Schools under pressure amid Florida's school mask fight
An appeals court on Friday sided with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, reinstating his ban on mask mandates in the state’s public schools, for now, while a lawsuit over the issue moves through the courts. About a dozen school districts have issued mask mandates despite DeSantis’s order, often after raucous board meetings where some parents pleaded for a mask mandate, while others said the requirement was bad for children. Also on Friday, the Education Department said its Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether Florida was violating the rights of students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from the coronavirus by preventing school districts from requiring masks. The Department has opened similar probes in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.
Broward schools urges state to release funds
The Broward County Public Schools board urged state leaders Friday to release more than half a billion federal dollars earmarked for the district. District leaders say Broward County Public Schools is supposed to get about $509m through the American Rescue Plan, money designated for COVID-19 recovery funds to go towards vehicles for transporting students, contact tracing, tutoring services, mental health support, campus monitors and more substitute teachers. "I personally don't understand why it's such a challenge when it's so obvious of the needs that we have," said Dr. Rosalind Osgood, chair of Broward county's school board. The plea for funding comes after a circuit court judge made a decision to put the governor's ban on school mask mandates back in effect. The ruling could cut the salaries of school board members who defied the governor's ban.
Escambia County increases pay for all substitutes
The Escambia County School District has increased pay for all substitute teachers in the hopes that higher wages will help attract more educators to the job. The school board approved the higher salaries last month, and they went into effective Sept. 1. On average, the new pay rates amount to 15.6% increase for substitutes across all educational levels. "We hope that the salary increase for substitute teachers will assist our daily instructional activities at all school sites," says Assistant Superintendent for Human Resource Services Keith Leonard.
Pensacola News Journal
Alachua County student enrollment numbers detailed
Looking at Alachua County student numbers, it’s clear that enrollment has been steady since before the pandemic, with a small dip when the pandemic hit and an increase for 2021-2022 school year. According to the school district's figures from for 2019-20 school year there were 29,968 students enrolled. That number includes students enrolled in Alachua County's pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools. For the 2020-21 school year that number decreased to 25,463. Four weeks into the school year, officials found that there were 26,273 students enrolled in the school district. That figure includes the number of students who are enrolled in the center schools such as the PACE Center for Girls. "A vast majority of our students did return to school this year. We weren't sure after the turmoil of the last year, but it appears most have come back," ACPS spokeswoman Jackie Johnson says.
The Gainesville Sun
Schools look to rebound after pandemic drives down test scores
Schools across the country are looking to bounce back from declines in recently released standardized test scores that underscored the challenges of remote learning during the first full school year of the pandemic. The size of the decreases varied across states, but in general included big drops in math compared to language arts. In states like Michigan and Tennessee, some of the sharpest declines were among minorities, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. Experts are also sounding the alarm over plunging participation rates, saying that with many statewide tests canceled in 2020 and fewer students taking the annual exams last spring, educators might not know until around this time next year just how much progress was lost after the coronavirus disrupted in-school learning 18 months ago. Even as test scores have slipped, advocates and experts say educators’ efforts to adapt to remote learning helped mitigate the declines. “It wasn't a completely lost year,” says Abby Javurek, the vice president of future impact and growth at NWEA, a not-for-profit assessment creator formerly known as the Northwest Evaluation Association. “Our students did grow. They didn't grow as much as we would hope and we would expect in a normal year without all these crazy circumstances, but they did grow, and there is hope in that.”
Florida's pre-kindergarten teachers urge recognition
Preschool teachers have urged members of the Florida House's PreK-12 Appropriations committee to better recognize their contributions. Referring specifically to the Best and Brightest teacher bonus program, which offers an added payment to teachers with "highly effective" and "effective" performance evaluations, Emily Wiskoff of Broadview Elementary in North Lauderdale told lawmakers: "It's very disheartening to not be considered a classroom teacher when we are." In recent weeks, pre-k teachers — along with guidance counselors, career advisers, instructional coaches and others — have learned they are not eligible for the awards regardless of their rating because they are not defined in law as a K-12 classroom teacher. More than that, the educators told the lawmakers, they're not counted for purposes of certain retirement benefits, class size requirements or other areas of law they could gain from.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Schools weigh roles of police on campus
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) has contributed to the debate about the presence of police on school campuses, arguing in a new report that despite decades of funding and support for school policing, there is little evidence police cultivated positive relationships in schools or helped prevent school shootings. The COPAA and other organizations have suggested instead of police in schools, schools should ensure staff are better trained in addressing challenging student behaviors; use evidence-based reading instruction and supports; use alternatives to suspensions and expulsions; increase the hiring of school counselors and psychologists; and fulfill obligations to provide behavioral supports to students with disabilities. COPAA also said that police presence at schools increases the likelihood law enforcement will be involved in less-serious school-based behavior. A complete dissolution of the school-police relationship is not recommended however, says COPAA CEO Denise Marshall, because schools need police assistance in extreme emergencies and to help build evidence-based, trusting relationships within communities.
HEALTH & WELLBEING
Glasses lead to school improvement for short-sighted kids
A U.S. study has found that giving glasses to children who need them can result in "half a school year's worth of improvement". Lead author of the three-year Johns Hopkins University study, Dr Amanda Neitzel, said: "For students in the lowest quartile and students participating in special education, wearing glasses equated to four to six months of additional learning". Dr Megan Collins added: "The glasses offered the biggest benefit to the very kids who needed it most." However, academic improvements seen after one year were not sustained over two years, with researchers suggesting this could be due to children wearing their glasses less, or having broken or lost them.
US News and World Report