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Florida schools want boys to read better

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Form left: McMullen Booth Elementary School students Silas Booth, Kevin Hernandez, Amaree Burr-Comer, Abram Burr-Comer and Bradan Fitzgerald work through the answer to a question while participating in the Boys Battle of the Books on Friday, Jan 28, 2022, at the Pinellas School District in Largo.
Form left: McMullen Booth Elementary School students Silas Booth, Kevin Hernandez, Amaree Burr-Comer, Abram Burr-Comer and Bradan Fitzgerald work through the answer to a question while participating in the Boys Battle of the Books on Friday, Jan 28, 2022, at the Pinellas School District in Largo. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jan. 31

The big story: Florida has spent the past two-plus decades pushing for ways to improve children’s reading skills, centering its accountability system around performance on language arts exams including one that determines if a third grader can become a fourth grader.

The model looks at all sorts of demographics, such as race, socioeconomics and language levels. It hasn’t accounted for gender, though, and some educators and observers suggest it should.

After all, they say, “the data don’t lie” about a gender gap in reading scores that’s evident among third graders and grows among tenth graders. Noting the numbers, state officials established a task force to explore ideas to bring boys on par with higher achieving girls.

Pinellas County has been one of the leaders in the effort. Much of the focus centers on the critical piece of engagement. Read the full story here.

Hot topics

Coronavirus concerns: It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Tampa area schools to keep up with case counts in real time. • The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidance for operating schools, WFTS reports. • The Flagler and Volusia county school districts saw a decrease in virus cases, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • The Orange County school district extended through February its mandate that all adults wear masks on campuses, WKMG reports. • The Palm Beach County school district’s mask mandate ends today, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Gender issues: The Marion County School Board debated how to conduct physical searches of transgender students, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

School safety: Seminole County officials vowed to improve security and safety measures a week after a school shooting, Spectrum 13 reports. • A Palm Beach County middle school closed its cafeteria to eighth graders after a series of fights, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Funding: A petition to allow sports betting in Florida fell short of its goal, the News Service of Florida reports. The proposal called for revenue to go to schools.

Superintendent searches: A finalist for Broward County superintendent is accused of covering up for a Palm Beach County principal who was fired for denying the Holocaust, WLRN reports. • The Lee County superintendent search is down to two finalists, WFTX reports. • The St. Lucie County School Board appears ready to forego a search and name deputy superintendent Jon Prince to replace retiring Wayne Gent as chief executive, WPTV reports.

Teacher stress: An Alachua County teacher explains why she decided to quit, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Tallahassee action

Testing, testing. The State Board of Education might consider postponing a rule that sets higher passing scores on the state’s high school language arts exam, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • The Jefferson County school district’s plan to retake control of its operations depends heavily on how lawmakers change state testing laws, WFSU reports.

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Florida lawmakers again are targeting teacher and other public employee unions. A proposal would prevent members from having their dues taken from their paychecks, WFSU reports.

On Feb. 1, another House committee will take up the controversial bill relating to race lessons in schools. The Palm Beach County school district’s Diversity and Equity Committee is seeking community support for a letter opposing the legislation, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The Senate Judiciary Committee meets at 3 p.m., where it will consider legislation on cameras in school safety zones. • The House Appropriations Committee meets at 3 p.m., where it will review a bill relating to school board member pay and the review of school books.

Other school news

Snow in Florida? A Tampa charter school teacher had a snowman delivered from Kentucky so he could share it with his students, Newsweek reports.

What’s in a name? The Lee County school district is reviewing six possible names for its next new elementary school, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Florida State University is uncovering air quality problems in some of its buildings. Some professors are moving their classes online, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Sarasota County schools continue to struggle finding substitutes. The district is asking parents to help out, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Florida still monitors class sizes. Four Alachua County schools were found noncompliant with the rules, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Before you go ... Coach M says some of these Pasco County youngsters barely could balance on one foot at the start of the year. See what a little taekwondo can do?

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