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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Nov. 25, 2018

A collection of news and views from the past week.
Cori Sorensen, a fourth-grade teacher in Highland, Utah, receives firearms training with a .357 magnum from personal defense instructor Jim McCarthy during concealed weapons training for 200 Utah teachers. Utah is among at least eight states that allow, or don't specifically prohibit, concealed weapons in K-12 schools, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Some want Florida to join that group, but many educators are opposed. [Associated Press | 2012]
Cori Sorensen, a fourth-grade teacher in Highland, Utah, receives firearms training with a .357 magnum from personal defense instructor Jim McCarthy during concealed weapons training for 200 Utah teachers. Utah is among at least eight states that allow, or don't specifically prohibit, concealed weapons in K-12 schools, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Some want Florida to join that group, but many educators are opposed. [Associated Press | 2012]
Published Dec. 1, 2018

Florida school districts continue to grapple with issues relating to transgender students. The latest flap has arisen in Pasco County, where one school’s situation has become a national conservative cause as educators look for ways to protect everyone’s rights and needs. Read on for that and more news. •  Don’t miss our weekly highlights of the news, views, reports and more. You can keep up daily with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who’d like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to

Top of the Times

Teachers with guns? The idea is back, but many Florida educators still say no thanks., Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri made big news over Thanksgiving break when, as chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, he announced that he now sees value in having armed teachers in schools. His change of heart on the issue, along with his plan to recommend lawmakers allow willing teachers to carry guns, has prompted Florida educators to revisit a debate that raged in the spring as the idea first surfaced. Most did not like the concept before. And with few exceptions, they don’t like it now, either.”

Pasco schools psychologist comes under fire in transgender flap, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“The wrath of conservative groups opposed to what they see as special treatment of transgender students has come down hard on Pasco County schools in the past few weeks. And a district school psychologist who strives to help LGBTQ students adjust as they struggle with their identity has come directly into the crossfire.”

Families sue to stop Duval County’s school guard program, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“A group of Duval County families has joined the League of Women Voters in challenging their school district’s implementation of Florida’s new school security guard program, created in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting in February.”

Now a top federal education official, Frank Brogan finds skepticism among Florida school board leaders, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Former Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan, now a top official in the federal Department of Education, brought a cheery message about the state of public schooling Wednesday to Florida’s school board members and superintendents. But his enthusiasm fell flat with many in the audience, who suggested his rosy view didn’t jibe with the system they know.”

Visit for more education news from the Times staff.

Around the State

DeSantis got unexpected boost from African-American ‘School-Choice Moms’,, John Haughey
“Conservative Republican Ron DeSantis and progressive Democrat Andrew Gillum presented voters with starkly different choices on an array of issues, none more distinctively polar than their plans for charter schools. … That distinction – rather than the personalities and ideologies involved – may have compelled about 100,000 African-American women, the vast majority registered Democrats, to vote for DeSantis over Gillum on Nov. 6, according to William Mattox, director of the Marshall Center for Educational Options Director at the James Madison Institute, (JMI), a Tallahassee-based conservative think-tank.”

Hide, deny, spin, threaten: How the school district tried to mask failures that led to Parkland shooting, Sun-Sentinel, Brittany Wallman, Megan O’Matz and Paula McMahon
“Immediately after 17 people were murdered inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the school district launched a persistent effort to keep people from finding out what went wrong.”
RELATED: Four Stoneman Douglas staff members reassigned in connection with school shooting, Sun-Sentinel, Scott Travis
“Three administrators and a security specialist have been reassigned in connection with the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School more than nine months ago.”

Supreme Court adds judge for ‘high quality’ education case, News Service of Florida
“In a somewhat-unusual move, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady has appointed a lower-court judge to help the Supreme Court decide a closely watched education case.”

Bay district shares needs during visit by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Panama City News Herald, Eryn Dion
“Lost in their own city. Awful because they lost their homes. Mad because they weren’t expecting, or prepared for the storm. Sitting in their desks in their classrooms of the new ‘Cedarfield’ campus, made up of Cedar Grove and displaced Springfield Elementary School students, these were some of the feelings shared by third-graders to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as she toured the school Monday to get a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael and its impact on the county’s most vulnerable residents — its children.”

Other Views

Florida is penny wise, pound foolish in paying teachers, Florida Times-Union editorial
“Among the 50 states, Florida ranks No. 46 in average salary for teachers. That’s just plain woeful.”

Transfer of four MSD staffers is misdirecting the real blame, Sun-Sentinel guest column, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High teacher Katherine Posada
“They have ripped four more members away from us, in an attempt to place blame where it does not belong. It has become clear that the priority in this county is not the students or the teachers, but propagating the self-worth of district employees with an inflated sense of importance.”

It’s time for high school counselors, teachers and parents to start thinking about courses their students will take in Fall 2019 – including math and science courses, Bridge to Tomorrow blog, FSU physics professor Paul Cottle
“In fact, counselors, teachers and parents should be thinking even farther ahead than that – all the way to college.  Every parent wants their student to have every possible option in college, including pursuing careers in STEM and health fields.  And to have those options open, a student must take the right math and science courses in high school, including chemistry, physics and calculus (or at least precalculus).”

UF should make ACT, SAT optional, Gainesville Sun editorial
“As the University of Florida has become increasingly selective in its admissions in recent years, the rising standardized test scores of incoming freshmen have been touted as a point of pride. Yet research has found that ACT and SAT scores can be a better indicator of a student’s family wealth than their success in college. A reliance on such scores to determine admissions benefits students who are able to afford expensive test preparation services, while hurting low-income and minority students.”

Reports of Note

Respected Perspectives of Youth on High School & Social and Emotional Learning, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning
“The central message of this report is while current and recent high school students today generally respect their teachers and give their high schools favorable marks, most see a big missing piece in their education – a lack of social and emotional skills development – and most recent students feel unprepared for life after high school.”

Aligning Time, People and Money Will Allow States to Better Serve Their Students, George W. Bush Institute
“Each state was required to articulate an approach to continuous improvement— a formal process of planning, acting, assessing, reflecting, and adjusting— to help manage the implementation of the large-scale and intricate changes outlined in ESSA plans. Unfortunately, in many of those plans, details about continuous improvement were left wanting. State leaders should ask who is responsible for continuous improvement, what are the interim measures of success, who owns the process, and how are stakeholders engaged throughout.”

Gotta Give ‘Em Credit: State and District Variation in Credit Recovery Participation Rates, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
“Rigorous vetting of CR content and rigor is critical to ensuring that students in these programs are not exposed to inferior content or held to lower standards. But few states vet CR programs at all, let alone undertaking the kind of rigorous vetting that would truly ensure quality. Six states — Arizona, Kentucky, Florida, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington — have policies covering the vetting of providers of credit recovery or course content itself. Unfortunately, even in these states, these policies do little more than mandate that providers be accredited and content be aligned with standards.”

Coming Up

Week of Dec. 11: Legislative committee meetings

Jan. 16, 2019: Florida Board of Education

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