Archives for category: Florida

If teachers had turned out to vote–teacher Justin Katz would have been in the runoff for the Palm Beach County school board. He lost by 54 votes of 15,400 votes cast.

Teacher Joshua Katz lost in Orange County by 67 votes out of 14,500 cast.

The moral of the story: if you want change, get out and vote!

Last week, the Lee County, Florida, school board voted 3-2 to remove the district from state testing. Some members want to reconsider. They have scheduled a meeting at a time when students, parents, and teachers are likely to be unavailable.

Bob Schaeffer of Fartest issued the following statement:

for immediate release Friday, August 29, 2014

As a 15-year resident of Lee County, I have closely followed the Lee School Board’s debate about standardized testing misuse and overuse, testified at recent public hearings on the topic, ready Attorney Martin’s memo and communicated directly with School Board members.

The Lee School Board has the right to reconsider its vote to “opt out” of state-mandated testing. But the decision to schedule a special meeting at 8:30am on a weekday — when working Lee County public school parents, district educators, and students cannot attend is outrageous. Those are the stakeholders most directly impacted by the decision.

This important session must be rescheduled to a date and time when more members of these constituencies can participate in the democratic process.

The massive public relations campaign promoting worst-case scenarios and hypothetical “doomsday” penalties from the state ignore the damage being done to Lee County children by continued compliance with standardized exam misuse and overuse mandates.

Precipitous action to reverse the Board’s vote is not justified. Lee students do not face any immediate risk. It would make better sense to see what other districts do (for example, Palm Beach is considering a resolution similar to Lee’s) and how the state responds.

Rather than rescind the August 27 vote, a more measured approach would be to establish a committee of administrators, educators, parents and assessment experts to assess testing policies and propose a measured action plan to implement the goal adopted by the Board.

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
4163 Dingman Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957
office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 696-0468

Does Palm Beach County, Florida, have the nerve to follow the example set by Lee County, Florida, which voted last week to opt the entire district out of state testing?

The Palm Beach County school board is weighing that decision, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

“Palm Beach County School Board members want to opt out of state-required testing, a controversial move that could jeopardize funding, athletics and students’ ability to graduate.

“They say testing has gotten out of control and creates too much pressure for students and teachers. After discussing the opt-out idea at a recent meeting, board members asked their lawyers for further study. They will discuss it again at a workshop in the next few weeks.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward,” School Board member Karen Brill said. “We must explore the consequences, but we cannot allow fear to hold us back.”

“Last week, the Lee County school board became the first district in the Florda to opt out, after hundreds of parents pushed them to do so.

“But Joe Follick, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Education, said opting out would create chaos. The tests help determine a school’s letter grade and can affect school enrollment, teacher pay and even the prices of homes.

“There’s no way to know how you’re doing if you don’t take a test every year,” he said.”

The state warned that it could suspend funding to punish the district.

Imagine, as John Lennon sang. Imagine if many districts opted out. Imagine if most districts opted out. Imagine if every district opted out. Maybe then the state bureaucrats would remember that they work for the public, not the other way around. Maybe then the legislators would listen to their constituents.

Imagine schools where children were tested every three or four years, at transition points, as in the world’s top-performing nations. Imagine schools where teachers wrote their own tests and used their professional judgment. Imagine schools that did not insist on giving tests to children in hospice care.


Valerie Strauss describes what happened in Lee County last night when the school board voted 3-2 to opt out of state testing, and she reviews what the state might do in response.

She writes:

“The pushback from Lee County — the ninth-largest district in the state and the 37th largest in the country, with more than 85,000 students – is striking in a state that has been at the forefront of standardized test-based “accountability” systems that use student test scores to evaluate not only kids but their teachers, principals, schools and districts. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush was a pioneer in test-based accountability and he continues to support it around the country, even amid a growing revolt around the country by parents and educators against test-based school reform, which has led to narrowed curriculum, obsessive test preparation and other negative consequences. Reformers have insisted that test scores are a legitimate high-stakes evaluation tool, even though assessment experts have repeatedly said otherwise.

“The Lee County school board voted to opt public schools out of all state-mandated testing. That includes standardized tests that will assess the new Sunshine State Standards, which were “adopted” after Florida pulled out of the Common Core and set forth new standards that were very similar. According to Armstrong, the boycott also includes state-mandated end-of-course exams, which are supposed to be given starting this year in every course that does not have a standardized test attached to it. The end-of-course exams, however, can be locally designed, do not have to be standardized computer or paper-and-pencil tests and can include a range of options.

“Asked what the state Department of Education could do to the county for taking this position, he said Florida could withhold state funds from the country and take other action, including removing a member from the board. A summary of possible consequences for the county, issued by the county’s school district attorney, included a number of other potential consequences, including the possibility that high school students could not complete state requirements to graduate. You can see the entire list here.”

Lee County, Florida, made history tonight. Despite threats from state officials that they might cut funding, the school board voted to opt the entire district out of state testing.

“The school board has voted to opt out the entire district from all statewide, standardized testing – effective immediately. The decision was received with overwhelming cheers and applause in the packed auditorium.

“The motion passed three to two, with board members Don Armstrong, Tom Scott and Mary Fischer in support of the vote.

“Board members Jeanne Dozier and Cathleen Morgan said they would prefer the district wait until an alternative plan is in place. Superintendent Nancy Graham warned the district that the abrupt decision could be harmful to students.

“There is an unmistakable emotion in the room tonight at the Lee school board meeting as the board deliberates a motion to opt out from all statewide tests.

“The standing-room only audience cheered and booed as more than 33 concerned citizens took the podium to speak their thoughts on the possibility of the district opting out of standardized tests. The audience was filled with protestors wearing red “#boycott shirts.”

“The flood of red represented various activist groups in Lee County, including Teaching Not Testing, Florida Citizens’ Alliance and the Libertarian Party of Florida.

“Because 33 people requested to give public comment tonight, each speaker only has one minute to voice their thoughts.

“Chairman Tom Scott reminded the audience that school board policy prohibits booing, cheering and clapping. The audience, at times, could not help itself as citizens gave impassioned one-minute speeches.

“Emotions came to a head when mother Lori Jenkins took the stand. She said her son has a terminal heart condition and was at home on a leave from school, yet the district still sent someone to proctor his exam at his home on his deathbed. The audience gasped with disgust.

“He’s terminal, he’s going to die, but he goes to school! He does the stupid remedial classes!” Jenkins yelled. The audio was cut off when she hit her one-minute limit. She continued to yell into the mic as the audience called for the board to let her speak. Jenkins received a standing ovation.

In Broward County, Florida, several new proposals for charter schools have been submitted by charter operators who previously closed down their schools. Despite their previous failure, the local board is likely to grant them a new charter because the board is not allowed to consider past performance. How crazy is that?

The story in the Sun-Sentinel by Karen Yi and Amy Shipley says:

“At least seven groups of applicants with ties to failed or floundering charter schools are seeking second chances and public money to open 18 more.

“Odds are, most will prevail.”

“School districts say that they can’t deny applicants solely because of past problems running charter schools. State laws tell them to evaluate what they see on paper — academic plans, budget proposals, student services — not previous school collapses or controversial professional histories.”

“District officials are currently reviewing applications for next year.

“Among those vying to open new charter schools, which are privately operated but publicly funded:

• A group that managed three new charter schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties that opened this year — and then shut down on the first day of school.

• The founder of two charter schools that failed in 2007 amid accusations of stolen money, shoddy record keeping and parent complaints, according to state and local records. A state investigation later chastised school directors for “virtually nonexistent” oversight, though prosecutors filed no criminal charges.

• An educator who was banned from New Jersey public schools, then consulted for two schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties that shuttered in 2013. The Palm Beach County school district closed one of the schools because of poor academics and financial difficulties; the Broward school chose to cease operations amid dwindling enrollment, according to school district reports.

“The Sun Sentinel also found three applications from leaders at two charter schools that were ordered to close this year for poor academics. Another three proposals came from a director at an existing charter school chided for its deteriorating financial condition. An entrepreneur who has consulted for a handful of failed schools is also listed on an application.

The authors previously published an exposé of the lack of oversight of charter schools in southern Florida.

Their stories raise important questions:

Does any elected official in the state of Florida care about responsible oversight of education?

Does any elected official in the state of Florida care about responsible oversight of taxpayer dollars?

If Florida’s elected officials want to improve educational opportunities, do they really believe that children are better served by allowing schools to be opened without regard to the past performance of those in charge?

This editorial from the Tampa Bay Times was published in March, but I just discovered it and wanted to share it. Unlike the editorial writers in many other cities, the Tampa Bay Times went beyond the press releases and self-serving statements of public officials.

They pointed out that the ratings had a margin of error of 50%. “That means it is useless. Still, the state intends to base half of a teacher’s performance evaluation, and future pay, on this absurdity.

“As Tampa Bay Times staff writers Lisa Gartner and Cara Fitzpatrick reported, the state’s flawed system rates some of the region’s most honored teachers as low performers. Hillsborough County teacher of the year Patrick Boyko, a social studies teacher at Jefferson High School, scored a minus 10.23 percent, with a margin of error above 50 percent. Translation? His students scored 10 percent worse on the FCAT than typical children across the state even though the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test measures students in reading, writing, mathematics and science, but not social studies. Of course, it mattered little since the margin of error larger than Boyko’s actual VAM score invalidated the whole process.”

“Even lawmakers had to acknowledge it wasn’t fair to judge teachers based on students’ performance in academic areas they do not teach. But how do you assign a numeral measurement to teachers who inspire and challenge children to read classic literature, explore scientific principles, create a piece of art, write a song, or run a 5K for the first time? In Florida, you would check to see how the kids did on their math FCAT. The system is so convoluted that one Hernando School District administrator correctly observed the highest rated teachers are likely the physical education staffers at A-rated schools.

“Like Florida’s controversial school grading system, these teacher evaluations, relying on the value-added model, are not credible and conflict with the school districts’ own performance standards. House Speaker Will Weatherford has said he wants to restore trust and integrity to the school grades, but he also champions a value-added concept for rating teachers — a model, he acknowledges, that is so complex he can’t explain it. Neither district administrators nor classroom teachers have confidence in this evaluation system. The Department of Education should toss its modeling and let districts devise an evaluation system for teachers that more accurately reflects the daily occurrences inside individual classrooms.”

If only other editorialists took the time to look at the VAM ratings, they too would conclude that this multimillion dollar exercise in number-crunching is Junk Science.

Rick Scott should not be the next governor of Florida. Nor should his leading challenger, Charlie Crist, who previously served as governor and who is a Republican turned Democrat. The candidate who is best on education issues is Nan Rich. The polls say she doesn’t have a chance. My friends in Florida say she’s the real deal. Better to throw away your vote on someone you believe in than to throw it away on someone you know will be bad news.

Two young teachers are running for school board, both named Katz.

Justin Katz is a ten-year teacher and the only educator running for school board in Palm Beach County. We ned people on our school boards with practical experience in the classroom and the school.

Joshua Katz is running for the school board in Orlando. Ever since I saw his TED talk, I have wished he might one day be the state superintendent. He really gets it. The Orlando school board needs him. reports that “African-American students in Miami-Dade County are more likely than their peers to be assigned rookie teachers – and their teachers are also more likely to be uncertified or unlicensed, according to a study by the National Council on Teacher Quality.” This inequity is a result of “the district’s decision to cluster Teach For America recruits in low-performing, high-poverty schools.”

“The strategy could backfire, the NCTQ concluded, because novice teachers generally struggle to produce strong learning results. And because many TFA teachers leave after two years, the schools must cope with “constant churn, where novice teachers are being placed and then leaving at high rates, creating a cycle of instability at these schools,” the report finds.”

NCTQ “recommends giving high-performing teachers incentives to move to the struggling schools and giving principals more flexibility in assigning staff, so the rookies aren’t automatically placed in the most challenging classrooms.”

For more:

In 2011, soon after his election, Florida’s new Governor Rick Scott took Michelle Rhee on a tour to show off what Florida was doing in education. He took her to visit a charter school in Miami/Dade County, a middle school called Florida International Academy.

“We have to make sure our system does exactly what you are doing here at Florida International Academy,” Scott said.

Sad news. The elementary school attached to Florida International Academy was just starting. It shared the same campus and administration. There, things went from bad to worse.

“The elementary school earned an F in its first year. It improved to a D in 2012, but earned failing grades in 2013 and 2014.

“State law requires the closure of any charter school that receives consecutive Fs.”

The state is closing the elementary school. The middle school that Scott considers a model for the state earned a C.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 108,983 other followers