Archives for category: Florida

Proponents of school choice frequently claim that competition with charters (and vouchers) will cause public schools to improve as they fight for “customers.” That is the way it works in the business world, so it should work in education, so they say.

 

Here is a comment by a Florida teacher who explains what happens in the real world:

 

As a public school teacher, I am enraged at our situation in Florida. Just this year we lost more than 300 students to a local charter chain (the nearby Academica). Because of this they relocated 16 teachers, closed the third floor, and the library is closed for the students with no librarian. I called around to neighboring schools and the situation is just as bad at other schools. Now I am stuck in a room of 40 or so students in which 20% barely speak english and I have major behavioral problems that charters don’t have to deal with. How much longer can we stand for this? Has the democratic party abandoned its union interests? It is time for real “Systemic Reform” that works.

 

Read more about the for-profit Academica charter chain here, in a post by Jersey Jazzman.

The Néw Yorker has a long article about Jeb Bush’s passionate interest in reforming public education by high-stakes testing, report cards, and privatization. Since his own children attend private schools, they are not affected by his grand redesign of public education.

To boil down his approach, regular public schools get loaded down with mandates and regulations. Charter schools are free of mandates and regulations, and many are run for profit. As public schools are squeezed by the competition with charters, they get larger classes and fewer programs. Meanwhile, Bush’s friends and allies get very rich.

It is a thorough story about Jeb Bush’s mission to turn public education into an industry.. One conclusion: If he were elected President, it would be the end of public education as we have known it for more than 150 years.

Florida has more than 600 charter schools. It has a significant number of for-profit charter schools that make money on management fees and paying rent to their own corporations. Many charter schools have failed and closed. But charter schools fund candidates for the state legislature who support the expansion of charter schools, and some of their champions hold key positions in the state legislature.

 

Governor Rick Scott announced that he wants $100 million for construction and maintenance of charter schools. He didn’t mention whether he would propose any funding for construction or maintenance of public schools. At his side in Miami was the rapper Pitbull, famous for his misogynistic lyrics. The announcement was made at the charter school founded by Pitbull, called the Sports Leadership and Management Academy (SLAM). It is managed by the politically powerful Academica charter chain.

 

It is all about politics, money, and power. Not kids or education. Politics, money, and power.

Karen Yi reports in Florida’s Sun-Sentinel that the new Common Core tests will be harder and longer than the FCAT, and online. Expect the failure rate to increase. This is Jeb Bush’s hope, so parents will turn against public schools and seek charters or vouchers.

State’s new student tests will be longer, tougher

By Karen Yi Sun Sentinel

Florida students will take a new standardized state test this spring that’ll be more rigorous, slightly longer and mostly online.

These high-stakes exams, tied to tougher Common Core education standards, will replace the math, reading and writing portions of the FCAT. Schools are preparing now but say it is a big question mark how their students will perform — especially since the state has not come up with grading standards.

Here are some answers to commonly-asked questions about these new tests, which eventually will help determine school grades, teacher evaluations and pay.

Why did we get new standardized tests?

The tests, like the new K-12 education standards, focus on a deeper understanding of how things work and critical thinking skills. State officials say they are raising the bar so students are college and career ready.

What will be tested?

The Florida Standards Assessment will test students in grades 3-11 on math and language arts starting in March. The series of tests will also include a writing portion and end-of-course exams in Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry.

How is the test different from the FCAT?

The Florida Standards Assessment will test more students and require more computer-based exams.

Eleventh-graders will now have to take the reading portion of the test that includes a writing component. Before, only students up to the 10th grade were tested…

Those in grades 5-11 will take the tests on computers. Third- and fourth- graders and students taking the writing portion in grades 5-7 will stick to traditional paper and pencil tests.

The tests will be longer. The writing component will last 90 minutes, 30 minutes longer than FCAT. The reading and math portions will also be 20-40 minutes longer, depending on the grade level.

How will the questions be different?

Since most of the tests will be online, many of the questions will be interactive. That means fewer traditional multiple choice questions. The reading section includes a portion where students will listen to podcasts and answer questions. In math, students will be required to solve problems using basic computer skills such as dragging and dropping or sorting answers.

The writing component will no longer ask students to simply respond to a specific prompt. Students will read passages and be asked to compare and contrast, draw inferences and answer questions based on the text.

When will the tests start?

The writing portion will begin the first week of March. Testing will run through mid-May, with schools given about a three-week window to complete testing in each subject. The math, reading and writing portions take five days to complete….

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As Congress debates whether to continue the status quo of annual high-stakes testing, the leading figures of the Opt Out Movement are convening a national meeting in Broward County January 16-18.

 

Join them if you can.

 

Standing Up For Action Conference Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. – Administrators of the public education advocacy group UNITED OPT OUT NATIONAL are hosting a conference at the Broward Convention Center January 16th – 18th. Their fourth annual event, taking place on the second floor of the convention center in Palm Room A, is open to the public. Three-day attendees are asked to register in advance at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/united-opt-out-national-standing-up-for-action-tickets-13247047275 . One day attendees are asked to RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/1507022726224662/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming and register upon arrival.

 

Standing Up For Action is a working session for local and national activists, concerned parents, educators, students and all who have a general interest in equitable and quality public education. Attendees will leave equipped with plans of action to refuse, resist, and disrupt corporate and for-profit education reforms that have destroyed the democratic voice in public education decision making and have forced the implementation of policies damaging to students, educators, and communities.

 

Standing UP For Action will include keynote speakers, Q/A panels, and networking gatherings. Working groups, speakers, and panelists will focus on these topics: media, organized labor, parent/citizen rights, human rights, student empowerment, and civil disobedience. Speakers, panelists, and group leaders include author and educator Sam Anderson, Living in Dialogue blogger and author Anthony Cody, Chicago Teachers Union activist Michelle Gunderson, author and University of Southern California Professor Stephen Krashen, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni, Holyoke, Ma. Teachers Association President Gus Morales, HispanEduca President Lourdes Perez, former Orange County School Board member and Florida state Senate candidate Rick Roach, author and University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth Professor Ricardo Rosa, FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer, author and City University of New York Professor Ira Shor, and youth representatives from Dream Defenders, Baltimore Youth Dreamers, and Detroit BAMN.

 

 

Sorry I missed this great post when it came out in November. Jersey Jazzman, one of the nation’s best education bloggers, foretells the handover of the York City public schools to a for-profit charter chain and excoriates the state officials who are permitting this travesty to happen.

 

He digs into the stats on York City to show that it is performing about where you would expect given the socioeconomic disadvantage of its students. York City, he says, needs help, more resources, not a for-profit charter chain to siphon money out of its budget.

 

He writes:

 

Let’s recap:

Tom Corbett abdicated his responsibilities to the children of York and defunded their schools.
He sent in his personal hack to force the district to turn those schools over to a private, for-profit corporation through a shell non-profit.
The hack — as if he were a made man — told the district if they didn’t take his offer, he’d take over.
No one knows how much money the charter company is going to make on this deal.
Trust me, folks, we’re just getting started…

 

Meckley believes this plan is warranted because York’s schools aren’t performing up to snuff. But the truth is that they are exactly where we’d expect them to be, given the demographics of the city.

 

Do you want to see a photo of Jon Hage’s gorgeous yacht? Look here. He is the CEO of Charter Schools USA. The yacht was up for sale recently. He lives well. His business is very profitable with taxpayer dollars.

 

Jersey Jazzman asks:

 

And what kind of performance have the good people of Florida received for all of that money?

 
The chain was considered high-performing until this year. And on Tuesday the Orange School Board voted 7-0 to deny its applications for three new campuses.

 
Because charters are publicly funded per pupil, Charter Schools USA would receive about $27 million a year to run the three schools at capacity if approved.

 
“Their performance in Orange County is abysmally poor,” board Chairman Bill Sublette said of the Renaissance schools. “They’re underperforming the schools in the area that they’re drawing from. How can we look taxpayers in the eye and approve them?”
But Jonathan Hage, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA, said he is proud of all of the company’s schools, including Chickasaw.

 
“We do an excellent job over time, even with the lowest-performing students,” he said. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to turn those scores around in a year.” [emphasis mine]

 
JJ: I guess David Meckley knows better than the entire Orange School Board. Maybe CSUSA’s history in Indiana convinced him:

 
“The four takeover schools in Indianapolis lost huge numbers of students — between 35 and 60 percent at each school — between the start of classes in 2011 and when the takeover operators took over in 2012. Schools are mostly funded on the basis of their enrollment, so the departures came at a steep cost for the private operators.
On top of that, the takeover schools saw their share of a pot of federal funds for low-performing schools that is controlled by the state shrink as more state schools became eligible to claim that money. Tindley lost $212,000, and Charter Schools USA’s three schools lost more than $601,110 because of across-the-board reductions.
Together, the cuts have left takeover operators with much higher costs than they anticipated.
Sherry Hage, CSUSA’s chief academic officer, says the operator is planning to stick with its schools despite the costs. But for some, the price tag is proving too high. Earlier this month, Tindley shocked state education officials by threatening to pull out of Arlington shortly after the start of the school year unless the nonprofit could get $2.4 million in additional aid.”

 
– See more at: http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/11/york-pa-and-death-of-public-education.html#sthash.wCR7cUKg.dpuf

 

 

 

 

 

 

I posted earlier today about a Florida newspaper editor who changed his mind after reading my book, talking to a teacher about Common Core, and learning about the kindergarten teacher who refused to give her children the state test.

This is a letter from Kim Cook, the teacher who spoke to Nathan Crabbe, the editor of the Gainesville Sun, about Common Core:

“I’m from Gainesville, and I am the teacher that sat down with Mr. Crabbe to discuss Common Core and school “reform.” Two out of our three elected officials are in Jeb Bush’s back pocket and won’t engage in meaningful dialog regarding public education. A colleague and I visited our state senator last April. He was rude and condescending and more interested in the lobbyists in his office than he was in speaking to two constituents. Trying to get through to him and one of our representatives is like talking to a brick wall.

There is one representative for my district who is pro-public education, and he does an amazing job of advocating for it; however, he has many other issues on his plate. As Mr. Crabbe said (and I’m paraphrasing), teachers’ voices resonate, so I will continue to speak out.”

This is a very encouraging editorial that appeared in the Gainesville (Florida) Sun.

 

A “secret Santa” sent a copy of “Reign of Error” to Nathan Crabbe, the editorial page editor. He says he had been going along with the increase in standardized testing and the expansion of charter schools and vouchers, but then he took another look. He noticed the protest of kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles, who refused to give her students a standardized test. He paid attention when Sue Legg of the League of Women Voters explained the LWV report on the lack of accountability of unregulated charter schools. He had a cup of coffee with a local elementary school teacher who showed him why she objects to the Common Core.

 

Not many people in public life listen with an open mind and weigh the evidence. Nathan Crabbe is listening, watching, and thinking. All rare activities these days, practiced only by the best of people.

NBC in Miami noticed that a large number of charter schools were opening and closing. Forty-nine charter schools have closed in South Florida in the past five years, with more than 40% owing money to the state. The children who enrolled in these schools were dropped with little notice and had to scramble to find a new school.

In Broward County alone, 12 charters have closed, owing $1 million in taxpayer funds unaccounted for.

Florida has more than 600 charter schools. 246 have closed in the last five years. They come, they go, the kids are left behind.

The Sun-Sentinel published an editorial calling on Florida’s courts to review the state’s rapidly growing voucher program, which now enrolls 69,000 students. Despite the fact that the state constitution bans spending public funds on religious schools, either “directly or indirectly,” most of the state’s voucher students attend religious schools. In 2012, the voters of Florida defeated a constitutional amendment that would have deleted the language banning the funding of religious schools. The vote was not close: the proposal failed by a margin of 58-42.

 

The voucher program started in 2002-03 with a limit of $50 million, targeting poor students. This year, the limit on the voucher program is $358 million. With a 25% increase allowed every year, the program may expend $904 million by 2018-19. It is no longer limited to poor students, but is available to families near the state’s median income of $62,000 for a family of four.

 

So how in the world is it legal or constitutional to pay for students to attend religious schools in a state explicitly prohibits expending public money for religious schools?

 

The editorial says:

 

The lawsuit rests on two points. The Florida Constitution bans the spending of public money “directly or indirectly” on religious schools. Diversion of corporate taxes owed to the state through a nonprofit called Step Up for Students and given to parents as vouchers, the plaintiffs argue, does not get around the constitutional ban.

 

Also, the Constitution requires that the state provide a “uniform” system of public schools. Florida Education Association Vice President Joanne McCall calls the voucher program a “parallel” system.” Voucher schools don’t have to give the FCAT or any of the other punitive tests that have so angered parents across the state. Voucher schools must give only a national achievement test.

 

John Kirtley, chairman of “Step Up for Students,” which is authorized to administer the voucher program, actively lobbies for voucher expansion (Step Up for Students receives many millions from the legislature for its role). And its leaders in turn give money to legislators to protect and expand the program.

 

The Sun-Sentinel writes:

 

Kirtley and his wife gave roughly $524,000 in the last election cycle, almost all of it to Republicans. Kirtley also is chairman of the Florida Federation for Children, which successfully targeted voucher critics with roughly $1.3 million in campaign contributions.

 

Voucher supporters portray critics as hostile to school choice for minorities. Whatever compelling anecdotes supporters use, however, there is no compelling evidence the program is succeeding. Example: If minorities are benefiting, why do black students score 20 points lower than white students on those tests?

 

No state has a bigger voucher system. Last year, Florida spent $286 million on just 2.7 percent of all students. Iowa spent $13.5 million on 2.6 percent of its students.

 

Florida is on the way to spending $1 billion on a program with questionable accountability that could be the start of an attempt to privatize public education.

 

Legal review of the voucher program is long overdue.

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