Schools seek to tackle student learning losses

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Concerns have run high that extended online learning might hinder students' academic progress. [Times files, 2015]
Concerns have run high that extended online learning might hinder students' academic progress. [Times files, 2015] [ Highlands Today ]
Published Sept. 17, 2020|Updated Sept. 17, 2020

School districts across the state have begun testing children, saying they want benchmark data to determine who’s fallen behind. The concern has been that a quarter of distance learning, paired with summer break, could leave children at risk academically. But even before the results come back, some officials contend that teachers can tell who’s struggling. They don’t want them to wait to offer extra help. Read on for that and the rest of today’s Florida education news.

Leaders have predicted many students would enter the year with learning deficits. If Pasco County teachers recognize struggling students, the superintendent wants them to call parents — not just send home a progress report.

How bad is Palm Beach County’s reopening plan? The teachers union called for the superintendent’s ouster, while the School Board stood by its chief executive, the Palm Beach Post reports. The district’s pending return to classrooms is marked by confusion, fear and anger, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Returning to campus has to be safe. A poll of Broward County voters shows they’re willing to wait for in-person schooling until they’re more confident that coronavirus is better contained, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • The Miami-Dade and Broward teacher unions argue their districts aren’t ready, WPLG reports. They’re asking for increased safety precautions, the Miami Herald reports. • For families excited to return, a new Broward K-8 school is opening its doors at about half capacity, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

If you thought Florida played hardball on school reopening ... Get a look at what Iowa has been up to, the Des Moines Register reports.

Critics said the state’s posture would lead teachers to quit. Alachua County’s resignation numbers are up, WUFT reports. A Pinellas County teacher says she was ready to teach, but quit when she saw the increased work load, Bay News 9 reports.

Florida’s universities have seen revenue decrease because of the coronavirus. Increased tuition rates are a possible answer the Board of Governors is discussing.

Scenes at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in St. Petersburg.
Scenes at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

What went wrong with Miami-Dade County’s online launch? The district experienced an “epic” series of technology errors, Wired reports.

School dress codes still apply — even to masks. An Orange County fifth grader has been told to replace a mask that had the Hooters restaurant name on it, WESH reports. His teacher said it was not appropriate. • A Bradford County middle school student was told to remove a Black Lives Matter mask, with administrators calling it disruptive, WJXT reports.

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Mix the issues of masks and racial lessons, and the tension rises. Residents attending a Sarasota County School Board meeting accused the school district of overstepping its role in mandating masks at schools, and also in authorizing a lesson on systemic racism that some deemed radical and left-wing, the Herald-Tribune reports.

The goal remains to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Officials say it takes cooperation. When a case was discovered at an Orange County high school, some potentially exposed people refused to participate with contact tracing or be tested, WESH reports. • At Florida Gulf Coast University, students who don’t follow the school’s health safety rules face possible suspension, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

It also takes transparency. The Florida Education Association has called for a statewide dashboard of COVID-19 cases in schools, WTSP reports.

Districts continue to look for missing students. About 400 Bay County children haven’t attended since March, the Panama City News Herald reports. • The Nassau County school district is releasing some teachers and staff as its enrollment falls about 800 students short of projections, WTLV reports.

And your parents said that philosophy degree wouldn’t get you far. The Florida Department of Education is poised to add the major to its list accepted for teaching social sciences, WUFT reports.

Let the selection begin. The four finalists to become Martin County’s first appointed schools superintendent came to town for interviews and town hall sessions, TC Palm reports. The School Board plans to make its choice next week.

Campus security is still an issue for schools. The Orange County district hired more than two dozen new officers, riling activists pressing to reduce police presence at schools, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Hurricane Sally sure is a doozy. Stalled and strong, it’s closed several north Florida school districts for the duration of the week, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. Bay County schools will remain shuttered Thursday, the Panama City News Herald reports.

Filthy classrooms, spoiling food, inadequate adult supervision. Such conditions led the Lee County school district to revoke the contract of a newly opened local charter school, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

From the police blotter ... A Hernando High School student is accused of bringing a gun to school.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup, just in case.

Before you go ... Masks remain mandatory in most Florida schools. Some districts are talking about extending the requirement through the spring. Not convinced? Let Paul Rudd explain the rationale. If nothing else, it’s amusing.