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Florida school leaders ask state to suspend testing consequences another year

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Hillsborough County school district officials urged the Florida Department of Education to suspend consequences of state testing for another year, because high numbers of student and staff absences are setting back academic progress.
Hillsborough County school district officials urged the Florida Department of Education to suspend consequences of state testing for another year, because high numbers of student and staff absences are setting back academic progress.
Published Jan. 26

The big story: Florida schools largely are staying open during the surge of coronavirus omicron variant cases, but many students and staff members have been missing days as they self isolate. And unlike last year, the schools don’t have live remote lessons to bridge the gap.

Several districts including Leon County and Okaloosa County have reported higher than normal absences that officials have said are affecting learning. Educators say they’re seeing children fall behind.

That in mind, some are suggesting the state waive the consequences associated with annual spring testing results for another year. Hillsborough County district officials on Monday followed Miami-Dade County’s lead, sending a letter to the Florida Department of Education seeking leniency in the face of these challenges.

“The inability to provide consistent instruction has created inequitable conditions to ensure that students close the exacerbated learning gaps and understand grade-level concepts,” Hillsborough board chairperson Nadia Combs and superintendent Addison Davis wrote. Read the full story here.

Their request comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis has called upon lawmakers to cut back testing. Observers have called the resulting legislation a sham, noting it would not accomplish the goal, Florida Phoenix reports.

Tallahassee action

The Senate countered a House proposal to make all school board members volunteers. Its plan calls for setting board member salaries at $18,000. The bill also would make it easier for the public to challenge books in school collections, Florida Politics reports.

A bill to shield records from university president searches drew criticism from faculty members. Some are calling the move “authoritarian.” Four universities are currently looking for new leaders.

The House advanced legislation to hold superintendents financially accountable for meeting school security requirements. The sponsor indicated a willingness to amend the proposal to account for the independent operation of charter schools authorized by districts, Florida Politics reports.

Lawmakers proposed requiring school districts to fund recruiting and retention incentives when staff shortages reach 20 percent. Employee groups are backing the measure, and suggesting more is needed, Spectrum 13 reports. • The Florida Education Association estimates the state’s schools have more than 5,000 current support staff vacancies, up from the start of the school year, WTLV reports. • Several central Florida districts are rolling out incentives to attract bus driver candidates, WKMG reports.

Today in Tallahassee: The House Education Committee meets at 9 a.m, when it will consider a bill on charter school renewals and hear a report on school safety. • The Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m., to review bills on student testing, charter school authorization and school safety. • Americans for Prosperity-Florida will have a rally for National School Choice Week at noon at the Capitol.

Hot topics

Taxes: Hillsborough County school district officials are contemplating whether to seek a local property tax increase to supplement their budget. Not everyone agrees whether voters would support the measure.

Race lessons: The Osceola County school district pushed back on accusations it canceled training on civil rights history because of CRT fears. Officials said the activity was delayed because so many teachers were out with COVID, Newsweek reports.

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Gender issues: The Leon County School Board delayed approval of its proposed LGBTQ guide so it can get community input and consider the impact of related legislation, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Superintendent searches: The Pinellas County School Board held an organizational meeting with its search consultant. It agreed to survey several groups for thoughts on criteria for the next leader, with an eye to advertising in March and bringing in finalists by May. The district has a new web page to follow the search activities. • The Broward County School Board narrowed its list of candidates to four finalists, including interim leader Vickie Cartwright, WPLG reports. More from the Sun-Sentinel. • Miami-Dade County’s newly chosen superintendent José Dotres announced his first day plans as the district works on his start date, the Miami Herald reports.

Top teachers: Hernando County named JROTC Lt. Cmdr. Christian Cruz of Central High School as its Teacher of the Year. • The Palm Beach County school district picked dual language teacher Annabel Wagner as its Teacher of the Year, the Palm Beach Post reports. • Pinellas County’s award ceremony takes place tonight.

Teacher pay: Florida’s veteran educators are calling for changes in state law that has novice teachers getting better raises than their longer-tenured colleagues, WFTS reports.

Other school news

Someone filed a fake child abuse complaint against a Brevard County School Board member. Police have not been able to find the identity of the person behind the report, Florida Today reports.

The Broward County school district selected a new vendor for graduation caps and gowns. The district added a new vendor after questions emerged about the bidding practice that left out one provider, the Sun-Sentinel reports. As a result, the costs to students will go down.

Enrollment is booming in St. Johns County. The district plans to add 120 portable classrooms, and also consider redrawing attendance zones, to cope with the crowding, WJXT reports.

The Manatee County school district is preparing to test electric school buses. The initiative will start small as officials determine whether it’s viable, the Herald-Tribune reports.

From the court docket ... A Lee County couple convicted of racketeering and conspiracy charges related to stealing teacher certification preparation materials were sentenced to prison, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Did you hear Disney is making a live-action remake of Snow White? It’s come under fire for the seven dwarfs, and so the company has announced it will reimagine the characters with input from cultural advisers. The songs are still classics, though.

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