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State standardized test scores up from last year, Florida argues it can ban school library books, and more

Test scores improve: Students’ state standardized test scores were up this year in most of the key academic subjects, Florida Department of Education officials announced Monday. Fifty-three percent of students in grades 3-10 scored at or above grade level in reading, and 55 percent of students did the same in math. Both were increases of 4 percentage points. “The substantial gains achieved by Florida’s students on all statewide assessments demonstrate that progress monitoring is working,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. One area of decline was in 4th grade, where the percentage of students scoring at grade level in reading dropped 5 percentage points, and the decline in math was 3 points. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Central Florida Public Media. Florida Department of Education. Reports from school districts around the state on how their students did on the annual standardized tests this past spring. Miami-Dade, Broward. Palm Beach. Orange, Osceola. Seminole, Volusia. Brevard. Marion. Alachua. St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River. Okeechobee.

Around the state: Any book the government disagrees with can be removed from school libraries, attorneys for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration argued last week in a court case, Duval’s school board will vote today on three settlements totaling $1.45 million over teacher misconduct at a high school, a judge rules that a search of the phone of a Sarasota school board member’s husband in the course of a rape investigation was illegal, and a statewide academy for students who are in the juvenile justice system began operations Monday. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A private K-12 school in the low-income area of Liberty City in Miami is being forced out of business by a charter school company that wants to move in as part of the redevelopment of the neighborhood, claims the founder of the school. The nonprofit MEYGA Learning Center has been open for 20 years and currently has 150 students. School director Samantha Quarterman said she’s talking with school district officials to find a larger building. WLRN.

Duval: Three settlements totaling $1.45 million over teacher misconduct at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts will be considered today by school board members. All the complaints focused on the behavior of former music teacher Jeffrey Clayton, who was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison for sexual conduct with students. Florida Times-Union.

Sarasota: A police search of school board member Bridget Ziegler’s husband’s phone was illegal, a Sarasota judge ruled Monday. The search, which was conducted during an investigation of rape allegations against Christian Ziegler, then the chair of the county Republican Party, violated his Fourth Amendment rights, the judge ruled. Judge Hunter Carroll ordered police and the state attorney to destroy original copies of records found during the search, which included 250,000 photos, 30,000 videos and 1,200 text messages between Bridget and Christian Ziegler, some of which were related to sexual activities between the Zieglers and other women, and the rape accusation. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. Bradenton Herald. Charlotte Sun. Florida Politics.

Volusia: A district school budget has not been set, but a public hearing has been scheduled July 30 to discuss it. Todd Seis, the district’s chief financial officer, said there won’t be a tentative 2024-2025 budget before the end of the month. “We are still working with preliminary state numbers,” he said. “The state will release their Florida Education Finance Program second calculation with the required local millage rates by July 19.” He’s projected enrollment to be flat. Last year’s budget was $1.4 billion. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Marion: Wall-mounted safes with a set of building keys are being installed at every district school to speed access for first responders during emergencies. District spokesman Kevin Christian said it cost the district about $65,000 to install the Knox Boxes. Each box can be opened with a universal key that fire departments and law enforcement agencies have in their offices. WUFT.

Colleges and universities: Dr. Alma Littles has been named the dean of Florida State University’s College of Medicine. She had been the interim dean for more than a year. Tallahassee Democrat. Tallahassee Community College’s name is now Tallahassee State College after a branding change went into effect Monday. “This transition reflects our commitment to offering a wide array of academic programs and opportunities for our students,” said President Jim Murdaugh. WTXL. WCTV.

Education in the courts: Any book the government disagrees with can be removed from school libraries, attorneys for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration argued last week in a court filing. “(We) maintain the position that the removal of material from public school libraries is government speech for which it has the complete discretion and freedom to speak through the removal of speech with which it disapproves,” they argued in a lawsuit brought against the state by three mothers of public school students who contend the law on book removals doesn’t give them an opportunity to object to book removals. The state is making the same argument in a lawsuit alleging that First Amendment rights of two authors and a student are being violated by the removal of a book with LGBTQ characters. USA Today Florida Network.

State’s new alternative school: A new statewide academy for students who are in the juvenile justice system began operations Monday. Florida Virtual School will provide the service for the Florida Scholars Academy, both in-person and online. “Closing those achievement gaps and having more of those kids get across the line with a high school diploma is definitely going to be a game-changer,” said Eric Hall, secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The first day of classes is July 10. WJAX.

New state laws: Here are summaries of the 185 new state laws that went into effect Monday. WJXT.

Around the nation: Even as Republican politicians push to expand school choice around the United States, some rural members of the party are increasingly opposed. There are few or no private schools where they live, and they don’t like the idea of their tax money subsidizing private education for well-off students in metro areas. “I’m for less government, but it’s government’s role to provide a good public education,” said Todd Warner, a 53-year-old construction company owner in Chapel Hill, Tenn. “If you want to send your kid to private school, then you should pay for it.” ProPublica.

Opinions on schools: The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranks charter laws according to adherence with a model bill that seems to have a very strong track record of not producing many charter schools. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps.

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