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DeSantis calls for an end to spring testing in Florida schools

TAMPA BAY, Fla. — The days of preparing and sitting for hours of spring state tests could be nearing an end for many of Florida’s public school students.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday called on lawmakers to revamp the state’s school accountability system by eliminating several of the annual exams, and replacing them with more regular progress monitoring that already occurs throughout the school year.

He said the idea would reduce testing in the schools by 75%, and would allow for more individualized assessments that help students and teachers make adjustments during the school year while also keeping parents better informed.

His proposal came days before the Legislature begins its pre-session committee weeks, with the Senate Education Committee slated to hold a discussion the afternoon of Sept. 21 on standards and assessments.

It was met with quick support within the education community.

“Fewer, better state assessments with greater reliance on ongoing, real-time progress monitoring data enable timely academic recalibration opportunities that are right for Florida’s kids,” Miami-Dade County superintendent Alberto Carvalho said on Twitter. “We applaud today’s announcement.”

Parents offered similar reactions, calling the announcement “the best news” and “a good move” to swerve away from sending money to testing vendors for a product that did little to help students.

—Tampa Bay Times

4 homicide victims found in SUV in western Wisconsin

MINNEAPOLIS — St. Paul police said Tuesday that they are assisting in the investigation of the discovery in western Wisconsin of four homicide victims in an SUV with Minnesota license plates.

The Dunn County Sheriff's Office said they were alerted Sunday afternoon by a 911 caller to the black SUV being abandoned in a standing cornfield off a rural road near the town hall on County Road VVV in the Town of Sheridan.

The Sheriff's Office's disclosed details of the discovery Monday night, more than 30 hours later, in a posting on Facebook that also said there may have been a second dark-colored SUV traveling with the abandoned vehicle.

Authorities have said nothing about who the victims are, where they came from or what makes them believe they were killed. No arrests have been announced.

Other than revealing that the abandoned SUV had Minnesota plates, the posting did not explain why the Sheriff's Office believes that "the victims do not appear to have any connection to the area." Dunn County is about 60 miles east of St. Paul.

Authorities in Wisconsin did reach out Monday to the Police Department in Minneapolis, where there has been a surge in homicides this year. MPD spokesman Garrett Parten said Tuesday morning, "We are not involved in any way, shape or form."

—Star Tribune

KNP Complex fire threatening Sequoia National Park grows fivefold, forcing residents to flee


LOS ANGELES — A pair of lightning-sparked fires raging in Sequoia National Park more than quintupled in 24 hours, burning ever closer to groves of the largest trees on Earth and forcing the evacuations of park employees and nearby residents.

The Paradise and Colony fires — collectively called the KNP Complex — exploded to 5,861 acres by Tuesday afternoon, a leap of more than 4,800 acres from the day prior. Flames from the blaze, which has no containment, were lapping a little bit closer to dense areas of towering giant sequoia trees, according to Mark Ruggiero, a spokesperson for the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.

An inversion layer over the fire lifted, causing it to pick up and tear through intense fuels, including drought-stricken trees further destroyed by bark beetles, and into drainage areas in the rugged terrain, said Ruggiero, who added that “the fire has intensified tremendously.”

As the Paradise fire — now 4,821 acres — made a downhill run, crossing the middle fork of the Kaweah River and the Generals Highway, employees were evacuated Tuesday from the Ash Mountain Headquarters Complex and nearby housing areas, including the community of Sycamore within the park, officials said.

Flames were lapping about a mile from the famed Giant Forest, the largest concentration of towering giant sequoias in the park and home to the 275-foot General Sherman tree — considered the world’s largest tree by volume, Ruggiero said.

The fires were nearer to the grove, but not yet an “imminent threat,” he said.

—Los Angeles Times

Haitian prosecutor wants prime minister — who fired him the day before — charged in President Moïse’s killing

The criminal investigation into the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse took a surreal turn Tuesday when Port-au-Prince’s top prosecutor asked the investigative judge to charge Prime Minister Ariel Henry in connection with the July 7 slaying.

Chief Prosecutor Bedford Claude made the request in a two-page order to Judge Garry Orelien. He asked the judge to bar Henry from leaving the country.

There is just one problem. Claude had already been fired — by the prime minister — when he sent the request, according to a memo from the prime minister’s office.

In the letter dated Monday, Henry told Claude that he had been discharged for “serious administrative infractions.” That same day, Henry also fired Claude’s boss, Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent, and a key adviser to the late president, Renald Luberice. Luberice was secretary general of the Council of Ministers, the equivalent of a Cabinet. Lubérice, Vincent and Claude have over the past week or so led a campaign by Moïse holdovers against Henry, even demanding his resignation.

Sonel Jean-Francois, a lawyer and former investigative judge, said there is no legal justification for what Claude attempted to do, including asking immigration to block Henry from leaving the country. A Haitian prosecutor must stand down once a case has been transferred over to an investigative judge, who is the only one authorized to launch any probe.

“He cannot pose any act, any investigation, as it relates to this,” Jean-Francois said. “It’s a (provision) in the criminal code that all jurists are aware of.”

Under Haitian law, Claude also cannot issue any mandates against a government minister without the authorization of a president, Jean-Francois said. “There is nothing legal about what he has done.”

—Miami Herald