Archives for category: Florida

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.


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.



This comment arrived in response to a Florida reader’s complaint:


I work at WFSU in Tallahassee and your comments that PBS has partnered with Jeb Bush’s Foundation just floored me. Where did you get that idea and in what way do you mean? I know for us we work hard to help local teachers have access to resources whether PBS Learning Media and its repository of content or how to use our children’s programs with teachers and parents so that children are ready for school. This hatred of PBS just shocks me knowing how hard we work to support educators. Yes we fight hard for our funding that is constantly threatened. Two years ago all of our funding was cut in FL and we fought back and it was put back in the budget but not after a lot of hard work including a statewide reading research project proved our effectiveness. If the blog isn’t posting ideas that appeal to you, please make suggestions offering other topics. Kim Kelling, director of content and engagement at WFSU.

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….


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 . One day attendees are asked to RSVP at 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.




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