Testing pressure leads to cheating scandal, arrest of 3 Florida teachers

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Hudson High School in Pasco County was the site of an alleged test cheating scandal that led to the arrest of three teachers.
Hudson High School in Pasco County was the site of an alleged test cheating scandal that led to the arrest of three teachers. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Sep. 12, 2022

The big story: Florida has been big on testing for more than two decades now, with the results often impacting teachers more than the children who take the exams.

Most educators complain about the pressure but soldier on. Some cave to the anxiety.

Three Pasco County high school teachers were arrested last week after a months-long investigation into accusations that they helped teens pass industry certification exams that yielded thousands of dollars for the educators and their school.

“Plain and simple, this was a cheating scandal,” the lead investigator said. Read more here.

New laws

Race lessons: A federal judge cleared a University of Central Florida professor to continue challenging the state’s new law restricting the way some race issues are taught, the News Service of Florida reports.

Gender lessons: The Miami-Dade County School Board’s rejection of a measure recognizing LGBTQ History Month highlights the “chilling effect” of new state law on instruction about gender identity, the Miami Herald reports.

School book selection: Palm Beach County schools will postpone purchasing new books until the public has reviewed the lists, the Palm Beach Post reports. The district has reviewed 31 titles to ensure they meet new state requirements, the Post reports.

Implementation effects: Alachua County school district officials say they see little changing in day to day operations as a result of the new laws on teaching about race and gender, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Other hot topics

School safety: A grand jury report on school safety measures that rocked Broward County schools is having effects on Miami-Dade and Palm Beach county schools, too, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • State officials called an emergency meeting with Palm Beach district leaders to discuss the report, the Palm Beach Post reports. • Two Broward County board members fought to keep the report secret, with taxpayers footing the bill, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • The Flagler County School Board decided not to proceed with a proposal to have armed school guards in addition to resource officers, Flagler Live reports.

Teacher shortfall: Some Hillsborough County school district officials are discussing the possibility of moving to a four-day school week as a way to attract more teacher applicants, WTVT reports.

School board politics: Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler has taken a post to train conservatives to run for office, the Herald-Tribune reports. • Debate continues over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to remove four Broward County School Board members, with some saying the move was all about politics and others saying the board members deserved it, the Miami Herald reports. • Lee County voters will decide in November whether to begin electing their schools superintendent, WBBH reports.

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Rankings: Gov. Ron DeSantis celebrated the release of new school rankings based on “freedoms” from the conservative Heritage Foundation, Florida Politics reports.

Employee pay: The Citrus County school district is poised to increase salaries for several non-bargaining employees, including substitute teachers, professional technical staff and administrators, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

Student health: 10 Pinellas County schools will pilot a new health and wellness curriculum provided by football star Tom Brady. They’re the first schools to test out the program.

Funding: A Pasco County charter school received $13.5 million in federal funds from the state after Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed an appropriation to the school, Florida Politics reports. The project was one of several approved by the Joint Legislative Budget Commission. See a list of Tampa Bay projects here.

Higher education: As Florida’s public universities rise in the national rankings, they become less accessible for low-income students.

From the police blotter ... A veteran Duval County school officer was arrested on accusations of lewd behavior with a minor, the Florida Times-Union reports. • Leon County schools had their second arrest in two weeks of a student with a loaded weapon on campus, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. • A teacher at a Hillsborough County private school was arrested on allegations of having sex with a student, WTSP reports. • A Volusia County high school was thrown into panic by a student prank suggesting a gunman was on campus, Spectrum 13 reports.

Before you go ... RIP, Queen Elizabeth.

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