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5th August 2022
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Commissioner Diaz tells Florida teachers to flout federal LGBTQ protections
The state of Florida has advised school districts to ignore protections for LGBTQ students that President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to implement, saying the anti-discrimination language is not binding law and following the guidance could result in breaking state law. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz wrote to school districts Thursday saying they should not change current practices because of proposed new rules under Title IX that would extend sexual-discrimination protections to students based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. “Nothing in these guidance documents requires you to give biological males who identify as female access to female bathrooms, locker rooms, or dorms … or to allow biological males who identify as female to compete on female sports teams,” Diaz said. He added that doing any of those things would “jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of Florida students and risk violating Florida law.” But Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — the only statewide elected Democrat, whose agency overseas school lunch programs — said the matter wasn’t just about bathrooms but also about feeding students. The United States Department of Agriculture requires schools to put up a poster on nondiscrimination in order to receive federal money for lunch programs, she said, adding: “I will do everything possible to ensure that Florida’s kids are not victimized by the DeSantis administration and denied their meals.”
Build Strong Decoders | The Science of Reading in Practice

Research tells us how children best learn to read, but what does this actually look like in classroom practice? In a new webinar Dr. Julia B. Lindsey, an expert in early literacy development, curriculum, and instruction, and author of Reading Above the Fray, will share teacher-approved “essential instructional swaps” backed by the science of reading that educators can implement right away to help students become proficient readers. Dr. Lindsey will demonstrate these efficient and effective decoding routines that can be implemented in 15 minutes or less!

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K-12 groups back racial diversity as SCOTUS schedules affirmative action arguments
In a pair of U.S. Supreme Court cases about college admissions, several K-12 groups this week filed briefs supporting the consideration of race in elementary and secondary education contexts as well, with one arguing that a ruling against affirmative action would only increase efforts to limit books about and discussions of race in the K-12 classrooms. On Wednesday, the court set October 31st as the argument date for Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College (No. 20-1199) and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina (No. 21-707). Harvard and the University of North Carolina are defending their lower-court victories in challenges brought by the Students for Fair Admissions, a national group led by Edward Blum, a legal strategist who was behind a challenge to affirmative action at the University of Texas at Austin. Among the K-12 groups in support of affirmative action is the National Education Association, which used its brief to discuss recent controversies over teaching about race in the classroom. “Rather than exposing the root causes of racial inequality in schools and equipping our educators and our students to face systemic issues, they promote a whitewashed version of our history and ignore that history’s lasting impact,” the brief says. “The mission of public elementary, secondary, and higher education cannot be fulfilled without affirmative efforts to achieve racially diverse classrooms.” Other groups giving their backing to affirmative action legislation include the American Federation of Teachers, and the Council of the Great City Schools.
Kurt Browning strikes down on student discipline
Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning made sure to let parents get a message before the new school year starts — educate kids on the consequences of their actions. At a school board meeting this week, Browning briefly touched on the topic of discipline, saying a new video about the topic will be sent out to parents, teachers and kids within the coming weeks. Just in the 2021-2022 school year, there were more than 60,000 referrals in the school district compared to the usual number of 40,000. The reason behind the increase, Browning explains, is the parents not communicating with their children. “[Parents] needs to have conversations with their kids about what the expectations are and that there are consequences to your actions,” he said. “We all have consequences and I don’t think that message is getting through…”
Martin County Schools holding job fairs
In an effort to hire more teachers and staff, the Martin County School District will host several job fairs before the first day of school. The district's human resources division is prepared to issue on-the-spot conditional offers of employment to highly qualified candidates in a number of areas, including teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, school bus operators, custodians and food service workers.
The perks of transitioning to a four-day school week
Administrators of school districts that have transitioned to a four-day school week say they’ve seen an increase in applicants for vacant educator roles, even from out-of-state teachers. More than 1,600 schools across 24 states had a four-day school week by 2019 and the trend is growing. Tom Rice, superintendent of the Wolsey-Wessington School District in South Dakota, which operates on a four-day school week, says absenteeism and discipline referrals have seen marked improvements. In Brighton, Colorado’s School District 27J, graduation rates — particularly among Latino students — have increased since a four-day school week began in 2018, Superintendent Chris Fiedler says. “It emerged as a real competitive advantage, particularly for rural schools who were having difficulties in attracting talented teachers — or teachers at all,” notes Andrea Phillips, a policy researcher at RAND Corp. who has studied the subject.
States investing pandemic relief into early education workforce
States are investing federal COVID-19 relief funds to build up the early childhood education workforce through increased compensation, mental health supports, professional development and more, according to an analysis of spending from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). As of May, 12% of early childhood education positions — or 117,400 — remained unfilled or were eliminated, according to NASBE. Many early education programs closed temporarily during the pandemic, wreaking havoc on the ability to maintain a stable workforce. Money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, however, has provided states an opportunity for a strong recovery, NASBE said. “With substantial federal COVID relief funding, state boards of education have new opportunities to advocate for investment in efforts to address ECE teacher shortages and retention in particular,” said Winona Hao, NASBE’s director of early learning, in a statement.
U.S. states open doors for teachers without college degrees
As states brace for the potential for starting the school year with thousands of unfilled teacher vacancies, several are easing certification requirements, with some going one step further by lifting the requirement that teachers hold bachelor’s degrees in certain instances. In Arizona, people can now start training to become a teacher without a bachelor’s degree, as long as they are enrolled in college and are supervised by a licensed teacher. However, if these candidates have an emergency teacher certificate, which is issued when a school can’t fill a vacancy otherwise, they can teach without supervision. Elsewhere, in Florida, military veterans without a bachelor’s degree can now receive a five-year teaching certificate, as long as they have completed at least 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average and can pass a state exam to demonstrate mastery of subject-area knowledge. Policymakers and some administrators contend these changes will make it easier to staff schools in times of shortages; however, they have also sparked criticism that they devalue the profession. In an interview last month, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said Arizona’s new law was “dangerous” and an example of “the disrespect for knowledge in this country.”
Florida school safety panel probes inconsistencies
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which met this week in Broward County, is targeting inconsistencies in the ways schools assess threats, conduct active-assailant drills and report incidents. The commission discussed what members characterized as a need for more consistent guidelines that schools can follow to prevent dangerous incidents. While Florida schools use a common “instrument” called the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines, they don't have a common threat-assessment process or reporting system. The document described a patchwork of reporting systems, with 18 districts using dedicated software systems provided by four vendors. Two districts have developed their own systems, 21 districts are using “some aspect of their student information system,” nine districts are using “pen and paper” and 14 districts are using Excel, Google Docs or similar software. “One of the things that I know works is, when you're training people, you've got to give them as hard and fast rules as you can. People like hard and fast rules. You have to minimize the subjectivity, you've got to give them that framework,” asserts Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who is chairman of the commission. Commission member Max Schachter, whose son Alex was killed in the Parkland shooting, said improving reporting accuracy can help schools get the help they need. “The reason we want this data accurate is so we can use this data to surge resources to schools that need it most, and incentivizing principals to report accurate numbers.”
School mask mandates continue to loosen
Among the top 500 K-12 school districts in the United States, based on enrollment, about 98% do not at present require masks, according to data firm Burbio's school policy tracker. Almost half (45.8%) of U.S. counties are at high Covid-19 community levels, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In its guidance for schools, the CDC currently recommends universal indoor masking in K-12 schools and early education programs that are in counties with a high Covid-19 community level. Many of the nation's largest school systems, including Los Angeles Unified, City of Chicago, Miami-Dade County and Clark County in Nevada, are about to return to class.


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