Archives for category: Florida

A reader who works for a software company explains why it is so difficult to teach the standards effectively and so unfair to judge teachers by an impossible task: It takes 300 days to teach them, but there are only 180 days in a school year. Oops!



Here is the main problem with these tests. The FLDOE has absolutely no clue on how long it takes to teach each standard effectively. So the question is, “can a teacher teach the standards in the allotted time during the year?” As an educational software company we looked at the standards that a fifth grade teacher is required to teach effectively and stopped counting when we found it would take a minimum of at least 300 school days to teach the standards to an effective level. This does not include teaching a child how to type effectively if the state required typing on the writing portion of the test. The problem is, it’s impossible for an elementary school teacher or for that matter anybody including the testing companies to teach the standards that are on the test in a school year. In order for a teacher or school to score effectively on these tests you have to hope that the students that are coming into your classroom have at least some prior knowledge of the standards.



You have to understand that these tests are not built to test your child’s learning knowledge, they are built to evaluate the schools and teachers on their effectiveness on teaching the standards. Finally, ask yourself this question… “Who benefits if the teachers and schools FAIL teaching the standards effectively?” Teachers? Schools? Children? No benefit here!… Private Charter Schools? Testing Companies? Publishers? ED Tech Companies? Lobbyists and the list goes on and on and on…..

Peter Greene followed the live tweets from AP reporter Gary Fineout, who covered the trial of Florida’s third-grade retention policy.

The high point–or should I say the low point–came when a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education said the report cards were meaningless.

He writes:

Especially in the districts like Orange County that are actually pursuing this stupid policy, I hope that teachers stand up, look their superintendent in the eye and ask, “Do you agree with the state that the report cards I fill out for my students are meaningless? Do you agree with the state’s contention that the work I do in assessing students is junk and has no value or should carry no weight? Do you agree with the state that my professional judgment as a teacher is worthless?” And if the superintendent hides in the office (which would be wise because really, how could any self-respecting superintendent face their teaching staff after this bullshit) feel free to send them a copy of this.

But kudos to the state for turning what was merely an attack on children and the rights of their parents into a wholesale attack on the integrity and competence of all teachers in the state. Because if report cards are meaningless, it can only be because all teachers are incompetent boobs. Well played, Florida education department.

The hearing included other lowlights as well. Children and their parents came to testify and all of the district lawyers filed objections– because if you have to actually look at the children that you’re doing this to, the small humans that you are, as the judge put it, “taking hostage,” it’s a lot harder to justify your brain-dead, abusively stupid policy. You end up looking almost as bad as you should look. Ultimately the children and families did testify.

It was brilliant to ask students to testify. How could a judge not be moved to see a bright and articulate child explain how humiliating it is to be forced to repeat third grade just because they didn’t take the Big Standardized Test?

It is one thing to talk about a policy in the abstract, it is quite another to see the children whom it affects.

Read Peter’s account of the testimony from the children, parents and even grandparents.

Peter writes:

The judge seems sympathetic and may rule within a week. Meanwhile, state and district school leaders in Florida don’t know what the hell they’re doing. One district said the FSA is mandatory; another said it isn’t. The state department doesn’t know what its regulations say. And all of these people are going to grind up some nine-year-olds just to prove that they are too the bosses of everyone in Florida and everyone must comply or else.

Florida has a harsh third grade retention policy. Students who don’t pass the third-grade state test must repeat the grade.

A few days ago, more than a dozen parents filed suit against the state for the arbitrary and capricious way this state was implemented in counties across the state. The parents opted their children out of the testing to protest the law.

“There is no rational governmental interest served by the defendants arbitrary and capricious decision to retain plaintiffs’ children because they opted out of standardized tests, but otherwise earned passing grades on their report cards and had no reading deficiencies,” the lawsuit reads.

The law is interpreted differently in different counties.

One Orange County plaintiff had a daughter who was on the honor roll, the suit said, but “is being retained in the third grade because of no FSA scores and because her teacher was not informed of the criteria for developing a student portfolio during the school year.”

In Sarasota County, one of the parents who is suing kept her child out of the state testing in third grade. The district said he had to repeat the grade, even though his work all year had been satisfactory.

However, the district changed course and decided to let the child go on to fourth grade with his peers, rather than subject him to punishment for opting out of the test.

At last, an article in the mainstream media that tries to understand why teachers are troubled! It’s not the New York Times or the Washington Post, but still…it’s in print.

Roger Williams of the Fort Meyers, Florida, Weekly titled “Troubled Teachers.” He dwells at length on the stresses that have changed the nature of teaching, not for the better.

Williams interviews many teachers, who tell him what is happening in their classrooms.

“At least one disturbing conclusion can be drawn from what they tell us: Teachers now face what is arguably the most difficult and demanding stampede of challenges in the contemporary history of public education. And that’s not good for students who face, in turn, a range of contemporary social challenges they might not have experienced en masse in previous generations.

“For teachers, there is less time than ever before to teach, they say. There is data crunching and lack of trust and constant state-mandated testing of stressed students. Teacher evaluations and one-year contracts are based on the success of students as measured in tests created by people who don’t teach. There is pay that will not cover the costs of education and family life.

“In the face of all this, what makes a great teacher, we asked them — and conversely, what makes it difficult to be a great teacher? Why are so many leaving a profession so essential to our futures?

“Teachers are ill-prepared for the demands of the current system. So it’s not just a matter of how to make better teachers. It’s also how teachers are made to work within their system now,” says Sandy Stenoff, co-founder of The Opt Out Florida Network, a grass-roots organization based in Orlando that advocates a variety of assessments instead of a single, state-mandated test.

“If you look at other professions, the ‘masters’ all have one thing in common,” she adds: “Excellent mentorship — an expert under whom they really trained, learned the best ‘techniques.’ Doctors, lawyers, even craftsmen.

“We don’t do that in education anymore. It would help to reduce attrition, too. But expert teachers are leaving. They can’t teach the way they know teaching works best.”

Never before have state and federal governments imposed their will so forcefully in every public school classroom. Their often I’ll-advised intrusions aim for standardization, making teachers and students alike unhappy.

Williams writes:

“If the system has massive weaknesses right now, it also has very good people, it seems — people who advocate passionately, even when they leave.

“Can all this be changed? Yes,” says Bruce Linser, a musical theater teacher and outgoing dean of dramatic arts at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.

“I think we need fewer administrators and more teachers. We need fewer people telling us how to do our jobs, and more people who know how to do this, and want and love to do this, being allowed to do this. Without all the strings and standardization. I’m not arguing against oversight, I think that’s important. There are things that need to be taught and learned and I totally agree with that.”

“But all the extra duties of teachers — the extra programs and management requirements — inhibit the teaching they’re called to do.”

Low pay and lack of respect are part of the reason for teacher discontent. Florida ranks 39th in the nation in teacher pay, and many teachers must work a second job to make ends meet.

Very likely, one of the reasons that hedge fund managers and billionaires look down on teachers is because they are paid so little. Instead of recognizing that teachers sacrifice financial security for being in a career that makes a difference, the 1% simply don’t understand why people choose to teach and feel justified in trying to redesign education and teachers’ working conditions.

Marion Brady, retired educator, writes here about a mother who is certain that her son–then in third grade–attempted to kill himself after failing the Florida state tests by one point, twice. After he failed the second time, she knew he was morose. She called him for dinner, and he didn’t answer. She knocked on his door: no response
Nose. She pushed in and found him hanging by a belt, blue in the face. A third grader.

In a personal note, Marion told me that the article garnered many hostile comments when it was published at Readers simply refused to believe the story was true.

Brady writes:

“If failing to reach the pass-fail cut score by just one point wasn’t within every standardized test’s margin of error; if research hadn’t established that for the young, retention in grade is as traumatic as fear of going blind or of a parent dying; if standardized tests provided timely, useful feedback that helped teachers decide what to do next; if billions of dollars that America’s chronically underfunded public schools need weren’t being diverted to the standardized testing industry and charter promotion; if a generation of test-and-punish schooling had moved the performance needle even a little; if today’s sneaky, corporately driven education “reform” effort wasn’t driven by blind faith in market ideology and an attempt to privatize public schooling; if test manufacturers didn’t publish guidelines for dealing with vomiting, pants-wetting and other evidences of test-taker trauma; if the Finns hadn’t demonstrated conclusively that fear-free schools, cooperation rather than competition, free play, a recess every hour in elementary school, and that letting educators alone could produce world-class test-takers—if, if, if—then I might cut business leaders and politicians responsible for the America’s current education train wreck a little slack.

“But all of the above are demonstrably true. And yet we keep subjecting children to the same dangerous nonsense, year after year.”

A few years back, I spoke at the national convention of school psychologists. I listened as the president of the association spoke. He said that the three greatest fears of children are:

1) the death of a parent;

2) going blind;

3) failing a grade and being left behind.

Marion Brady is right. The testing regime is insane. It is child abuse.

The FBI raided a charter school for at-risk youth in Florida, carrying away several boxes of whatever they were seeking.

The FBI has raided many charter schools in the Midwest but their investigations have remained secret.

No state is more in need of advocates for children and public schools in its legislature than Florida.

The Florida legislature at present is in the pockets or the hands (or both) of the privatization lobby. It enacts bill after bill to outsource its schools to private companies, many operating for profit. It pours millions into failing charter schools and failing voucher schools. It authorizes crooked operators and funds charters that never open. It enacts legislation that demoralizes and harms its teachers. Hurting teachers hurts children.

It is time for a change.

That is why the NPE Action Fund proudly endorses Rick Roach, a champion for public schools, who is running for a seat in the Florida State Senate.

If you live in District 13, please help Rick get elected. If you don’t, consider sending him a contribution.

Rick is the school board member in Orange County who took the state standardized test and wrote about it.

“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….

“It might be argued that I’ve been out of school too long, that if I’d actually been in the 10th grade prior to taking the test, the material would have been fresh. But doesn’t that miss the point? A test that can determine a student’s future life chances should surely relate in some practical way to the requirements of life. I can’t see how that could possibly be true of the test I took.”

Despite the best efforts of the Florida legislature to give every possible financial and regulatory break to charter school operators, the charter industry is having many problems.

Charters in Duval County are not doing well at all. The legislators and former Governor Jeb Bush have promised again and again that the move to private control would unleash a new era of excellence and innovation, but it hasn’t happened.

Duval’s charter schools performed worse than the district’s public schools on state tests.

Recently released results from the annual Florida Standards Assessments and from state end-of-course exams reveal that in 17 out of 22 tests on reading, math, science, history and civics, charter schools averaged fewer students passing the tests than those in district schools.

In some tests and subjects, far fewer. The biggest differences were in science.

Nearly three out of four Duval students taking biology last year passed its end-of-course exam, compared to less than half, 48.4 percent, of charter school students. Fifty-two percent of Duval’s fifth-graders passed that grade’s science test, compared to 41 percent of their charter school peers.

In every tested grade except sixth, Duval students’ English language arts passing rates and math passing rates exceeded charters.’

“You can see that our schools are improving at a faster clip,” said Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

There were exceptions, where charters decisively outperformed district schools.

In sixth grade, 48 percent of charter school students passed math, compared to nearly 40 percent at district schools.

In algebra 1, charter schools passed 53 percent of students, 5 percentage points more than the district’s 48 percent. In Florida, high school students need to pass algebra 1 to graduate.

Also, in geometry, the difference between charter and district schools was about 19 percentage points; nearly 56 percent of charter school students passed compared to 37 percent of district students.

(The comparisons are estimates, because Florida obscures scores in grades with few students to protect their identities. That affects charter schools more than district school data.)

Charter schools are independently operated schools that compete with the district for students as well as state and federal tax dollars. Charter school students take the same tests as students in traditional public schools.

Charter advocates will leap to celebrate the grades and subjects where charters got higher scores than public schools, but it should be remembered that charters (unlike public schools) are free to choose the students they want and free to throw out the students they don’t want. They should be superior across the board, but they are not.

This is one of the few articles I have read that acknowledges that charters “compete with the district for students as well as state and federal tax dollars.” Many people do not realize that charters–even low-performing charters–drain money from the public schools.

An insider in the Florida Department of Education leaked confidential information to this blog.

She writes:

The Florida Department of Education requires that 3rd grade students be promoted to fourth grade if they score Level 1 on the state reading test score or at least at the 45th percentile on the SAT 10. Or they may present a portfolio showing they meet grade level standards. How did the Florida Department come up with the score at the same 45th percentile as the bar? How did they set the bar? Have they mislead Floridians?

Attached is a study that shows that the Florida Department of Education set a standard above Level 2 to promote students:

“In order to promote a student from grade 3 to grade 4, the student should be at least in FCAT reading achievement level 2 or above. In other words, the student’s FCAT-SSS scale score should be higher than 258. The concordance table provides an equivalent Stanford 10 scale score that is 591, or the 25th national percentile on Stanford 10.”

See the report here.

Last month, a grand jury in Florida indicted employees of Newpoint Education Partners and three other companies for grand theft, money laundering, and other crimes. The company, started by former employees of the White Hat management company in Ohio, lost the charters for several schools that it was running where the alleged crimes occurred.

Now, two more charter schools are cutting their ties with Newport, following an investigation by a local TV news station.

One week after an 8 on Your Side investigation uncovered $235,000 in bogus school loans, two charter schools funded with state tax dollars in Jacksonville have decided to sever ties with a for-profit management company we’ve been investigating for months because of the financial chaos it helped create in Pinellas charter schools.

The Jacksonville charter school loans by Newpoint Education Partners which are cited in a 2015 financial audit do not exist, something that caught even the treasurer of San Jose Preparatory High School and Academy by surprise after 8 on Your Side uncovered and reported it.

Are there any law enforcement officials in Jacksonville, or is it left to the media to investigate criminal activity?