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12th May 2022
Florida proves 'live instruction better for mitigating learning loss'
Live instruction and the use of technology apps and platforms were most helpful in supporting students’ academic progress during the pandemic, according to a Government Accountability Office report based on a teacher survey and virtual meetings with K-12 stakeholders. The report also found that while 69% of teachers surveyed used asynchronous learning, fewer than 40% of those surveyed said it helped at least half their students. This report is the first in a series from GAO that will examine the impact of COVID-19 on K-12 public schools, including teaching and learning during the pandemic and the effect on vulnerable populations. The findings could help districts as they navigate potential extended school closures in the future due to the pandemic or other emergencies. Separately, an academic report indicates that Florida ensured in-person instruction for all students in Fall 2020, which helped to prevent learning loss and protect vulnerable students. The report, published by Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, found that remote learning during the pandemic was the primary driver for racial and economic achievement gaps, particularly in high poverty schools. Academics used testing data from 2.1m students in 10,000 high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia, and concluded that racial and economic achievement gaps did not widen where schools provided early in-person instruction. “Interestingly, gaps in math achievement by race and school poverty did not widen in school districts in states such as Texas and Florida and elsewhere that remained largely in-person,” says Thomas Kane, professor Harvard Graduate School of Education
Inflation eating into educator wage gains
For more than 60 years, the National Education Association (NEA) has produced a statistical report that compiles public education financial data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Called Rankings & Estimates for short, it is a reliable and often-cited source of data on enrollment, expenditures, staffing and salaries. “If we want to reverse course and keep qualified teachers in the classroom and caring professionals in schools, then we must increase educator pay across the board and expand access to collective bargaining and union membership for all those working in public education,” says NEA President Becky Pringle in a statement accompanying the report, which found that teachers are taking home $2,179 less per year, on average, than they did a decade ago, when adjusted for inflation. Looking deeper into the report, The 74 found that the average increase in teacher salaries over that 10-year period was 1.65%, but that inflation rates have wiped out these gains. 
Concerns shadow Palm Beach County teachers' pay raises
Though Palm Beach County school teachers are bringing home slightly more than the average teacher in the state, many teachers say modest pay raises won’t offset the rising cost of living in the area. Last month, the school board approved up to 3.5% raise for "highly effective" teachers on an annual contract. The compensation package will also include a $1,500 bonus for school district employees, and it’s one of the best in the state, but not everyone’s paycheck will increase by the same amount. Veteran teachers who have tenure will receive 25% less on their raise, PBC Classroom Teacher’s Association (CTA) president Justin Katz has complained. According to the National Education Association, Florida teacher salaries are ranked 48th in the country, with average teacher pay coming out to about $51,009, compared to the national average of $65,293. Notably, average teacher salary in Palm Beach County is slightly above that state average. According to the Florida Department of Education, the average teacher in Palm Beach County makes $53,504, which well above the average $46,415 salary a teacher in Martin County is typically bringing in. The CTA is expected to ratify the new compensation package already approved by the school district within about one week.
Elected superintendent for Lee County schools?
Lee County voters will decide this fall whether the position of superintendent of public schools should be an elected post. The question of an elected, rather than appointed, superintendent will come before the voters in November during the General Election, as Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 497, putting the issue on the ballot.
Leon County Schools' veterans to receive pay raises
Veteran public school teachers in Leon County are set to receive a small pay raise. Superintendent Rocky Hanna says it's because the Florida legislature requires 80% of the money for raises to go towards getting new teachers to a $47,000 base pay. The 20% split breaks down to $31 per veteran teacher. "I'm having the hardest class year ever whether you speak to a five year teacher, 20 teacher or 30 plus year teacher it's the hardest year they've ever had, and to say we ratify this contract with $31 of the salary increase, I think that if you're listening to this, then you probably know what your answer would have been as well, so what we're asking us for more to be done," comments Leon County Teacher's Association president Scott Mazur.
Charter school advocates protest funding proposals outside White House
Charter school advocates are continuing to challenge a proposed Biden administration rule that they fear would crush the industry. Charter advocates on Wednesday rallied in front of the White House, complaining that the changes would severely limit the growth of new charter schools and force numerous existing schools to close. Proposed requirements would create new roadblocks for charter schools applying for a piece of the federal government’s annual $440m grant program. “This is an existential threat,” said Debbie Veney, senior vice president of communications and marketing at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “One out of every two charter schools in the country has received federal start-up money. It would literally cripple the charter school sector.”
Teacher pay 'top priority,' as state board of education meets
The Florida Board of Education met in the Florida Keys for the first time Wednesday, hosted by The College of the Florida Keys at the Tennessee Williams Theater. The agenda mainly centered around turnaround options for several struggling mainland schools and increasing teacher pay. The problem is particularly acute in the Florida Keys, where staffing shortages are a chronic problem at the schools.
Levy County schools welcome sports donations
Three schools in Levy County, Bronson, have qualified for donations from Cramer Products Inc., which has given free ankle braces to the Athletic Trainers Association of Florida (ATAF) to distribute. The schools are Chiefland, Bronson and Williston. According to Brad Morgan, who is the Northeast representative for ATAF, these ankle braces have since been donated to a handful of high schools around the state of Florida that have a larger enrollment in the free and reduced lunch program.
Amazon recalls classroom chairs after breakage reports
Amazon has recalled 22,400 Classroom Stack Chairs sold under its Basics brand, after receiving 55 reports of them breaking due to "faulty welds." The plastic chairs, designed for kids aged three to six, were sold from January 2019 to January 2022 in sets of six priced between $128 to $190.

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