2nd judge rejects parental rights law challenge, NAEP test scores hit historic lows, and more

Judge rules for state: For the second time in a month, a federal judge has rejected a challenge to the state’s Parental Rights in Education law that restricts instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in school classrooms. U.S. District Judge Wendy Berger denied a request by parents, students and the non-profit group who filed the lawsuit in July against the school boards in Orange, Indian River, Duval and Palm Beach counties. “(The) plaintiffs dedicate their time exclusively to arguing that the underlying law is unconstitutional, without specifying any causal link between the actions of these defendants and the alleged deprivation of a constitutional right,” Berger wrote. “On this basis alone, the court finds that plaintiffs have failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits on any of the claims they attempted to allege in the first amended complaint (the lawsuit).” She also decided the plaintiffs did not have the standing to bring the lawsuit. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida.

Test scores plummet: Scores on national tests for 4th- and 8th-graders declined precipitiously in 2022, the first time the tests were administered since the pandemic, with the largest drops ever in math scores and reading results falling to 1992 levels. Declines were were sweeping, across regions, states, low-income and wealthier students, boys and girls, and most racial or ethnic groups in both subjects and grades. “It is a serious wakeup call for us all,” said Peggy Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, a branch of the Education Department. “In NAEP, when we experience a 1- or 2-point decline, we’re talking about it as a significant impact on a student’s achievement. In math, we experienced an 8-point decline — historic for this assessment.” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called the results “not acceptable,” and said schools need to use billions of dollars in federal aid to intensify their efforts to recover. Florida’s 4th-grade math scores were down 5 points and 8 points among 8th-graders, and 8th-graders had a 3-point decline in reading while 4th-graders saw no change. Associated Press. The 74. Education Week. Chalkbeat. New York Times.

Around the state: Broward school board members hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss whether to keep Vickie Cartwright as school superintendent, $2 million from a state disaster relief fund will be shared by southwest Florida teachers who have had their personal and work lives upended by Hurricane Ian, 41 school districts missed the Oct. 1 deadline to submit plans to the state detailing how they would use $800 million allocated by the Legislature to improve teacher salaries, the Florida Board of Education says 11 school districts remain out of compliance with state laws, education is expected to be a topic of discussion at the only gubernatorial debate tonight, and a Marion County middle school student is accused of stealing $10,000 from her grandparents and handing much of it out to her classmates. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A special school board meeting has been called for Tuesday morning to discuss the future of Superintendent Vickie Cartwright and two other board appointees. Five of the nine board members have been appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis since May, and they have been critical of district leadership over issues raised by the statewide grand jury report. Board chair Torey Alston, one of those appointed, wrote in an attachment to Tuesday’s agenda that there have been “a series of major issues that continue to plague the district and overall culture. … Leadership starts and ends with the superintendent of schools.” The idea of replacing Cartwright was first broached publicly in September by state Board of Education chair Tom Grady. Sun-Sentinel. Newly released documents describe the unusual route the school board took in turning a negligence case into a $26 million civil-rights settlement for families of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018. Board members were motivated to settle the case to remove it from the courts and the Legislature. Sun-Sentinel. Denise Aloma, the principal at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, has been chosen as one of nine U.S. educators to receive the Terrel H. Bell Award for outstanding school leadership. reimaginED.

Hillsborough: About 9,000 immigrant students have enrolled in the school district in the past three years, according to school officials. Most are relocating because of political turmoil in their counties, and most are Hispanic. “Over the last five years, we would have an average of about 150 each year of Cuban students enrolling, and since the beginning of the school year till now, we’ve had about 600,” said Elena Garcia, district director of the English Language Learners and Migrant program. The district also has added about 80 immigrant students from Afghanistan, and expects some from Ukraine soon. WFTS.

Duval: Former district school superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who now runs the Detroit school system, beat out Duval Superintendent Diana Greene and six other school leaders to be selected as the nation’s top urban educator by the Council of the Great City Schools and Scholastic. Chalkbeat.

Polk: District 7 school board incumbent Lisa Miller squares off against Jill Sessions in the Nov. 8 runoff. Miller collected the most votes in the Aug. 23 primary with 42.4 percent, while Sessions received 37.5 percent. Miller, 45, co-owner of a realty company, is running for a second term and touts her experience in the district. Sessions, 57, is the director of solid waste for Plant City and favors a greater role in schools for parents. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Construction has begun on a new K-8 charter school in Clearwater, the Discovery Academy of Science. “We plan to move both south and north campuses to our new location late second semester of the 2022-2023 school year, pending unforeseen circumstances,” school officials said on their website. “All grades will begin the 2023-2024 school year at the new campus.” WTSP. Gus Stavros, a philanthropist who helped start the Pinellas Education Foundation and Enterprise Village to teach business fundamentals to 5th-graders, and also served on the State University System Board of Governors, has died at the age of 97. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. Pinellas Education Foundation.

Lee, southwest Florida: Teachers in the six counties hardest hit by Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28 will soon be sharing $2 million from the state’s storm relief fund. Lee County teachers will receive $500,000, while teachers in Charlotte, Collier and Sarasota will share $350,000 and teachers from DeSoto and Hardee will be awarded $250,000. It was also announced that students from two Lee County schools that were severely damaged by Ian are being moved to another school. San Carlos Park Elementary School, which is inland near Estero, will be the new home for students from Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel elementary schools. Politico Florida. WINK. WBBH. Florida Politics.

Lake: County voters are being asked Nov. 8 to renew the three-quarters of a mill tax to help the school district comply with state laws governing school security. The tax was first levied in 2019. If it’s renewed, it will take effect July 1, 2023, and continue through June 30, 2027. WKMG.

Marion: A 14-year-old student at Lake Weir Middle School in Summerfield has been arrested and accused of stealing $10,000 from her grandparents and handing most of it out to her classmates. Authorities confronted her and found about $2,500 in her backpack, and have asked parents to return any money their children may have been given. WOFL. Associated Press. WGFL.

Escambia: The school has received a $2 million grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity. The money will be used to expand arts programs at seven elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools and two K-12 programs, as well as extracurricular tutoring and enrichment programs. WKRG.

Citrus: A school bus driver was arrested last week after being accused of slapping a 5-year-old kindergarten student in the face in late August. David Jeffrey Stoner, 61, was charged with felony child abuse without causing great bodily harm. Stoner resigned during the investigation that led to his arrest. Citrus County Chronicle.

Nassau: A Yulee Middle School student was arrested last week and accused of bring a gun and ammunition to campus. School officials said they got a tip about the 8th-grader, and found the gun, ammunition and vaping products in his backpack. WJXT.

Colleges and universities: Critics of the selection of Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse as the sole finalist for the presidency of the University of Florida are focusing on his opposition to same-sex marriage and other stated views on LGBTQ issues. Sasse returns to Gainesville on Nov. 1 for a formal interview with trustees. Tampa Bay Times. Members of Florida Institute of Technology men’s rowing team said they intend to file suit to force the university to reinstate the program. The team was one of five that were discontinued with the intent to transition them into club sports. School officials said their “resources are simply spread too thin to adequately support each at a competitive level” in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. Florida Today.

Districts miss deadline: Forty-one state school districts missed the Oct. 1 deadline to submit plans to the state detailing how they would use $800 million allocated by the Legislature to improve teacher salaries. Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Gadsden, Glades, Gulf, Jefferson, Lake, Lee, Nassau and St. Lucie, as well as the Florida Atlantic University and Florida State University lab school districts, have neither submitted plans nor been in contact with the Florida Department of Education. After the DOE made its announcement, Citrus school officials said they submitted their plan. Twenty-seven others have yet to submit plans but have been consulting with the DOE. The goal of the funding is to boost minimum teacher salaries to at least $47,500. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Citrus County Chronicle.

Districts out of compliance: Eleven state school districts remain out of compliance with state laws, the Florida Board of Education announced last week. Alachua, Broward, Hillsborough, Indian River and Miami-Dade still have policies that were in place before changes in the law were enacted. Brevard, Duval, Florida Virtual, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, Leon and Palm Beach have updated policies but are still noncompliant, according to the board, and Alachua, Broward and Leon direct that their policies not comply with state law. BOE senior chancellor Jacob Oliva said he expects the districts to change their policies in the next two months to adhere to state laws. WJCT. Florida Department of Education.

Gubernatorial debate: Education is expected to be one of the primary topics at tonight’s debate in Fort Pierce between Gov. DeSantis and his Democratic challenger, former governor, state education commissioner and U.S. representative Charlie Crist. Crist said if elected, he will undo policies enacted by DeSantis on such topics as LGBTQ+ inclusion, parental rights and censorship of classroom and library books. News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix. Miami Herald. USA Today Florida Network. WPEC.

Education podcasts: Step Up For Students founder and chairman John Kirtley talks with Education Next editor Paul E. Peterson about how choice programs, including tax credits and charter schools, are serving students and families in Florida. The Education Exchange. reimaginED.

Board appointment: Kelly Garcia of Tampa, who volunteers as a Catholic school teacher in the Diocese of St. Petersburg and is on the board of directors of Frameworks of Tampa Bay, has been appointed by Gov. Desantis to the Florida Virtual School board of directors. Office of the Governor.

Around the nation: A federal appeals court in St. Louis has temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s plan to forgive billions of dollars worth of student loans. The stay is in effect while the court considers a motion from six states challenging the federal government’s authority to order the program. Associated Press. Politico. A federal bill had been introduced that is inspired by Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law restricting classroom discussions on gender identityand sexual orientation in schools. Critics say if it is approved, it would have far-reaching effects. NPR. Liberal groups, including the Florida Freedom to Read Project started by two Florida mothers to combat book bans, have started to organize in an attempt to counter conservative efforts to win school board elections. NBC News.

Opinions on schools: I hope that our schools will require, within the civics curriculum, attention to the power of nonpartisanship, the ways in which it has made this nation strong and remain committed to the value of independent thought. Henry M. Coxe III, Florida Times-Union. In the guise of preventing indoctrination by annulling faculty members’ right to academic freedom, the Stop Woke Act whitewashed or erases American history in favor of government-enforced indoctrination. David Wippman and Glenn C. Altschuler, The Hill.