What’s next for student testing, judge won’t block mask order, CRT bill, two teachers die, and more

What’s next for testing? Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call to end annual standardized testing in favor of three-times-a-year progress reports has been widely applauded by teachers and their unions, superintendents and other school officials, and students and parents. But education experts say that joy could be tempered once the details of what’s next start taking shape. “If they take the current test and cut it into three pieces, spreading it out over the year, it’s perhaps not that big a deal,” said Dale Chu of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank. “But if schools didn’t like the ‘high-stakes’ nature of annual testing, they’ll be in for a rude awakening when the pressure’s on three times a year.” Patricia Levesque, the director of former Gov. Jeb Bush’s educational foundation that ushered in the era of yearly testing tied to school accountability, agreed with that point, and added, “Will educators be required to teach on a schedule set by Tallahassee in order to be ‘on track’ for three statewide progress monitoring tests,” and “Will the spring progress monitoring test simply be a replacement for the end-of-year test and result in teachers having less time to cover the full year of content?” The 74. WFLA. WINK.

Judge won’t block mask order: A federal judge has declined to issue an injunction against the state’s order prohibiting school districts from requiring students to wear masks with opt-outs permitted only for medical reasons. A group of parents of children with disabilities brought the suit, contending that the order violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities. But Judge K. Michael Moore ruled that the parents should have pursued administrative claims first. “The court finds all plaintiffs would be substantially benefited by pursuing administrative remedies that can provide tailored solutions to each child’s individual needs,” Moore wrote. An attorney for the parents said they are considering their options. Miami Herald. News Service of Florida. Associated Press.

Bill targets CRT: A bill that would outlaw the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools, colleges and universities has been filed for the legislative session that begins Jan. 11. State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, proposed the bill that would ban the use of CRT in training, policy or classrooms in schools at all levels. CRT is generally defined as the belief that racism is embedded throughout American society and institutions. “Critical race theory is racist at its core, and has no place in the state of Florida,” Fine said Wednesday. “The notion that people are good or bad based on the color of their skin runs counter to everything our country was founded on. It is insidious, it is evil, and it is propagated to make our children hate their country.” Florida Politics. WESH. WTXL. Florida Today.

Around the state: Teachers in Polk and St. Johns counties have died of complications from the coronavirus, Broward and Palm Beach school officials want to expand COVID testing to try to cut back on the number of students quarantined, the number of coronavirus cases in the Brevard school district is declining, contract negotiations between Brevard teachers and the district begin with a union proposal to expand rehabilitation options for teachers addicted to drugs or alcohol, Clay County School Board members approve a nearly $527 million budget, and a TikTok challenge is causing headaches for school districts around the state. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Dr. Wil Blechman, an internist and rheumatologist who became a renowned early childhood education advocate in midlife, has died at the age of 89. “Wil was one of my earliest and wisest advisers — now more than three decades ago — on the imperative of investing in early learning and school readiness,” said David Lawrence Jr., the chair of the Children’s Movement of Florida. “I could not have a better teacher and ally and friend. He brought a soul of great decency to everything.” Miami Herald.

Broward, Palm Beach: School officials are in preliminary discussions to increase coronavirus testing in schools as a way to cut back on the number of students quarantined for exposure and the subsequent time lost in the classroom. “The biggest problem right now is how many children we’re having to quarantine on a daily basis,” said Dr. Alina Alonso, the state health department director for Palm Beach County. About 16 percent of the children quarantined are infected with COVID, she said. More testing could quickly identify infected children and limit their contact with other students. Palm Beach and Broward counties each had more than 1,800 students quarantined on Monday. Sun Sentinel.

Polk: D’Anthony Dorsey, a 24-year-old science teacher at Auburndale High School, died in a hospital intensive care unit Tuesday of complications from the coronavirus. His family said he contracted the virus after school started Aug. 10 and had been struggling to recover. Dorsey, who was hired last spring to teach marine biology and physical science, was a football player and weightlifter as a student at Lakeland High School. At least 71 Florida school district employees have died since July 2021, including at least 34 teachers, according to records kept by the Florida Education Association teachers union. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT.

Pasco: Students in Pasco, and elsewhere, are trashing school bathrooms as part of a TikTok challenge to steal school items and post them online. It’s called performing a “devious lick,” and it’s led to soap dispensers disappearing, broken urinals, toilet bowls being filled with Kool-Aid, exit signs stolen and more. School officials are promising that participating students will be punished. “I am very disappointed to hear about the destructive actions of some students, and the damage they are doing in our high schools and even some of our middle schools,” said school board member Colleen Beaudoin. “At a time like this, really, people don’t need to be dealing with something like this. It’s ridiculous.” Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WBBH. WMBB. Spectrum News 13.

Brevard: The number of COVID cases and quarantines in schools is declining, though the rates are still far higher than they were at the same time last year. Between Friday and Tuesday, the district reported 213 confirmed COVID cases among students and staff and 616 quarantines. From Aug. 23 to 26, the district hits its peak with 784 cases and 4,021 quarantines. A year ago, the district was reporting 20-50 quarantines in each of its twice-weekly reports. Florida Today. Contract negotiations between the teachers union and the district began with the union proposing an expansion of rehabilitation options for teachers addicted to drugs or alcohol. After being notified of a coming drug screening, teachers would have 30 minutes to decide to enter a rehab program under the proposal. They would be protected from firing while undergoing treatment. The proposal would also require districts to have a reasonable suspicion that a teacher was under the influence before they could test him or her. Negotiations continue Sept. 27. Florida Today.

Osceola: A charter school educator was arrested Wednesday after St. Cloud police said he admitted to having sex with an 18-year-old student twice in the past two weeks. Andre Williams, 32, worked at St. Cloud Preparatory Academy. School officials did not comment, but have removed Williams’ name and profile page from the school’s staff directory. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WFTV. WESH.

St. Johns: Korey Harrington, a middle school special education teacher at the Pine Island Academy in Jacksonville, has died of complications from the coronavirus. Counselors and support staff will be available at the school today for students and employees. WJAX.

Clay: School board members recently approved a nearly $527 million budget that includes a slight decrease in the tax rate. But higher property values and new construction will bring in more tax revenue. The district will also benefit from an extra $14 million a year from a tax hike approved by voters. That money will be used for repairs to school roofs, air-conditioning units and more. Clay Today.

Alachua: Thirteen students from Eastside High School in Gainesville have won the national 2021 Milton Wolf Prize in Student Advocacy for identifying and researching a community problem, then presenting their findings and potential solutions in both English and Spanish. WUFT. Forty-one county students have been named as semifinalists for 2022 National Merit Scholarship program. WGFL.

Colleges and universities: The University of South Florida’s presidential search committee expects to begin interviewing candidates in November and make a selection by January, committee chair Mike Griffin announced Wednesday. Tampa Bay Times. Florida A&M University has been awarded a $30 million grant from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to train students for careers or higher education in environmental science and related fields. WTXL.

Around the nation: Health and education experts say a new saliva test for COVID-19 is cheap, quick, accurate and could diminish the damage caused by extensive school quarantines. The 74. Yahoo.

Education podcasts: Pennsylvania state Sen. Scott Martin talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about that state’s educational choice options and its creation of new ways to authorize charter schools. reimaginED.

Opinions on schools: For a governor and the largest school districts that fought over COVID masking requirements, the proposal to replace standardized testing with periodic monitoring tests could become a focal point for uniting on education policy. The concept seems sound; the potential exciting. Now it’s time to fill in the blanks. Tampa Bay Times. Good for Gov. DeSantis: Canceling the annual standardized testing is the right decision. Sun Sentinel. The rise in self-reported home-schooling likely reflects real increases in home-schooling, strictly defined, combined with other trends — like the increase in the number of students who left their school districts for established, fulltime online school — that may feel like home-schooling to participating families but don’t meet the legal definition. Travis Pillow, Center on Reinventing Public Education. Charter schools continue to take advantage of their opportunities in Osceola by building credible, diverse, and apolitical relationships with families. Families are embracing public charter schools while moving away from public district schools, while the school district continues to fumble the ball. Jon Arguello, reimaginED. Miami-Dade parents need to know if COVID mitigation in schools are working. They’re not getting that information from the district’s dashboard. Amanda Prieto, Miami Herald.