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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of June 10, 2019

A collection of news, views and more from the past week.

Florida has put a high price on student performance. High school graduation rates are a key metric in the formula. But how far are schools willing to go to make the state grade? At one Hillsborough County high school, one teacher has been removed after posting test answers on his classroom walls. His principal was also replaced and remains under investigation. It remains unclear just how deep the problem runs. • 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. Send a note to

Top of the Times

Eight months after Hurricane Michael, many fear a mental health crisis, Elizabeth Koh

“As another hurricane season begins, the devastation and the slow pace of recovery are instilling a sense of despair among many of the region’s residents who are still struggling to find housing or fulfill basic needs. Many are living in tents or campers outside ruined homes while they wait for contractors or for state or federal assistance. The strain is starting to show among many of the Panhandle’s children, as school officials in Bay County are fearing that a full-blown mental health crisis may be taking root.”

The next Hillsborough superintendent: Who’s on the short list?, Jeffrey S. Solochek, Marlene Sokol and Megan Reeves

“The names started flowing soon after Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins announced Monday that he’d be leaving. ‘Literally every conversation I have had has brought up someone else’s name,’ parent activist Melissa Erickson said, declining to repeat any of them with a diplomatic, ‘whoever is chosen will get a lot of support.’”

RELATED: Hillsborough school superintendent Jeff Eakins will retire in a year

Florida, school districts still battling over 2017 charter school law, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Two years after its adoption, Florida’s controversial law establishing the ‘Schools of Hope’ charter school program remains a point of contention. On Tuesday, lawyers for 10 school districts including Pinellas County argued in court that the statute — commonly referred to as HB 7069 — is unconstitutional and should be tossed out.”

Hillsborough schools halt summer workouts after teen football player collapses, dies, Tony Marrero and Bob Putnam

“Coaches were ordered to review all safety procedures for taking part in athletic activities; school staff must check the records of every student to make sure they’re eligible to take part in offseason athletics; and every school’s principal must inform the district that these steps have been completed.”

Teachers union raises questions as Florida reminds schools of security rules, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Can a teacher volunteering as a Florida armed school guardian use his or her own gun in that role? If guardians believe they need more ammunition than the school district or sheriff’s office provides, can they bring their own? These are but a couple of the many queries the Florida Education Association has begun to raise in a series of social media posts aimed at bringing added attention to the revised school security law (SB 7030) that lawmakers adopted and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed this spring.”

Visit for more education news from the Times staff.

Around the State

Changes coming to Orange district graduation policy after valedictorian barred from speaking, Orlando Sentinel, Annie Martin

“Orange County school board members vowed to implement a district-wide policy for graduation speakers Tuesday night in response to a public outcry over a valedictorian who was barred from speaking at her commencement last month.”

Mason Classical Academy to investigate allegations after school district report sparks ultimatum, Naples Daily News, Rachel Fradette

“Following a yearlong investigation into allegations of mismanagement at Mason Classical Academy, the Collier County School District General Counsel Jon Fishbane has released a 60-page report that recommends MCA board members Kelly Lichter and Laura Miller and Principal David Hull resign. If MCA does not comply with Fishbane’s recommendations by June 30, Hillsdale College plans to sever ties with the public charter school, according to a letter sent from Hillsdale’s provost to MCA.”

Public sounds off on sales tax for Jacksonville schools, Florida Times-Union, David Bauerlein"Jacksonville City Council members got an earful Tuesday about a proposed half-cent sales tax referendum for schools that will go on the ballot if the City Council agrees to put the choice before voters."

One Florida teachers union ‘decertified,’ another faces vote to retain status, The Center Square, John Haughey

“Florida lawmakers in 2018 included a provision in a massive omnibus education bill that requires unions representing school district employees be de-certified as collective bargaining units if less than 50 percent of its “instructional personnel” don’t pay dues. ... One independent teachers union with less than 50 percent of their “instructional personnel members” listed as dues-paying has been decertified by PERC and another could be under the new law.”

Nancy Stacy scorches Heidi Maier’s hot-weather policy, Ocala Star-Banner, Joe Callahan"[Marion County] School Board member Nancy Stacy became hot under the collar Tuesday when rejecting a restriction that Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier has issued to the district’s marching band directors. Maier’s staff directed bands to stay off the field from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer to protect band members from heat-related illnesses. As it turns out, most of the bands do not march outside between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., anyway. The School Board lifted the restriction on Tuesday and decided to let band directors continue to use their best judgment when it comes to practicing on hot days."

For the latest roundup of Florida education news, visit the Gradebook weekday mornings.

Other Views

Orange County Public Schools desperately wants to give every student access to careers in engineering, physics and computer science. Here’s how I know., Bridge To Tomorrow blog, FSU physics professor Paul Cottle

“Orange County Public Schools desperately wants to give every student access to careers in fields like engineering, physics, computer science and the health professions. How do I know this? Exhibit A is the district’s Calculus Project, in which it identifies low-income students who earn a score of 3 (out of 5) on the 6th grade state math test and then invites those students into a 7th grade Algebra 1 class – a privilege usually reserved for students earning the maximum score of 5 on the 6th grade state math exam. The district then makes a significant investment in each student who accepts that invitation in the form of a summer math boot camp and extra afterschool math tutoring.”

As voucher plans proliferate, let’s not forget their religious aim, Godzooks blog

“Why isn’t there more full-throated outrage from nonreligious Americans against religious-school voucher schemes methodically being pushed nationwide by evangelicals, led by fellow fundamentalist Christian Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education? It’s an insidious, disingenuous campaign to ignore the constitution and use American federal tax dollars to pay children’s tuition at private religious schools, primarily Christian, and state after state are signing up to accommodate this charade.”

More students are graduating from high school. Let’s make sure their diplomas mean something., Washington Post guest column, Robert Balfanz and John Bridgeland"Graduation season is upon us, and millions of students across the United States will receive their high school diplomas this month. But though high school graduation rates have increased from 71.7 percent in 2001 to 84.6 percent in 2017, that improvement doesn’t mean all students have benefitted equally. Graduation rates also are not the only measure of whether more students are actually ready for college and the increasing demands of work. We need to make sure more students of all backgrounds don their mortarboards on graduation day, but we should judge their schools not merely on how many students they graduate but on whether they are helping young people achieve the markers of success that show they are well-prepared for college and the challenges of the world beyond."

So You Wanna See That FSA*?, Grumpy Old Teacher blog, Greg Sampson

“When we get the next, new, bright and shiny test, whoever the vendor may be, the actual tests will be released once every three years beginning with 2021, which means we may see an actual test sometime in 2024, about 17 years after the practice ended with the first version of FCAT exams. Until then, carry on and remember Understanding by Design, in which teachers plan lessons by first deciding what each standard requires, then determining how they will assess for student mastery, and only then planning lessons to deliver the content.”

Florida student data hoarding is a threat to privacy, Orlando Sentinel guest column, Amelia Vance of the Future of Privacy Forum"The state plans to merge information from social media with records of students who have been bullied or harassed based on their religion, race, disability, or gender, plus data about students in foster care. In deciding which data to include, Florida did not take an evidence-based approach; instead, the state merely asked agencies and a few districts if they had any data that might indicate that someone was a threat. The public should understand what this means for privacy rights: the government of Florida is creating a state database of information about children who have been bullied or harassed because of a disability, or because they’re gay, or because they’re black or Latinx, and that information will be combined with their social media details."

Reports of Note

Do Voucher Regulations Reduce Anticipated Voucher Program Participation and School Quality?, Education Next

“Because it is nearly impossible to randomly assign program regulations to individual private schools, we use surveys to randomly assign different regulations to 3,080 private school leaders in Florida and ask them whether they would participate in a new private school choice program during the following school year. Relative to no regulations, our most conservative models find that open-enrollment mandates reduce the likelihood that private schools are certain to participate by about 17 percentage points, or 70 percent.”

Upskilling and Downsizing in American Manufacturing, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

“Good manufacturing jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less are expected to decline from 2.5 million in 2017 to 2.3 million in 2027. Workers with bachelor’s degrees also will have 200,000 fewer good jobs. Workers with middle skills, though, are expected to gain about 300,000 good jobs by 2027.”

​​​​​​​Coming Up

July 17: Florida Board of Education, Polk State College, Lakeland

Sept. 16-20: Florida Legislature interim committee week

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