A daily round-up of education news and views for the Sunshine State
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Tuesday, 14th September 2021




White House launches Hispanic education initiative

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday intended to coordinate efforts across the federal government to improve educational and economic outcomes for Hispanics. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will serve as chairman of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics; it will focus on policies that address “systemic causes” of challenges faced by students, improve their access to high-quality teachers, and address racial disparities in education funding, among other issues. Twenty-four cabinet departments or other agencies in the federal government will participate in a working group to collaborate through the initiative. “We must enable Hispanic and Latino students to reach their highest potential through our Nation’s schools and institutions of higher education,” the executive order says. “The Federal Government must also collaborate with Hispanic and Latino communities to ensure their long-term success.” Biden signed the executive order on the eve of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15.

Education Week 




Districts mull dropping opt-outs to mask mandates

The St. Lucie School Board is being petitioned to reconsider its mask requirement for all students, whereby parents or guardians can at present opt out. The board is expected to discuss the district's current mask policy today. Indian River County on Aug. 24 implemented a two-week mask mandate for students pre-K through eighth grade. That board too will today determine whether to extend the policy or let it expire. Martin County continues to have a mask-optional policy. The School District of Lee County plans to return the parent/student mask opt-out as an option to the current school mask mandate, school board member Melisa Giovanelli told WINK News Monday.

TCPalm  WINK News  WPTV 




Palm Beach County in desperate need of substitute teachers

The Palm Beach County School Board has approved a pay raise for substitutes, an extra dollar an hour for most teachers and $3 an hour for those filling in at high-needs schools. "Our schools are in dire need," says Gail Williams, who's in charge of finding substitute teachers for the District. She notes that of the school district's pool of 3,000 potential substitute teachers, only about 1,100 are willing to work right now during - and because of - the COVID-19 pandemic.





Most schools yet to meet White House testing and vaccines demands

For schools to stay open and safe, President Joe Biden has said that they need to require universal masking, vaccinations for teachers and staff and regular tests for unvaccinated people. So far, the largest U.S. districts are succeeding at masking but only a minority are implementing the others. Out of 100 large districts, including the biggest urban districts in every state, nine in 10 are requiring students to wear masks, according to the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington. A quarter are requiring teachers to be vaccinated, while 15 are regularly testing students. “What seems to be holding back many schools are the political and practical challenges — how do they handle positive cases and false positives, how do they address angry parents who don’t want to see their kids tested, or identified as a positive case, and children who don’t want to be swabbed,” says Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and a Pfizer board member. Complicating readiness on issues like testing was officials’ “intense desire to return to normalcy” heading into this year, when it looked like the pandemic was waning, adds Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association. As a result, she said, some places were less prepared for another round of intense virus mitigation. “There was in many communities perhaps a false sense of security that masking and quarantining and remote learning wouldn’t be part of this school year. And they’re getting a rude awakening with delta that it is, and it has to be, to protect kids.”

New York Times  Washington Post 




College rankings 2022 published

U.S. News & World Report has released its 2022 Best Colleges rankings, featuring 1,466 colleges and universities that grant baccalaureate degrees. For the eleventh straight year, Princeton tops the National University list, followed by Columbia, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which all tied for second. Williams College heads up the National Liberal Arts Colleges list, and UCLA once again claimed first place among Top Public Universities. 

Forbes  US News and World Report 




Surgeon general backs Biden's vaccine mandate for schools

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has rallied behind President Biden's new COVID-19 vaccination requirements, saying they are "an appropriate legal measure" in line with traditional safety requirements in schools and workplaces. The Biden administration's measure could affect up to 80 million workers and is expected to be issued by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration within the coming weeks. Employers will be expected to ask all employees to either test weekly or be fully vaccinated against the virus — or face fines of $14,000 per violation.

Washington Examiner 




Smartwatches become the new big classroom distraction

Parents opting to send students to school with wearables like Verizon’s GizmoWatch, and Apple Watches, as a less-distracting alternative to cellphones, are instead creating a new, subtler classroom disruption. Jeanne McVerry, a reading specialist and education-technology coach in Teaneck, New Jersey, said her district doesn’t specifically forbid smartwatches in its tech-use policy but she has taken a hard line on them. “Technology changes so rapidly and in ways we can’t anticipate that we don’t know how we’re going to police every new thing,” Ms. McVerry said. While the children’s smartwatch market is still relatively small, making up about 20% of overall smartwatch shipments, it’s a growing segment of personal tech for young people. According to Pew Research, 13% of teens own a smartwatch. Kids’ smartwatch unit sales grew 12% to about 12 million in the first half of this year compared with the prior-year period, according to SuJeong Lim, a senior analyst at Counterpoint Research. She said she expects the kids’ smartwatch market to grow by double digits annually.

Wall Street Journal 




Orange County Schools offering $3,500 sign-on bonus for bus drivers

Orange County Public Schools held a hiring event Monday to tackle a shortage of bus drivers. Officials were offering a $3,500 sign-on bonus to those hired and onboarded before October 8. Officials confirmed they are searching for 100 drivers to solve the problem and they are even willing to teach people without experience. "We are about 34 routes that are completely vacant. We need about 70 to fill in full-time. We are offering part-time positions, training, we will get their CVL license for anyone who is interested," Communications Officer Scott Howat comments.

Fox 35 Orlando 

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