A daily round-up of education news and views for the Sunshine State
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Tuesday, 23rd November 2021




Parkland families to be compensated for FBI’s inaction

The families of most of those killed and wounded in Florida's Parkland school shooting tragedy of 2018 have reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the federal government over the FBI’s failure to stop the gunman - even though it had received information he intended to attack. Attorneys said the settlement’s details are confidential but a person familiar with the deal said the government will pay the families $127.5m overall. Nikolas Cruz, now 23, pleaded guilty last month to 17 counts of first-degree murder. He will receive either a death sentence or life in prison.

CNN  Orlando Sentinel  Politico 




Workforce challenges 'tempering' vaccine mandates

While vaccine requirements have definitely "moved the needle" in terms of getting more shots in arms, school districts nationwide, many of whom are battling against huge staffing challenges, are now backing off their initial plans to dole out consequences to those who refuse to get vaccinated. “As school districts struggle to fill full-time positions and struggle to find substitutes, it’s really, really difficult to move forward with a vaccine mandate that would end up terminating teachers,” says Bradley Marianno, an assistant professor of educational policy and leadership at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Oregon, Washington state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have ordered all school staff to get vaccinated, while eight additional states have said educators must either get vaccinated or undergo regular testing. An Education Week analysis found however that only four states with such mandates, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Washington, have actually shared the overall percentage of district employees who are vaccinated, along with D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Education Week 




Hillsborough schools signing teaching recruits from college

Hillsborough County Public Schools, battling a crippling labor shortage like many other Florida districts, had about 1,000 advertised vacancies at the last count, roughly half of which were for classroom teachers. This month there were 29 openings at Gibsonton's Eisenhower Middle School alone, 14 in jobs that serve special needs students. A new middle school residency program — funded by the Helios Education Foundation and focused on science, technology, engineering and math — allows each student to spend two years in three middle schools, working alongside district teachers in what is, essentially, "student teaching on steroids," according to Tampa Bay Times. Program leaders say 90% of residents progress directly into district jobs, where they are considered to be at the level of a third-year teacher. The others typically enter graduate school, with the assumption that they will become teachers afterward. Sade Amos, who has a spot at Martinez Middle, said one adjustment for her is the scant age difference between herself and the students. At 19, she is sometimes seen more as a sibling than an adult figure, so students find her relatable, which in turn helps to build trust. A survey in October by the national publication Education Week found that 40% of district leaders and principals describe their current staff shortages as “severe” or “very severe,” despite higher wages fueled by federal relief aid.

Tampa Bay Times 




Education community celebrated with awards

Dallas ISD's Michael Hinojosa has been recognized as Superintendent Of The Year as part of the K-12 Dive Awards 2021. A study of large districts’ National Assessment of Educational Progress scores released by that organization in June found Dallas had improved in 4th- and 8th-grade math, as well as in 8th-grade reading. In 2019, Dallas dropped from 43 schools under state watch for takeovers during his tenure to just four. Though Hinojosa acknowledges that some decisions made "on the fly" early in the pandemic got him in a little trouble with the school board, he contends that crises demand command decisions. “Typically, I make consensus decisions and get a lot of people involved,” Hinojosa asserts. Suburban Columbia’s Richland School District Two in South Carolina, which focuses on "innovation and school improvement initiatives to create equity and opportunity for all students," was named School District of the Year. The nearly 28,000-student district was commended for rethinking grading policies with equity at the forefront, focusing on magnet programs for specialized education experiences, and offering innovative hands-on learning opportunities via the Richland Two Institute of Innovation incubator program. The Principal of the Year accolade was awarded to Jessica Cabeen of Ellis Middle School in Minnesota. Central to her approach has been engaging staff in professional development book studies and other work to better understand brain development during the middle school years, recognizing students are undergoing big growth milestones and that their behavior might not reflect where they are at cognitively due to the influence of hormones and other factors.

K12 Dive 




Lawmakers hope to increase minimum K-12 dropout age

Florida is one of 15 states that allows students to drop out of school with a parent's permission at 16-years-old but a new proposed bill would raise the dropout age to 18-years-old. The latest data from the Department of Education shows Florida’s dropout rate from 2019 to 2020 was 3.1%, down just slightly from 3.4% the year prior. For their part, Lake County School leaders have made strides in knocking the district’s dropout number rate, after officials did things like offer daycare program assistance and instructional support to keep students at desks.

Fox 35 Orlando 




SmarterSelect exposed personal data of students

Education software company SmarterSelect, which provides a platform for managing the application process for scholarships, exposed the personal data of thousands of applicants because of a misconfigured Google Cloud Storage bucket. Cybersecurity firm UpGuard found that the data included documents such as academic transcripts, resumes and invoices for approximately 1.2 million applications to funding programs, dated from November 2020 to September 21 2021. One folder hosted on the public bucket hosted 23,000 spreadsheets and 8,000 ZIP files, which contained contact information like name, email address and phone number, as well as much more probing details such as parents’ education and income, the students’ performance at school, student photos where required for application, and financial documents such as Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms that, in some cases, included full Social Security numbers, proof of COVID-19 vaccinations and descriptions of hardships.





Catholic schools enjoy reverse in enrolment declines

Catholic schools across the country are seeing increases in enrolments this autumn. The National Catholic Educational Association is still collecting and analyzing the latest pupil data, but its preliminary numbers show increases in most dioceses. Falls in pupil numbers of a couple of percentage points a year have been the norm for years however. The number had fallen from a peak in the early 1960s, when Catholic schools had 5.2 million pupils, to around 1.6 million last year.

The Economist 

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