Will Florida students face less testing under new state law?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
The screen students have seen when they log in to take the Florida Standards Assessments. The state is moving away from the spring exams, in favor of progress monitoring.
The screen students have seen when they log in to take the Florida Standards Assessments. The state is moving away from the spring exams, in favor of progress monitoring. [ Pasco County Schools ]
Published March 21, 2022

The big story: With Florida transitioning to new academic standards in language arts and math, Gov. Ron DeSantis came to St. Petersburg in September to urge lawmakers to eliminate year-end tests in those subject areas. He called it one of his priorities for the 2022 session.

DeSantis returned to Pinellas County six months later to officially sign into law the bill on testing that the Legislature sent him. Surrounded by local lawmakers and supporters, the governor touted the measure — which refocuses attention on regular progress monitoring exams to provide more regular and useful information about individual student performance — as reducing the assessment load.

Some educators begged to differ.

While progress monitoring offers benefits for shaping classroom instruction, they said, the new law does not cut the number of times students must sit to show what they know. Read the story here. More from Florida Phoenix.

University president searches

DeSantis also received a bill shielding some records from college and university president searches from public view. He signed it into law as several schools are looking for leaders, the News Service of Florida reports.

Those in the hunt include the flagship University of Florida. Trustees picked the California-based search firm used by USF, UCF and FSU to lead their effort.

In other higher education news ... UF officials said they found “no merit” in allegations that faculty members were pressured to withhold COVID research data. • The University of South Florida is hoping a new mentorship program will help bridge the school’s graduation gender gap.

More leadership issues

The State Board of Education has a new member. Esther Byrd, the wife of Republican state Rep. Cord Byrd, has gained notoriety for her social media comments supporting the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol and for QAnon theories, the Florida Times-Union reports.

The Alachua County school district has a new interim leader. Shane Andrew has been a local principal and district administrator, the Gainesville Sun reports.

The Volusia County School Board canceled its meeting to discuss extending superintendent Scott Fritz’s contract. Board members said they wanted time to complete a formal evaluation of Fritz’s performance, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Manatee County superintendent Cynthia Saunders reached a deal with the state over past handling of graduation rate data. The agreement includes a fine and a requirement to take an ethics in education course, the Herald-Tribune reports.

The Broward County school district needs a new chief communication officer. Kathy Koch resigned her post after coming under fire for actions, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Hot topics

Book banning: Two committees reviewing whether 16 challenged books should remain in Polk County school libraries decided to return two of the titles, which had been quarantined, back to school shelves, the Ledger reports. The others remain under consideration. • The Indian River County School Board stood by its decision to pull five of 156 challenged titles, TC Palm reports. The group that filed the initial complaint has appealed the decision. • The Florida Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal to a ruling that found the Collier County School Board violated state open meeting laws when it conducted material challenge review committee meetings outside public view, Flagler Live reports. The fight over school books is taking place in suburbs in Florida and across the nation, NPR reports.

Gender lessons: A coalition of mental health associations issued a joint statement opposing the proposal limiting instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation that’s headed to the governor’s desk, Florida Today reports. • Bill critics anticipate a quick legal challenge to the measure if DeSantis signs it as expected, the Washington Blade reports.

Culture wars: Several bills approved by the Legislature targeted teachers’ instruction. The efforts appear likely to have a chilling effect in the classroom, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • Several Sarasota-area organizations are calling on the governor to veto the measures, the Herald-Tribune reports. • Florida’s initiatives are part of a larger national push to govern school classrooms, the Canadian Broadcast Corp. reports.

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Teacher pay: Lawmakers included $800 million in their education budget to boost teacher wages. Some districts still might struggle to attain the target base salary of $47,500, Florida Phoenix reports.

Coronavirus quarantines: Polk County schools cut its time out to five days for students and staff who test positive, the Ledger reports.

Learning losses: DeSantis announced plans to steer $289 million in federal funding toward programs aimed at helping students rebound from lessons lost during the pandemic, Florida Politics reports.

School security: The Palm Beach County school district reached an agreement with the Sheriff’s Office to provide 20 resource officers to campuses that need one, the Palm Beach Post reports. • A new state audit revealed ongoing security concerns at Broward County schools four years after Parkland, WLRN reports,

‘Please build responsibly.’ The Walton County school district’s chief planner urged developers to consider school crowding issues as they prepare future projects, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Before you go ... Pop fan? You should hear the latest from Charli XCX. She gave it up on Saturday Night Live.

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