Florida's teacher shortage worsening, FEA warns
Florida's teacher shortage has worsened since the start of the school year, according to the Florida Education Association, with vacancies for teachers surging to more than 5,000. There are also more than 4,000 openings for other school staff positions, according to FEA President Adam Spar, who says the stress and uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic have fueled the shortages. He also claims that such high turnover is linked to low teacher pay. Spar took to TikTok on Sunday to publicize the staffing situation: "These numbers and trends are an alarm bell going off for our public schools, and state officials need to start listening. Educators have made clear why they're leaving our schools and young people will readily share why they don't want to pursue an education career," he wrote.
Supply chain issues impacting schools' COVID-19 testing capabilities
Lawmakers and school leaders are increasingly sharing concerns about schools' continued limited access to COVID-19 tests, as well as slim testing bandwidth due to staff shortages for administering and documenting regular testing. In places where funds are limited, staff bandwidth is slim or distribution is slow, some districts are being pushed to forego regular testing. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, speaking during a September 30 meeting of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, acknowledged that demand has increased "month over month" as much as 650% in places and is not evenly spread across the nation. For her part at the meeting, Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the HELP Committee, highlighted a recent survey showing that the majority of parents of color needed COVID-19 testing in place, among other safety measures, to feel safe while sending their children to school in person. "Districts that originally were getting tests from the state — those supplies are running really low, and so they're having to try to get their providers to give them these tests and who can run the lab for the tests," warns Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. "They're not closing schools, they're just not having testing."
Broward school board members want Vickie Cartwright formally appointed
Dr. Vickie Cartwright, interim superintendent for the Broward School System, appears to have the support of the Board. Nora Rupert wants her to stay in the seat for good and will ask the full board to approve the idea during a meeting this week. In a motion, she writes, “although the employment agreement states Dr. Cartwright would be ineligible to apply for the permanent position of superintendent, there is nothing included within the agreement that would preclude her from being appointed as the permanent superintendent. Dr Cartwright herself confirmed over the weekend that she would accept the position if offered.
Volusia County Schools working to tackle increasing staffing shortfalls
Staffing shortages are affecting the Volusia County School District this year, with classroom teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals and substitute teachers in short supply. “This started five years ago,” said Superintendent Scott Fritz at last week’s school board meeting. “It’s difficult to get people to go into this profession at all, and it’s getting more difficult.” More than a month into the school year, the district had 77 classroom teacher vacancies and 31 non-classroom instructional vacancies, such as media center specialists, counselors or academic coaches, and also 129 support position vacancies, 100 of which were for paraprofessionals, or employees who work to support students with special needs in the classrooms. Further, the district had 341 employees either resign or go on leaves of absences this year. Teachers union president Elizabeth Albert says it’s a sign that “something’s wrong.”
Daytona Beach News Journal
Citrus schools to secure federal grant funding
The Citrus County School Board has a packed agenda for its meeting later today, including the pending approval of significant federal funding for secondary and post-secondary education. Members will vote to approve the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V Grant)” in the amount of $183,687, which is aimed to helping students grades six to 12 acquire academic and technical skills to prepare for future careers. The grant will fund a full-time program specialist for career and technical education and site licenses, software and technical development for career and technical education.
New research focuses on benefits and drawbacks of four-day school weeks
The move from a five-day school week to a four-day week with extended days has been one of the fastest-increasing phenomena shaping district operations. A new RAND Corp analysis of the practice has found that the districts which adopted the framework saw slower rates of student progress after several years than similarly situated districts that retained a five-day schedule. More than 1,600 U.S. school districts have adopted the model as of 2019-20. In some states, it represents a significant, widespread restructuring of district operations, including 60% of Colorado’s districts and around 40% of New Mexico’s and Oregon’s. The researchers interviewed more than 400 parents, teachers, administrators, and students in three states with large numbers of districts using the four-day model: Idaho, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Findings include that students in the four-day weeks spent significantly more time on school sports and on chores than did those in five-day weeks. Four-day secondary students also spent more time on homework, at jobs, at school activities, and on hobbies than their counterparts. Around three years after the switch, student growth in the four-day districts began to fall short compared to that in similarly situated five-day districts. The finding grew more pronounced with time and the slowdown in achievement was more dramatic in math than in reading. In all, the declines were on the order of between 0.5 to 0.15 of a standard deviation lower after three years, and around 0.2 of a standard deviation after eight years.
SaferWatch app remains unpopular
Florida's SaferWatch app, which is designed to save lives by pinpointing the exact location of a school shooting or other emergency, is still facing adoption challenges. In Broward County for example, just 16% of teachers and other eligible employees have downloaded the app in the two months it has been available. Figures aren’t available in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, which are just starting to promote it, but participation is low statewide, according to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chairs the commission, has estimated that only about five people in any given school have the app on their phone. The hesitancy is based on an inaccurate assumption that the app might be used to track employees, some fear. The app, which connects directly with a 911 communications center, is being used to comply with Alyssa’s Law, which the Legislature passed last year to require school districts to have some sort of mobile panic button. The state has allocated about $8m for the program, which is free to districts as long as they use a state-approved vendor.
National School Bus Safety Week focuses on danger zone awareness
The American School Bus Council (ASBC) has chosen “Be Safe, Know the Danger Zone” as the theme for this year's National School Bus Safety Week theme, which runs from October 18th-22nd. The organization is urging students and motorists to be mindful of the potentially devastating results of getting within the 12-foot area around the outside of a school bus. “With students back in the classroom again, we value the school bus with renewed perspective,” said Ronna Weber, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS). “That’s why it’s important to celebrate safety week in your school bus community.”
School Bus Fleet