DeSantis announces end of standardized testing in Florida
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that this will be the last school year for Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) testing in the state. He called the FSA test "ineffective" and complained that it takes days to administer and cannot be personalized. Officials hope to become the first state in the nation to switch from end of the year assessments to state standards-aligned progress monitoring for accountability by minimizing testing to three much shorter exams in the fall, winter and spring, rather than a single lengthy end-of-year assessment that leaves no opportunity for improvement. “Florida’s education focus should be students’ growth and how we restore the conversation between parents and teachers in support of students’ growth,” said Gov. DeSantis. The Florida Education Association has welcomed the move, saying it would free up time for genuine teaching and learning. Alachua County Superintendent Carlee Simon has also welcomed the decision to focus more on a plan with that will monitor progress and promote a student's individual growth. "Our district already conducts progress monitoring during the school year, but an enormous amount of time and effort also goes into preparing for and administering the Florida Standards Assessment near the end of each year," she said.
The Gainesville Sun
Boundary changes can alleviate school segregation
Schools can fix persistently racially segregated K-12 schools by changing attendance boundaries, according to a new report from nonprofit research organization Urban Institute. Explicit efforts to create school boundaries based on race can reduce inequality between schools not only in racial, ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics, but also in regard to staffing, academic programming, student discipline rates and student achievement, the report said. Although redrawing school attendance zones can be one of the most contentious undertakings in school communities, there should no longer be any excuses, said Tomás Monarrez, the report’s author and a labor economist at Urban Institute. In fact, Monarrez added, failure to do so in egregious cases may mean a school is in violation of the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974, which prohibits intentional segregation of schools. “It's really not so much policymakers' intention to make these racist lines, but it has been their failure to change the school boundaries,” Monarrez said. “They have all the power to change it.”
School officials cautious on using ARP funding for construction
A survey by the School Superintendents Association (AASA) reveals that school districts across the country don't plan to spend much of their American Rescue Plan funds on facilities renovations or new construction. Close to half of districts indicated they would spend no more than 10% of ARP funding on school facilities improvements, while 16% of districts said they would spend between a quarter to half of ARP funding on such improvements. About 25% of respondents indicated the 2024 spending deadline was an obstacle in using the ARP funds for infrastructure and construction. ARP funding alone is not enough to remedy the nation's school infrastructure, said Sasha Pudelski, AASA advocacy director, pointing to the Reopen and Rebuild America's Schools Act introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). "We desperately need Congress to pass the Rebuild America's Schools Act, which would provide $100 billion in direct aid for new facilities projects," said Ms. Pudelski. "While ARP money can be utilized for school facilities, we are underinvesting roughly $80bn a year behind where we should be in school facilities, so we need a significant federal uptick in spending to get us on track."
Manatee schools seeking $39m in COVID-19 relief
Manatee County Schools is hoping for more than $39m in federal COVID-19 relief, after last year receiving access to more than $10m from the federal fund. Tim Bargeron, the district's associate superintendent of finance, has received approval for 29% of those funds as of Tuesday afternoon, while its other applications were still pending. The biggest request, known as the “lump sum,” is worth $28,066,447, and among other things this money can be used to buy supplies that schools use to clean and sanitize their campuses. It also helps to employ custodians, substitute teachers and school counselors — jobs that are even more vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second largest pot of money, known as “academic acceleration,” assigns $7,906,041 to helping students who have fallen behind in their classes. The next pot of money, known as “technology assistance,” is worth $1,976,510 and would help to provide hardware and internet connections, along with software and online subscriptions that support “the social, behavioral, and academic needs of students.”
Push for Native American curriculum in schools makes gains
Connecticut, North Dakota and Oregon have all adopted measures requiring the teaching of Native American studies, with an emphasis on local tribes. A 2019 report from the National Congress of American Indians, which surveyed 35 states with federally recognized tribes, found nearly 90% of states said they had efforts underway to improve the quality and access to Native American curriculum. While a majority said it’s included in their schools, less than half said it was required and specific to tribal nations in their state. “We are seeing a focus on different races and issues,” said Aaron Payment, first vice president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairperson of the 44,000-member Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan. The Connecticut legislation makes it mandatory for schools to teach Native American studies starting with the 2023-2024 school year. It passed despite concerns raised by teachers unions and state Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona. Cardona, who is now the U.S. education secretary, had said it is important to teach about Native Americans but he was wary of unfunded mandates for school districts that are still working to implement other courses lawmakers and the governor have required them to teach. In North Dakota, a bill became law this year that requires all elementary and secondary schools, public and private, to include Native American tribal history in their curriculum, with an emphasis on tribes within the state.
School districts battling nursing shortages
Nationwide, the National Association of School Nurses says only 40% of schools in the country have a full-time registered nurse on staff, 35% have a part-time registered nurse, and the remaining 25% do not have a registered nurse at all. Since COVID began, even more nurses either quit to pursue different careers or retired early, causing the remaining nurses in some districts to cover for those vacancies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, school nurses, on average, make nearly $20,000 less than their counterparts in hospitals each year- $58,530 vs. $75,030- but agencies charge what those in hospitals make. With fewer applicants interviewing with short-handed school districts, it has put them in a pinch with few recourses to fill the vacancies.
Palm Beach County school mask mandate attracts federal lawsuit
A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Palm Beach County School Board seeking declaratory and permanent injunctive relief in opposition to the mask mandate. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several local parents and students. "Mask mandates for children in schools are not supported by science and are arbitrary and capricious measures," attorneys for the Florida Civil Rights Coalition said in their lawsuit.