Archives for category: Florida

The Wall Street Journal has an informative article about the $2.2 million that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence paid to a top Republican political consultant to publicize the “success” of the Florida model of education reform: school grades, charters, and high-stakes testing, and also revealed who underwrites Bush’s FEE.

The foundation’s Learn More, Go Further campaign in 2013 and 2014 included a website and other online media, television and radio ads, and live events in Florida to promote the state’s educational system.

“Today, more parents and teachers know that Florida is a top-10 state for improvement in education, thanks to the reforms implemented and hard work by teachers and students over the last 15 years,” said Jaryn Emhof, a foundation spokeswoman.

Under Mr. Bush’s A-plus plan, schools receive annual grades based on their test scores in an effort to hold educators responsible for student achievement. The Learn More, Go Further ads touted rising graduation rates, increased numbers of students taking advanced courses, and rising achievement among Hispanic and African-American students. Mr. Bush was not mentioned in the ads.

Another spot trumpeted Florida’s higher academic standards, which are modeled after the Common Core standards adopted by most states. Because the Obama administration awarded financial incentives to states that adopted Common Core, some conservatives view the standards as government overreach, making Mr. Bush’s support a potential liability in his expected 2016 campaign…

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has served as chairwoman of the foundation since January, when Mr. Bush resigned to focus on exploring a potential campaign. Top donors to the foundation include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, GE Foundation, and News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal.

The foundation reported $11.4 million in revenue for 2013, up from $10 million the previous year. Expenses rose to $10.4 million from $5.9 million the previous year because of increases in staff, outside contracts and educational research and grants provided to states. The foundation has expanded from working with three states in 2008 to 43 states in 2013 on issues including digital learning, school grades, literacy, teacher training and charter schools.

You can be sure nothing was said in the public relations campaign about the fact that Alabama–with none of Jeb’s reforms–has a higher graduation rate than Florida. Nor will voters hear about Florida’s class size reduction act, imposed by referendum. Or Bush’s third grade retention policy, which holds back low-scoring third graders and boosts fourth-grade reading scores.

Kathleen Oropeza leads a statewide parent group in Florida called “Fund Education Now,” which advocates on behalf of public education. She sends the following report of the latest news from the state legislature, which is very charter-friendly. The head of the house education appropriations committee is related to the family that owns the Academica charter chain, one of the wealthiest charter chains in the state. (It is under federal investigation for conflicts of interest.) According to the Miami Herald, Academica has cleverly accumulated a real estate empire worth more than $115 million through its charter acquisitions. To really understand this charter miracle story, read Jersey Jazzman’s analysis.

 

Digital learning is, of course, one of the priorities of Jeb Bush’s organization, the Foundation for Educational Excellence, which is funded by tech corporations (Jeb stepped down as leader of FEE when he announced for the presidency and was replaced by education expert Condoleeza Rice).

 

For the definitive guide to Florida’s politically active charter schools, see this report by the Florida League of Women Voters, especially pp. 13-14, which describes conflicts of interest.

 

Oropeza writes:
Charter Expansion/Open Enrollment/Transfers millage dollars to charters

 
HB 7037/SB 1552/SB 1448/HB 1145 School Choice/Charter Expansion

 
The massive HB 7037 passed out of the House. It’s been sitting in Senate messages and there’s talk of pulling it back to the house to add amendments. It builds on the efforts of previous sessions to accelerate the expansion of charters, regardless of need through funding a pseudo-marketing/oversight arm, at Florida State University called the Florida Charter School Innovation Institute. It erodes the power of local school boards by allowing “open enrollment” across district lines, allows students to transfer to another classroom based on concerns about the teacher, creates a “charter school district” giving principals increased autonomy from local district rule, allows unrestricted replication of high performing charters in high-need areas. Removes eligibility requirements for enrollment in public K-12 virtual education and allows more charter school systems to act as a Local Education Agency for purposes of administering Federal funding.
In addition, this bill requires districts to give charter school developers a portion of the money raised through millage levies to fund district capital school improvements and new construction. Charters received $100 M and $50M over the past two years via PECO. The issue is two-fold: PECO dollars must be allocated each year to charters by the legislature and so far this has not happened in 2015. Second, Voter-approved millage increases are the sole source of capital funding for district schools. HB 7037 states that charter chains must be given a percentage of local tax dollars to pay for & improve buildings the public may never own.
This vastly increases the money sent to Charter chains to purchase real estate and develop schools. It represents approximately $137 million dollars. If the legislature does not designate PECO to charters this year or in future years, districts will have to pay millions of dollars that they cannot possibly afford in locally raised tax dollars to support unfettered charter school growth.

 

 

Digital Learning

 
SB 1264 – Digital Classrooms by Legg is scheduled for its last committee stop on 4.21.15. This bill is significant because the technology was not addressed in the testing bill/HB 7069. This bill establishes requirements for digital classroom technology infrastructure planning by the Agency for State Technology or a contracted organization; requires the Office of Technology and Information Services of the Department of Education to consult with the Agency for State Technology in developing the 5-year strategic plan for Florida digital classrooms; specifies conditions for a school district to maintain eligibility for Florida digital classrooms allocation funds.

 

 

Allocates $10 million to be spent by the Agency for State Technology (AST) on a vendor of their choice. Look for amendments to this bill to address the technology funding deleted from the testing bill.

 

Testing

 
HB 7069 was signed into law by Gov. Scott this week. The bill address some issues raised by districts, teachers and parents, which is good. The fact remains that the law does not go far enough. Most of Florida’s standardized tests and the rules used to punish students, teachers and schools remain intact. That said, public education advocates have made an impact regarding Florida standardized testing and HB 7060 reflects that. Read a full description of what this bill does and does not do here.

Watch as Luke Flynt tells what is wrong with his VAM score. It makes no sense.

Take 4 minutes and listen to Luke tell his story about the insanity of VAM scores.

The computer predicts what his students’ test score should be. In some cases, the computer prediction was higher than a perfect score. Most of the scores that counted against Luke were those of students who answered more than 90% of the questions correctly.

This is madness.

Tell his story.

A post yesterday reported that Florida is considering eliminating district lines so that students may choose to attend any public school, so long as there is space available and parents provide transportation. Michigan has such a system, and districts spend millions of dollars advertising to “poach” students from other districts because every new student means additional money.

 

As reader Chiara points out, Ohio has the same system, and it has intensified racial and economic segregation.

 

Open enrollment, which allows children to transfer from one school district to another, leads to widespread racial segregation and concentrates poverty in many of Ohio’s urban school districts, including Cleveland and Akron.
That’s one finding of a Beacon Journal study of more than 8,000 Ohio students who left city schools last year for an education in wealthier suburban communities.
The majority of students who participated in Ohio’s oldest school choice program are disproportionately white and middle class. Students attending the schools they left, however, are nearly twice as likely to be minority and seven times more likely to be poor.
The program gives parents the option to enroll children in nearby school districts without changing their home address. By doing so, parents must find their own transportation — an act that in itself narrows who is able to make the change.

 

Where is the NAACP, the Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU? If a state adopts a policy that demonstrably promotes segregation, shouldn’t someone sue them for knowingly enacting a program to segregate children by race and income?

A Florida legislator has proposed letting any child transfer to any public school in the state, as long as there is space available and their parents transport them. This smacks of an ALEC-style attack on communities and local control. This is not about improving education but satisfying choice ideologues. ALEC values free-market fundamentalism over community and local control. Will it improve education? No, but who cares?

The article appeared in the Florida Sun-Sentinel. It is behind a pay wall.

It says:

School choices could expand
Under plan, parents have option to send children to schools all over state

By Scott Travis Staff writer

Parents unhappy with their child’s local school soon could have a much wider range of new choices under a proposal that drops district boundary requirements.

The state Legislature is considering a bill that would allow students to attend any public school in the state that has space, as long as families are willing to provide their own transportation.

That could mean parents could leave D-rated Deerfield Park in Broward County and head four miles north to A-rated Addison Mizner Elementary in Boca Raton, which is part of the Palm Beach County School District.

Miami-Dade parents could move their children from D-rated Barbara Hawkins Elementary in Miami Gardens to A-rated Dolphin Bay Elementary in Miramar.

Students even could attend a school several counties away, as long as their parents can get them there.

“The money would follow the child,” said bill sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers. “This could be for a parent who works in a different county from where they live and wants to have their child close to them. Or if a parent thinks another school district has the best learning environment for their child.”

The bill, which passed the Senate Education Committee Thursday, would apply to public schools below 95 percent capacity. That’s most traditional schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have been losing students in recent years to charter schools. Parents also could choose charter schools in other counties if there is room.

About 23 states have similar policies, according to the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based policy group. In some cases they are limited to students who are low-income or are attending failing schools.

For Broward County, this would be an expansion of an existing school-choice policy. The district allows parents to send their children to any underenrolled public school within the county. Students who are attending a school outside their boundary can get busing only if it’s one of the district’s designated magnet or choice programs, such as the Nova schools and Pompano Beach High.

Sharon Aron Baron takes advantage of that policy. She lives in Tamarac but drives 20 miles each way to Parkland to drop off and pick up her children at Park Trails Elementary and Stoneman Douglas High. While she probably wouldn’t consider a school in another county, she supports the proposal.

“The students get the money from the state, so the state’s covering their education. I don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said. “But I think the amount of people who would take advantage of it would be very slim.”

Palm Beach County School Board member Debra Robinson said she would be interested in the option as a parent and grandparent. But as a school official, she has concerns, including whether poor children would benefit without busing. “I wonder if we’re just adding more opportunity to a limited few, while pretending these are opportunities available for all,” she said.

Andrew Ladanowski, a Coral Springs parent who advocates for school choice, agrees that could create a dilemma. But he said providing transportation wouldn’t be a good option either.

“The more money we spend transporting students around town, the less money have that gets into the classroom,” he said.

stravis@tribpub.com   or
561-243-6637

[Reposting in case you missed this story last night, DR]

 

The Néw York Times tells the sad story of the life and death of Jeb Bush’s charter school. Bush now recalls his involvement in the school to demonstrate his prowess as an education reformer. But the actual experience of the school shows the perils of Bush’s free-market ideology.

In 1996, Jeb Bush co-founded Florida’s first charter school, called Liberty City Charter School, in an impoverished black neighborhood in Miami. His co-founder was head of the city’s Urban League. Two years earlier, he had narrowly lost the governor’s race. When asked what he would do for blacks if elected, he responded, “Probably nothing.” Looking ahead to the next election, he needed to “soften” his image. The founding of a charter school for poor black children was his vehicle.

After he was elected governor in 1998, Jeb Bush created a model of tough accountability, pre-dating his brother George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. Among other things, Jeb graded every school, A-F. His charter school won an A in 2006, and he was very proud.

However, the school sunk into financial trouble, and its grade plummeted to D. Bush’s second term as governor ended in 2007, and he did not do much to help the school as it struggled with debt. In 2008, it closed.

What did Jeb Bush learn from the failure of his model school? Not much. He certainly didn’t learn about the limits of the free market in education.

Nonetheless, the now defunct school still remains valuable to Presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

Times’ reporter Jason Horowitz writes:

“But with Mr. Bush all but certain to be running for office again, this time for the White House, the school he once championed is again useful. As he tries to sell himself to the conservative Republicans wary of his support for the testing standards they consider emblematic of government overreach, he can speak with authority on charter schools, funded largely by taxpayers but run by private companies, as a free-market antidote to liberal teachers’ unions and low performance.

“And his firsthand experience in the education of underprivileged urban grade-schoolers lends him credibility in a party that has suddenly seized upon the gap between the rich and poor as politically promising terrain. In his first speech as a likely presidential candidate in Detroit last month, Mr. Bush credited Liberty City Charter School with helping “change education in Florida”

“But Mr. Bush’s uplifting story of achievement and reform avoided mentioning the school by name or its unhappy ending. For all his early and vital involvement during his 1998 campaign for governor, and for all the help he offered from afar in the governor’s office, Mr. Bush’s commitment to his school project was not as enduring as some students and teachers might have hoped.”

Others might view Liberty City Charter School as a symbol not of “achievement and reform,” but of the impermanence and empty promises of charter schools.

Julian Vasquez Heilig, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University in Sacramento, here assembles the statistical data about the so-called “Florida Miracle.” This “miracle,” like the purported “Texas Miracle” that propelled George W. Bush into the White House, is the foundation of Jeb Bush’s claim to being the real deal as an education reformer.

 

Do we want more Bush-style reform? George W. Bush brought No Child Left Behind to the nation; Jeb Bush imposed an even tougher accountability and choice program in Florida. Schools receive an A-F letter grade. Teachers’ evaluation, compensation, and tenure are tied to their students’ test scores. There are more than 600 charters, including a thriving for-profit charter industry. Jeb pushed for vouchers, but only vouchers for special education students survived court scrutiny; Florida courts declared Jeb’s voucher proposal for low-income students violated the state constitution. In 2012, Jeb and his allies got a proposition on the ballot to change the state constitution to permit vouchers, but voters rejected it by 58%-42%. Jeb is a true believer in choice and accountability.

 

But how about that “Florida Miracle”?

 

Heilig shows with data from 2000-2009 that Florida students made impressive gains on the fourth grade NAEP reading test. He notes that critics wondered whether the gains were elevated by the policy of holding back third-grade students with low reading scores; those low-scoring students were about 10% of third graders.

 

But moving right along, the scores in 8th grade are good but not all that impressive. In reading, Florida ranked 30th in the nation, and in math, it ranked 34th. Some small gains, but nothing that looks like a miracle.

 

What about graduation rates? Florida made the smallest gains of any of the most populous states and was 44th in the nation in the proportion of students who graduated from high school in four years.

 

What about ACT scores? Heilig writes: Does the news get better on the ACT? Um. No. Florida’s overall composite ACT scores decreased between 2000 and 2010. They were the lowest of the most populous states. They were ranked 49th in the nation.

 

And SAT scores?

 

Florida’s overall composite scores SAT scores also decreased. They outperform Texas and New York, but lagged behind California. Florida ranked 41st in the nation in composite SAT scores. (I know someone lurking out there is thinking that the SAT and ACT scores are dependent on composition of the sample, of course it does. But the data is the data)

 

Heilig concludes:

 

In sum, NAEP scores seemed positive (with caveats). However, do NAEP scores determine the future of Florida’s students? When we consider the measures that actually matter for many kids’ lives: Graduation rates, ACT and SAT… It is only a peek— but you be the judge of the Florida miracle.

FLORIDA COMPUTER EXAM FIASCO
SHOWS NEW ASSESSMENTS “NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME;”
COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENT REFORM NEEDED TO REPLACE POLITICALLY DRIVEN TESTING SYSTEM

Problems with the new, computer-administered Florida Standards Assessments are widespread. At least a dozen school districts, including Broward, Hillsborough, Miami- Dade, Orange, Oskaloosa, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, and Volusia reported total breakdowns or significant testing delays.
According to Bob Schaeffer, a Florida resident who is Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which monitors standardized exams across the country, “Florida computerized tests are clearly not ready for prime time. The reason is that they were rushed into place based on a Tallahasee-mandated schedule not technical competence or educational readiness.”
Schaeffer continued, “Parents, teachers, superintendents and computer experts all warned that such breakdowns were inevitable. Yet, policy-makers ignored the warnings as well as evidence of similar problems last year in Florida and a dozen other states.”
“Today’s fiasco once again demonstrates that Florida testing policy is being driven by politicians and ideologues, not educators,” Schaeffer concluded. ”Florida schools and the children they serve need a pause in testing insanity and a thorough overhaul of the state’s assessment system. Enough is enough”
FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer has lived full-time in southwest Florida for fifteen years. He works closely with assessment reform groups in Lee County and across the state.

Roseanne Woods was a high school principal in Florida for 32 years. She is now a protester and a blogger. She is outraged by Florida’s punitive testing and accountability regime. In this post, she describes a state that cares more about testing than teaching.

For her steadfast dedication to real education, I place Roseanne Woods on the blog’s honor roll.

She writes:

“Children are stressed out and parents are m ad enough to want their children to “Opt-Out” of all high-stakes testing. Frustrated teachers are leaving the profession and superintendents are demanding real change. Lawmakers: how about some real relief?

 

“Florida schools are about to hit the big testing/school grades accountability iceberg this spring. Why? This year, instead of FCAT, all 3rd-11th grade students will be taking brand new tests on the extremely challenging Florida Standards Assessment (FSA), aka, Common Core Standards. Third graders who don’t score well on reading will be retained and high school students who don’t pass will not graduate. Schools will receive A-F school grades based on these scores.

 

“Not to worry—districts have been assured by DOE that the scores will be “normed” (manipulated) to match last year’s scores. Somehow, that gives little comfort

 

“Here’s a sample 3rd grade math problem— ‘A bakery uses 48 pounds of flour each day. It orders flour every 28 days. Create an equation that shows how many pounds of flour the bakery
needs to order every 28 days.’

 

“Any wonder many parents are having trouble helping their children with homework?

 

“There are now 154 of the 180 days on the Florida State Testing Calendar devoted to a variety of required state assessments in grades K-12 that effect schools’ grades. Any wonder that schools are spending more and more time prepping and practicing for these tests?…

 

“To make matters worse, schools also have to implement Florida Statute 1012.34– requiring 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on “rigorous” tests for every subject/course taught. So, at great expense, school districts have been scrambling to create over 1200 tests on courses not covered by the required Florida Standards Assessments, FSA. These district assessments must cover quite the spectrum including art, physical ed., drama and guidance counselors. By law, elementary students must take 6-7 end-of-course tests to prove their teachers did a good enough job to be eligible for a performance bonus.”

 

Florida is a very sick state. Please, someone, invite the Governor and the State Board of Education to visit Finland! All that time and money for testing is wasted.

Who has primary responsibility for children, the state or their parents? Florida says it is the state, not the parents.

 

Parent and teacher Andy Goldstein here makes an impassioned plea to the local school board: Stop the madness! Opt out of the state tests! Our children can’t wait! Restore the joy of learning! Opt out! Opt out!

 

However, State Commissioner Pam Stewart warned that opting out of state tests is illegal. She told legislators that opting out is not an option under Florida law. Teachers will be punished if they encourage parents to skip the testing. Those parents who insist on parental rights should contact their state legislator and demand changes in the law.

 

Florida is a state that tests children again and again and again. Parents should do what they think is right for their child. The only way to stop the testing madness is if enough parents refuse to allow their children to take the tests and ignore the State Commissioner’s threats.

 

 

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