: A judge sentenced a former Escambia County teacher to 12 years in prison for having sex with a student. Mark Lua, 32, who taught English at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola until his 2019 arrest, had pleaded with the judge to consider chemically castrating him as an alternative to prison. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Student enrichment: Fifty-four students among the 542 nominated from public, charter and private schools in Palm Beach and Martin counties were named Pathfinder Scholarship Awards winners. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm.