Archives for category: Florida

A reader posted these comments in response to Florida legislature’s passage of a law to offer a $10,000 bonus to new teachers with high SAT/ACT scores. The bonus is supposed to attract “the best and the brightest.”

Reader writes:

“Yes, districts will be able to lure in new teachers with higher SAT scores with $10,000 signing bonuses, but when the rigors of teaching every day sets in, Florida will see its $44 million walk right out the door. The biggest cliché at the moment is that one of the purposes of education is to create the lifelong learner, but why should students strive for higher education when their own teachers are not valued for achieving years of expertise, higher degrees, and national board certifications? What value is there to becoming educated and entering the teaching field when all you have to do is sit through a series of training sessions with Teach for America in order to teach the neediest and most demanding students who deserve the most attention? Once again, politics and government are wasting tax payer’s dollars.

“According to Education Week’s facts on Florida http://www.edweek.org/topics/states/florida/ there are 175,609 teachers in the state. The cap on this $10,000 bonus is 4,400 teachers in total which represents only 2% of Florida’s teaching population. If the program, goes over the 4,400, then each teacher will get less. The patient (public schools) is bleeding to death but don’t stop the bleeding – put a piece of toilet paper on a cut in the hope that this 2% will raise Florida test scores and graduation rates to new levels of achievement.

“I am in the process of getting my masters so that I can be even more effective as an ESL teacher despite the “stats” that the level of my education has no effect whatsoever on my students’ test scores. If that is true, why is Florida paying bonuses to draw in “smarter” people into the classroom with or without degrees? Why worry about smarts? If that’s the case, let’s just have any Joe Schmoe off the street teach our students. Maybe he will do a better job and not ask to be paid for his work and tax payers can keep their money!”

Florida passed a proposal to award $10,000 bonuses for teachers who are “the best and the brightest.” The cost: $44 million.

The awards would go either to teachers rated “highly effective” in raising test scores. New teachers would get the bonus if they had high SAT or ACT scores when they were high school seniors.

Florida eliminated bonuses for advanced degrees and for National Board Certification

Dan Gelber, a former state senator in Florida, offers a devastating overview of Jeb Bush’s education policies while he was governor of Florida.

Gelber says that Bush was indeed passionate about education, but his passion was tied to ideas that dumbed down the quality of education.

“He force-fed unprecedented testing into public schools, did all he could to neuter the teaching unions and unapologetically pushed private-school alternatives to public education. As he runs for higher office, Bush now relies on his “education revolution” to make his case….

“In 1998 when a newly elected Gov. Bush and a compliant Legislature started Florida’s “education revolution,” our graduation rate was among the lowest in the nation. After Bush’s two terms in office, Florida’s graduation rate was dead last and remains near the bottom.”

With so much emphasis on testing and test prep, the scores went up in the early grades, but the gains were short-lived. The gains might have been the result of a constitutional amendment forcing class-size reduction on the early grades, which Bush opposed.

Gelber says Florida should not be a national model. It is “an example of the perils of combining excessive testing with inadequate funding….

“As schools began teaching to the test and neglecting anything not measured, Florida’s floor of minimal competence became our ceiling. This distortion became especially acute because, while money alone isn’t a solution, money does matter. Under Bush, Florida had one of the lowest per-pupil funding levels in the nation, so principals and administrators did what any overwhelmed emergency-room doctor does. The state began to triage its curriculum and programs in order to devote scarce resources to what was tested.

“Art “carts” replaced art classrooms, physical education was deemed nonessential. Foreign languages, gifted programs, music, higher-level math and English, civics and science all were among courses that were deemphasized or sometimes even abandoned because they were not measured by the FCAT.

“My eldest daughter’s accelerated algebra class didn’t complete its course work one year because the school stopped teaching it to devote time to relearning FCAT math from years earlier. My youngest daughter’s school cut its exciting science lab program. Not taught on the FCAT!

“Talk about a mad dash to mediocrity….

Florida’s incredibly low education spending is, sadly, in sync with its dismal graduation rate, and nearly last in the nation SAT and ACT scores….

“The debate of accountability vs. funding marginalizes the importance of both. Money has to be adequate, and testing has to be thoughtful or you end up with a dumbed-down and narrow curriculum that fails too many kids.”

A comment from Florida:

 

 

Making public education unbearable is all part of the privatizers’ plan to destabilize public education. I hear parents discussing alternative placements for their children other than public schools here in Florida because the public schools are “mostly about testing.” This is Jeb Bush’s legacy. Recently Jeb Bush met with Governor Scott in what the media termed an “education summit.” It was probably like a couple of hyenas trying to decide which end of a fallen zebra to strip first.

Teacher Andy Goldstein greets the new superintendent of Palm Beach County with a brief lecture about the evils of high-stakes testing.

 

In Palm Beach County and in Florida, he says, the basic ideology is “Testing is teaching.”

 

Watch the video, where he explains that the purpose of all this testing is to label schools as failures so they can be privatized and turned into profit centers.

 

He predicts:

 

“At this rate, I can imagine the day in the not-too-distant future when my daughter comes home and tells my wife and I, ‘I want to be a standardized test-taker when I grow up.’ And my wife and I would beam at her and say ‘Oh, we’re so proud of our little data point. You’re gonna make some rich plutocrat so happy.’”

 

 

Kevin Strang, a music teacher in Orange County, Florida, made news last year when he won a bonus of $800 for teaching in an A-rated school, and he donated his bonus to the Network for Public Education to fight failed policies like VAM.

 

Now Strang is moving on a new front to stop the ongoing destruction of public schools in Florida. He is raising money for a pro-public education candidate for state senate, Rick Roach. Strang is doing this by doing what he knows best: He is organizing a concert with a world-class musician in a private home and selling tickets with the goal of raising $10,000 to help Roach’s campaign. Kevin Strang understands the crucial ingredient in stopping the attacks on public schools and their teachers: Elect candidates who support their community’s public schools.

 

A school board member in Orange County for four terms, Rick Roach took the student standardized test in 2012 to learn what it measured. This is what he said about the FCAT:

 

“I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a ‘D,’ and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

 

“It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate. I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities….

 

This is Strang’s press release:

 

 

Music Teacher raises thousands for Pro-­Public School Candidate

 

Benefit Concert features the best young violinist in the world

 

ORLANDO, Florida, June 18, 2015 ­ Frustrated by education policy in the state of Florida, music teacher and business man Kevin Strang is throwing a benefit concert for Judge ‘Rick’ Roach, Democrat Candidate for Florida Senate. “Teacher’s voices are not being heard and strongly worded letters get you nowhere, the only way we are going reclaim public education is by getting pro­public school candidates elected and that takes money, and plenty of it. Rick has a vision for education and Florida that must be heard”, said Strang.

 

The goal of the Benefit Concert is to raise $10,000 for Roach’s campaign. With a week left before the show more than $5000 has already been raised for his campaign. “The response has been tremendous”, said Strang. One couple who could not attend purchased two tickets and donated them to aspiring young music students who normally wouldn’t be able to experience a concert given by a world class musician.

 

The concert will be held at a private home in Orlando the evening of June 25th and will feature the 2015 Top Prize Winner of the Seoul Violin Competition and Winter Park resident, Suliman Tekalli along with his pianist sister Jamila Tekalli. Winning ‘Top Prize’ in this competition is a very big deal crowning Tekalli one of the best violinist in the world. A chamber orchestra made up of Strang and other like minded music teachers will accompany Tekalli on a Violin Concerto by Vivaldi. Strang explained, “while I was putting this event together many of my colleagues asked how they could help, putting an orchestra together to contribute to the musical program was a no­-brainer ”.

 

Products of the public school system, featured artists Suliman and Jamila Tekalli grew up in Winter Park and attended Winter Park High School, Glenridge Middle School, and Aloma Elementary. Mr. Strang first met and performed with the Tekalli’s while working on his Master’s Degree at the University of Central Florida. “I knew then that they were amongst the finest musicians I had ever heard or played with, now that Suliman has won Top Prize and Jamila has earned her Doctorate the rest of the world is discovering it too. It’s a miracle that we found a date during their busy touring schedule that they both would be in town to perform.”, said Strang.

 

People interested in supporting Rick’s campaign and reserving the one of the few remaining seats left for the concert should contact at ​rick@rickroachforsenate.com​. The recommended contribution is $250 per ticket.

 

CONTACT

Kevin D. Strang
Music Teacher
(321) 427­9800 kevin.strang@cfl.rr.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Kevin D. Strang​• (321) 427­9800 • kevinstrang@cfl.rr.com 

 

Kevin believes that over testing and their high­stakes consequences such as automatic 3rd grade retentions, teaching to the test, and tieing scores to teacher evaluations are doing tremendous damage to children, public schools, and the teaching profession. As a member of the OCPS School Board, Rick Roach was one of the first in the country to sound the alarms of high­stakes standardized test. It’s heartbreaking when a child is misdiagnosed by a flawed test and forced into a remedial class or worst, retained in their current grade when the opinion of the parent, principal, teacher, and guidance councilor are ignored. “I wish the politicians in Tallahassee could see the long, withdrawn, defeated faces of children during testing season.”, said Kevin.

 

As a former business owner and holder of a MBA from the prestigious Crummer School of Business at Rollins College, Strang believes that public education is a function of government and that a corporation is a terrible organizational structure to run a public school. Why? In a company profit is always the bottom line and the child will always be an expense, in a public school, the child is the bottom line. Charter Schools do not do a better job of educating students and are diverting precious funding away from public schools while enriching a few greedy entrepenuers succling at the public feed troth. How horrified parents must have been this year when a local charter school closed its doors and literally threw their students to the curb with only six weeks left in the school year. Charter schools fail at a higher rate than public schools yet this hasn’t stopped the state from opening more of them.

 

The last thing that music teacher Kevin Strang wants is to be involved with politics. Unfortunately, politics has encroached on his classroom and is preventing him and other teachers from teaching creatively. Strang commented, “Last year I appeared on the local news to point out the disrespect shown to teachers with the VAM evaluation model and gave away my ‘A’ school bonus money to the Network for Public Education to protest the absurdity of merit pay. Last summer I traveled to Washington DC to picket with 600 other teachers in front of the Federal Department of Education. What I have learned through these experiences is that politicians have been corrupted by corporate money and really don’t care what school teachers think. From now on I’m going to direct my frustrations in a way that will make a difference. When everyday people like me get involved and support candidates that shares my views I’m making a difference. To affect change, we must elect pro-­public school candidates.”

Florida has a constitutional obligation to make public education a “paramount duty,” but Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature have other concerns.

 

Here is a report from Fund Education Now on the budget travesty.

 

To summarize, Florida is in the nation’s lowest quintile in funding. Yet scarce funds are diverted to the state’s booming (but ineffective) charter sector. And to add insult to injury, the Legislature will award a $10,000 bonus to “the best and the brightest” teachers, those with high SAT scores. Note that the bonus is not based on performance, but on SAT scores. This has the effect of rewarding TFA teachers just for showing up, not for their performance or their willingness to remain in teaching.

 

 

The Florida House and Senate finally agreed on an Education budget early Tuesday, June 16th at 12:30 am. The budget is expected to pass this Friday, June 19th following the required 72 hour cooling off period.

 

Despite promises of an historic funding increase, lawmakers fell short of making public education their “paramount duty” as required in Article IX, section 1 of the Florida Constitution. Funding per student will increase by a mere 3% or $200 less than the record 2007 high point. Instead of investing in public schools, the legislature spent an additional $300 million on personal projects and another $400 million on tax exemptions.

 

It should also be noted that PECO funds were split evenly between for profit charters and public schools, with each receiving $50 million for capital outlay. For years charters have received most of the PECO dollars and districts got nothing, making it difficult to plan for growth. Sharing this year’s PECO is a ploy to justify reviving legislation in 2016 forcing districts to share voter-approved millage dollars with for-profit charter chains that can use the funds to purchase, develop and maintain properties the public may never own.

 

There are many details buried in the Final Conference Report. Among them is $44 million to provide $10,000 “Best and Brightest” scholarships to up to 4,400 “highly effective” teachers who scored at or above the 80th percentile on either the SAT or ACT. It’s expected that many of the teachers who receive these scholarships will be from Teach for America. The House wanted $45 million for the program, while the Senate wanted only $5 million. This controversial, expensive program is based on the weak assumption that teachers who did well on either the SAT or ACT will automatically be better teachers. It’s disappointing that once again, legislators have based another funding scheme on a single test when there’s no evidence that high SAT or ACT scores are related to great teaching. It’s equally concerning that Florida teachers applying for the scholarship will be sharing their SAT and ACT test scores, providing a trove of new personal data that the state can use to further disaggregate and sort the profession.

 

At least $750 million dollars were set aside for just these projects and exemptions. That figure divided by 2.74 public school students would have meant an additional $274 per student, proving that Florida has the money, but political leaders refuse to invest in public education. What is behind their effort to keep Florida from climbing out of the nation’s lowest quintile in per pupil funding?

 

Open the link to see the numbers.

 

 

Matthew Pulver, writing at Salon.com, describes Jeb Bush’s dangerous belief in privatization and free markets in education.

It is not so much a belief as an ideology, one that is impervious to evidence. The many studies showing thAt privately managed charters do not get higher test scores than public schools do not register with Jeb. The numbers of charters that open with grand promises and soon lose their doors with big debts does not affect his belief system. He is a zealot for school choice, period.

Not even the failure of the charter school he founded in Liberty City, a poor black neighborhood, dampens his passion for charters and vouchers.

Writes Pulver:

“There’s nothing else as large in all of society. Not the military—nothing—is bigger.”

“That’s how Randy Best, Jeb Bush’s business partner, sees public education, as an untapped market where untold billions are to be made when kids and their families become educational customers. Touting his impressive assault on public education while Florida governor in yesterday’s announcement of his 2016 candidacy, Bush may become the loudest proponent yet of turning public education into a for-profit enterprise.

“Before getting into Bush’s record and financial interests in for-profit education, a full understanding of the dystopian horrors of for-profit, privatized education is necessary. Bush offers it with a handful of Milton Friedman-esque catchwords and focus-grouped slogans, and it may be that the proposals sound innocuous and vaguely innovative until the slightest scrutiny is applied to the ideas — at which point, it’s difficult to imagine much worse than public education turned into a for-profit market. Because the most basic and collectively understood truisms about markets, when applied to children, take on a horrifying character.”

It should be noted that Bush’s partner, Randy Best, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of Reading First, the ill-fated program enacted as part of NCLB but eventually discontinued because of sweetheart deals and conflicts of interest. Best, an entrepreneur, not an educator, created a commercial reading company (Voyager Learning), which he later sold for $360 million. Best admits that he can’t read, that he is acutely dyslexic. But he knows how to make money.

This is a great story from Florida, where legislators are test-crazy. Sammy Addo, a third-grader, did not take any of the required tests. His mother is a teacher and a strong opponent of high-stakes testing. Sammy took only the tests that his own teacher gave, based on what she taught in class. Sammy was promoted.

He says, in part:

My name is Sammy Addo. I am finishing third grade at Port Malabar Elementary this week. Next year I will be in fourth grade even though I did not take the Math or the Reading FSA.

I also did not take any of the three FAIR tests this year. I did not take either of the two BELLA tests, either of the two district math tests, the district science, or the district social studies tests. There are a lot of tests!

Even though I didn’t take those tests, I took all the tests that Mrs. Kelly gave me about things that she taught in our class. Those tests were how I proved what I learned. I did well and that is why I am going to fourth grade – my report card proves I did my job as a third grader.

Lots of people at school said I would have to stay back because I didn’t take the FSA, but I knew they were wrong.

I knew that my mom and dad wouldn’t tell me to do something that would be bad for me. They always say that one test on one day does not prove anything about me.

Read the link and watch the video. Sammy is one smart little guy!

Vicki Cobb, author of many children’s books about hands-on science, recently spoke at a children’s literature conference in Florida. She was disturbed to meet a new breed of teacher: teachers who had grown up in the era of high-stakes testing and scripted lessons. Too many thought that this is the way school was supposed to be, because it was all they had experienced.

 

She attributes the change to the takeover of education policy by non educators:

 

The business and government suits, who have hijacked educational policy in a top down approach, are not professional educators. Their knowledge of education comes primarily from what they themselves survived (endured?). Most do not know what good education looks like. Their idea of a well-ordered classroom is rows of desks with students quietly bent over a test. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost in the preparation of the next generation of Florida’s classroom teachers. Their professors tell me that they call them the “FCAT babies.” These young people are the pre-service teachers who have grown up in Florida’s test-taking climate. They have a “mother, may I?” permission-seeking approach to their own classroom behavior as teachers. They think test-taking and test prep is normal. They have seen nothing else. They are afraid to think for themselves.

 

As she posed questions to a group of students, she noticed that they answered quickly to her questions, not pausing to think. She sensed the test-prep culture, the reflexive search for the right answer. And that was not what she wanted to see.

 

She missed what she calls “the artist-teacher.” What is the “artist=teacher”? “An artist is someone who brings his or her own self-expression to an activity. An artist expresses personal, closely held views, thoughts, images and passions with such truth and clarity that others immediately connect with this revealed humanity. Thus the personal becomes the universal. Therein lies its power.”

 

Instead, teachers in Florida told her about scripted programs whose goal was to make sure that every teacher was on the same page at the same time teaching the same things. Scripted lessons are “turning teachers into automatons, when American education is crying out for the return of the artist-teacher. This is the teacher who takes one look at the textbooks and goes to the library to find much more powerful reading on the same subjects. This is the teacher who knows each student intimately and can write a poem for each one. This is the teacher who figures that good teaching trumps test prep and is not afraid for her kids’ test outcomes. This is the teacher who has the courage to justify what he’s doing and why he’s doing it to powers-that-be who are not fully equipped to evaluate creativity. It includes a lot of the “best teacher” awardees. This is the teacher who wants to spend more time creating powerful lessons and less time doing accountability paperwork. For the artist-teacher, teaching with autonomy, mastery and purpose is a subversive activity, much as art is subversive in a dictatorship.”

 

Our current educational culture, driven by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core standards, is rewarding robotic behavior and punishing artist-teachers. In the current climate, good teaching is a subversive activity.

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