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Capital Report: 07-26-13

The highest number of Florida elementary and middle schools in at least a decade received "F" grades in the first draft of state report cards issued Friday, despite efforts by state officials to restrict how far grades could fall. In all, 107 elementary and middle schools -- slightly more than 4 percent -- received failing grades on the preliminary report cards. (The numbers also include "combination schools" and high schools that don't have graduating classes.) In 2012, 40 schools got F grades, amounting to just more than 1.5 percent. The department graded 21 more schools this year.That marked the highest number of schools to get an F at least since the program started including learning gains as part of the report card in 2002. And it came despite the State Board of Education agreeing to extend by a year a rule preventing schools from dropping more than one letter grade on the report cards.But without the changes, officials said, 261 schools would have received failing grades. Meanwhile, the standardized test taken by many Florida schoolchildren, the F-CAT, has been ridiculed in recent months for becoming so hard many students can’t pass it.  As Regan McCarthy reports, some private schools see that as a new opportunity for growth.

School districts across the nation are adopting security systems that collect biological data. The issue recently caused a stir in Florida when Polk County Schools decided to incorporate a biometric data system.  Now as Lynn Hatter reports, the use iris scans and similar tech could soon be banned in Florida schools. 

It’s been nearly two weeks since anti-stand-your-ground protestors began occupying Florida Governor Rick Scott’s outer office, demanding he call a special legislative session.  This week, capitol police revealed what they say it’s costing taxpayers to let the group stay.  As Ryan Benk reports, some are asking if they’re overstaying their welcome.

The University of South Florida is awaiting a response from the state about whether the school’s researchers can dig up the human remains of boys believed to have died over a 60-year period at the infamous Dozier School for Boys. State officials contend they don’t have the authority to grant such a request. But as Sascha Cordner reports, some wonder if that’s the real reason for the denial.

Back during this year’s Florida Legislative Session, state house members turned down billions of dollars in federal Medicaid money.  As Carol Gentry at Florida Public Radio Station WUSF in Tampa tells us, that allergy to money from Washington has also extended to a seemingly benign hotline to help consumers get answers to insurance questions.