Pasco parents need to register for online report cards

Published June 26, 2018

Pasco County parents should not check the mailbox for their children's report cards this summer.

The grades are coming online only.

After months of planning, the district intended to release fourth-quarter report cards in the MyStudent grading system, as a way to save money. Longer term, the district expects to place all future report cards online.

That includes elementary school students' marks. And that is proving slightly problematic.

Unlike middle and high schools, elementary schools don't use MyStudent for posting homework, tests and other results on a regular basis. Many parents haven't signed up for a login because of that.

The district is encouraging registration.

"You need one if you want your child's report card," superintendent Kurt Browning said.

Parents also can request a paper copy by going to their child's school.

TAKING A KNEE: Lawyers for the Pasco County school district say the principal of Wiregrass Elementary School and a first-grade teacher there did nothing wrong in their treatment of a student who took a knee while his classmates recited the Pledge of Allegiance last September. They told him that was not allowed.

Kaden McDowell's family sued the district, principal and teacher in May, saying the boy's constitutional right to free speech was violated.

In a response filed last week, district attorneys rejected that view.

The defendant "specifically DENIES that the first-grade, elementary student has an unqualified, clearly established right to kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance," they contended, among several other technical arguments about why they view the lawsuit as unfounded.

That assertion took aback Jack Gordon, the family's lawyer.

"Wow," he said in an email. "I'd respectfully suggest that this is a bold assertion to be made by teachers, and a governmental institution, vested with the responsibility of teaching children about United States history and the U.S. Constitution."

School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said the district did not deny a student's right to decline to participate in the pledge. The issue focuses on the state law requiring parents to notify a school in advance if their children will sit out, he said.

"The reality is, we have a statute in Florida," Alfonso said. "It's been challenged, but not stricken. It talks about notice."

The 2008 case Frazier vs. Winn spoke to that issue.

The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld students' free speech rights, but added: "We conclude that the State's interest in recognizing and protecting the rights of parents on some educational issues is sufficient to justify the restriction of some students' freedom of speech.

"Even if the balance of parental, student, and school rights might favor the rights of a mature high school student in a specific instance, Plaintiff has not persuaded us that the balance favors students in a substantial number of instances — particularly those instances involving elementary and middle school students — relative to the total number of students covered by the statute."

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District officials have said the McDowells did not notify the school in advance of their son's decision to kneel for the pledge. The parents have said they did not receive any information saying they had to do so.

TOO LITTLE: As Pasco County school district officials discussed converting Ridgewood High School into a technical school, some leaders kept asking one question: What if the school improved its academic performance, making the change unnecessary?

The school had earned two consecutive D grades from the state, so another would force the district to significantly alter its operations. Superintendent Kurt Browning and his staff argued that taking pre-emptive action would leave the school's control in local hands and not subject to the whims of state law.

But lurking behind the move was the thought that Ridgewood could turn itself around without such a dramatic revamp.

At least one board member raised that point on the night of the vote to transform the campus.

It doesn't appear to have happened, though.

To improve to a C grade, Ridgewood needed to improve its total score out of 1,000 points by at least 28. The score is based on percentage points passing state tests, graduating and finding success in accelerated programs.

State exam results released this month show Ridgewood fell short of that goal in the testing area.

The percentages of students scoring passing marks on the ninth-grade language arts test, and biology and Algebra I end-of-course exams, declined by a combined 16 points. The school improved in 10th-grade language arts (+11), geometry (+7) and U.S. history (+9).

School grades won't be out for a few weeks, but those results suggest that Ridgewood's path might not have changed much, regardless.

Some students and parents suggested the board's decision negatively impacted the morale within Ridgewood, which might have dampened performance. The school is set to reopen as Krinn Technical High in August.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at Follow @jeffsolochek.