NAEP testing postponed a year, graduation gap narrowing, tuition hikes considered and more

Nation’s Report Card canceled: National reading and math tests for 4th- and 8th-graders that are used to compiled the “Nation’s Report Card” have been canceled for 2021. The National Center for Education Statistics said it had concerns that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests wouldn’t produce a reliable, comparable picture of state and national student performance. “NCES has been carefully monitoring physical attendance patterns in schools across the county. I have determined that NCES cannot at this time conduct a national-level assessment … in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law,” said James Woodworth, the NCES commissioner. “Too many students are receiving their education through distance learning or are physically attending schools in locations where outside visitors to the schools are being kept at a minimum due to COVID levels.” The tests, which were scheduled for January, will be rescheduled for 2022. Politico. Associated Press. Education Week.

Economics and graduation: The state’s gap in the graduation rate between economically disadvantaged students and those who are not has narrowed between the 2014-2015 and 2018-2019 school years, but is still nearly 9 percentage points, according to Florida Department of Education statistics. The difference in 2014-2015 was 15.3 percentage points, and 8.8 percentage points in 2018-2019. WJXT.

Around the state: Lawmakers and educators are beginning to talk about raising tuition at the state’s universities for the first time since 2013, administrators of the year are named in Brevard County, finalists for teacher and school employee of the year are announced in Gulf County, a 13-year-old student is arrested for allegedly making a hoax call about a gunman at his school, and some new south Florida school board members said districts should be considering a return to online-only learning because of the surge in coronavirus cases. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A 13-year-old student at Lincoln-Martí Charter School has been arrested and accused of making a hoax 911 call saying a gunman was moving through the Hialeah school last Tuesday. Police said the call caused “mass hysteria and chaos in the school.” The boy told police he was “bored” and collaborated with another gamer to make the call. Miami Herald.

Broward, south Florida: State officials have advocated for schools being open and recently released research suggests schools are not driving new infections, but some newly elected south Florida school board members said the recent surge in coronavirus cases means it’s time to start considering a return to online-only learning. WLRN. School officials are now requiring most students learning remotely to turn on their computer’s cameras during class or risk being marked absent. “It’s very hard to have a relationship with students if you’re not able to see them,” said Debra Hixon, who was the magnet coordinator at South Broward High before being elected to the school board Nov. 3. The new policy was approved last week by the board, and begins today. Sun Sentinel.

Orange: Kat Gordon was a school librarian when she was elected to a school board seat 20 years ago. This month she retired as a media specialist from an Osceola alternative school and also left the school board. “I didn’t care if you liked me or not,” Gordon said when she was honored at the last school board meeting. “I wanted you to get the work done for my community.” The only black member on the board, Gordon, 75, was an advocate for better academics and campus facilities, increased parental involvement and racial equality. Orlando Sentinel.

Duval: The Jacksonville City Council has unanimously approved issuing $23 million in construction bonds so the Jacksonville Alliance for KIPP Schools Inc. can build a $15 million, 900-student elementary charter school and refinance its existing debt. KIPP will lease 8 acres of surplus property from the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. Jacksonville Daily Record. School board members are expected to decide Tuesday whether to suspend a Sandalwood High School math teacher for five days without pay for “unprofessional conduct.” The district did not specify what that conduct was. The teacher, Thomas Caggiano, drew attention last year for his posts on Facebook after he refused to call a transgender student by her chosen gender identity. WJXT.

Brevard: Brevard students won’t have to make up a day of school lost when Tropical Storm Eta came through the area Nov. 9, district officials announced. “The school district … has enough instructional minutes built into its schedule to cover the day at no loss to students or staff,” the district said in a Facebook post. Florida Today. Kairi Thomas-Brooks, a 17-year-old junior at Viera High School, hosts an national online chat every two weeks called 21 Questions, in which she interviews police officers. The goal is to improve the understanding between police officers and people of color. Florida Today.

Seminole: Hagerty High School officials are warning students not to open a “disturbing video” they had been sent via email. The video could be embedded with malware, they said. Principal Rob Frasca said the email did not come from a student or anyone else in the district. WKMG.

Volusia, Flagler: Eighty-eight new cases of the coronavirus were reported last week in the Volusia and Flagler school districts. Volusia had 59 and Flagler 29. Since Sept. 6, Volusia has reported 409 cases, with 278 of them students. Flagler has had 107 cases, with 75 of them students. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

St. Johns: School officials said they are not considering changing their protocols for dealing with the coronavirus. Desk shields, face masks and a great attention to sanitization have been in place, and district spokeswoman Christina Langston said, “We’ve remained diligent in implementing those things.” The district counted 73 students and 24 employees infected in the week of Nov. 22-27, with 1,557 quarantined. St. Augustine Record.

Sarasota: The Rev. Jerome Dupree, a longtime teacher and once the principal at Booker High School who also served as Sarasota mayor and city commissioner and as the pastor of the Koinonia Baptist Church, has died at the age of 88. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Emily Norris, a 7th-grader at Sarasota Middle School, won the best in show student award in a nonprofit’s international art competition. Her work is entitled “Small Struggles,” and shows a young girl of color looking at an aisle of dolls that are all white with blond hair. Embracing Our Differences, which is based in Sarasota, received 15,912 entries for the adult and student divisions. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Leon: Chromebooks should be in the hands of all district students by the end of this week, according to district officials. The original final distribution day was supposed to be last Wednesday, but Superintendent Rocky Hanna said the district “didn’t anticipate” how long it would take to deliver the charging stations for the laptops. Each classroom has to have a charging station for the Chromebooks. Tallahassee Democrat.

Gulf: Four finalists for county teacher of the year award have been chosen. They are: Dawn Grace, who teaches physical science, anatomy and physiology at Port St. Joe High School; Wendy Chafin, who teaches middle school science at Wewahitchka High; Krystal Terry, a 1st-grade teacher at Port St. Joe Elementary; and Hester Peck, a 5th-grade math teacher at Wewahitchka Elementary. Six finalists have also been selected for the employee of the year award. They are: Joy Evans, a paraprofessional at Port St. Joe Elementary; Marilyn Causey, food service cashier at Wewahitchka Elementary; Wanda Nixon, secretary at  Port St. Joe High; Jane Wade, paraprofessional at Wewahitchka High; Ashley Baird, finance clerk at the district offices; and Tony Strange, who works in the transportation and maintenance department. Port St. Joe Star.

Colleges and universities: Lawmakers and educators are beginning to talk about raising tuition at the state’s universities for the first time since 2013. State schools rank 49th among U.S. states for undergraduate tuition rates at $105.07 per credit hour. The state is facing a budget deficit of about $2.7 billion. Orlando Sentinel. Even in the midst of a surge in coronavirus cases, Florida’s universities are making plans to offer more in-person classes next semester. Politico Florida. The anthropology department at the University of South Florida acknowledged last week that land the university sits on once belonged to the Seminole people, as well as other indigenous groups such as the Calusa and Tocobaga. Tampa Bay Times. Ken Jones, the head of the Tampa investment firm Third Lake Partners, has been nominated by Gov. Ron DeSantis for a seat on the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system. Tampa Bay Times.

More on the coronavirus: Schools may have a role to play when vaccines are made available, but there are logistical concerns and a growing reluctance among parents for following regular immunization requirements. Education Dive. The trend toward reopening schools to students has been sidetracked by the recent surge in coronavirus cases nationwide. Stateline.

Food fight: A legal dispute between the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Henry and Rilla White Foundation is holding up food distribution to children in the Department of Juvenile Justice’s residential commitment programs. Florida Politics.

Opinions on schools: Forty-nine states have waived requirements for the SAT examination to be accepted in their colleges next year. Then there is Florida, which proposes to take Bright Futures money from those who can’t afford it and those who cannot get the test. Becky Cherney, Orlando Sentinel. The value of a public university like USF is not just its quality instruction, but service to its community. And this growing community needs skilled teachers, not just a university with a top-tier reputation. Preeminence status is important, but so is turning out employable graduates. Tampa Bay Times. Florida teachers deserve the support of education leaders and policymakers so they can excel even in this most complicated educational environment of our time. Mandy Clark and Phil Poekert, Gainesville Sun. We know that keeping schools open is one of the least dangerous — and most important — things a society can do. Yet notwithstanding the scientific consensus — namely, that closing schools does far more harm than good — teachers unions’ in many big cities have simply refused to go back into the classroom, claiming it’s too dangerous. Joe Nocera, Bloomberg. It’s not just socioeconomics that influences whether physics is taught in high school. A school district’s culture is just as important. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tremendous challenge for America’s K-12 education system. But one corner of the K-12 education landscape has shown resilience and, in many cases, has actually managed to thrive — America’s independent, or private, school sector. Damian Kavanagh and Benjamin Scafidi, The Hill.