Archives for category: Florida

Billy Townsend zeroes in on Lakeland, Florida’s mayoral campaign to illustrate how far off the rails the Republican Party has gone. The Republican candidate is promoting an extremist agenda that shows no concern for people who don’t agree with her. She is a Trumper through and through. Townsend sees her as symbolic of the loss of citizenship as a unifying principle.

She is running to represent people who agree with her. She reflects the bitter partisanship that is tearing the country apart.

He writes:

Saga Stevin will not represent the people who don’t believe the same way she does. She can’t — or won’t — even see them. They exist outside her frame of citizenship.

In a debate with the incumbent mayor, Stevin states bluntly:

“I don’t believe in equity,” she says to start the answer and then she ends it like this: “Lakeland’s a lovely mix of people. And I think we’re people who have American values that want a traditional family kind of lifestyle, conservative views…”

Shrinking Lakeland’s frame of citizenship to conform to her frame is the entire reason she’s running. Not representing the people who think and believe differently is the entire point of her campaign.

When you read Townsend’s post, you will worry about the fate of our democracy.

The Boston Globe recently wrote about Governor Ron DeSantis’ choice for Florida’s Surgeon General.

He is Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a 2008 graduate of Harvard Medical school, who also earned a doctorate from Harvard in health policy.

The Globe wrote:

Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, Florida’s new surgeon general, made waves Wednesday in the Sunshine State, inking new guidelines allowing parents to decide whether their kids should quarantine or stay in school if they’re asymptomatic following exposure to COVID-19, and he’s also spoken critically about the public health focus on vaccines as a key tool for battling the pandemic

He wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal in September 2020 criticizing lockdowns and quarantines.

He wrote in that column, which appeared long before the emergence of the worrisome Delta variant, that many states had “weathered post-shutdown outbreaks and case counts are falling,” and that policies “forged in fear and panic have wrought tremendous damage in exchange for benefits that were attainable at a much lower cost.”

Ladapo also railed in the piece against what he said were onerous quarantine guidelines for students.

“The CDC’s quarantine guidelines for healthy, low-risk students should be revisited in light of the outsize effect quarantines have on their educational experience—and the possibility of perpetual quarantining for exposed students if testing is performed frequently,” he wrote.

After Dr. Lapado’s appointment, he moved swiftly to reduce the state’s already lax guidelines for students.

Ladapo eliminated previous mandates requiring students to quarantine for at least four days off campus if they’ve been exposed to the virus. Under the new guidelines, students who have been exposed can continue going to campus, “without restrictions or disparate treatment,” if they’re asymptomatic, They can also quarantine, but no longer than seven days, as long as they don’t get sick.

As in previous guidelines, schools can require masks as long as students can opt out, though the new rules add language that opting out is “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion.”

Dr. Lapado was one of three doctors who signed the so-called Great Barrington Declaration, which held that wearing masks was not necessary, that lockdowns are ineffective, “and that allowing young and healthy people to get infected should be expected, as long as the vulnerable are protected.”

Other medical and public health experts are appalled by his views.

That sort of messaging has distressed many in public health, including Dr. Nida Qadir, an associate professor of medicine and associate director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Ladapo taught previously at UCLA as well.

“He’s expressed a lot of strange views since the beginning of the pandemic,” Qadir tweeted. “I don’t know him personally, but it’s been especially shocking considering the state LA was in this past winter. Can’t say I’m not happy he’s leaving CA but sorry for the people of FL.”

CNN wrote about Dr. Lapado:

Ladapo has expressed skepticism of Covid-19 health measures, including mask-wearing and vaccinations. He’s also among a group of doctors who have supported unproven and disproved therapies, including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine….

He praises the natural immunity that people acquire when they are infected with COVID.

“You don’t need to go to medical school to look at the data and see that there’s really great protection” offered by getting infected with and recovering from Covid-19, Ladapo said. “There’s tremendous data that supports the fact that natural immunity protects people from getting very ill, also protects people from being infected again. So that’s what it is, and that’s great.”

CNN wrote about Dr. Lapado after a Florida man wrote him a letter saying that he was right about natural immunity. A family member had COVID and now has immunity to all diseases because he died.

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post uses her awesome journalistic skills to try to figure out what Governor Ron DeSantis means when he says he intends to “end standardized testing.” I was confused by his statement, confused by his explanation, and remain uncertain about what he intends to do. Neither he nor the State Superintendent Richard Corcoran are educators. One suspects that they have political motives. (See here for full article.)

Strauss writes:

Strange things happen routinely in Florida — but nobody saw this one coming: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced this week that he is overhauling Florida’s standardized testing regimen in a way that drew praise from some chronic critics and pointed questions from Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor who pioneered the system DeSantis says he is dumping.

The announcement sparked a slew of striking headlines, some of which said that DeSantis was ending (a) standardized testing, (b) high-stakes testing or (c) the dreaded springtime assessment season that has demoralized teachers and students for years.

In fact, he isn’t ending standardized testing, he isn’t ending high-stakes testing, and testing in the spring isn’t disappearing.

There’s plenty we don’t know about the new testing system: The governor offered few details, and the Florida Education Department did not provide any when asked. But it is the first time that a state has announced it is setting up a new accountability testing paradigm, and it could spur other states to make a similar change to eliminate highly unpopular assessment programs.

Here’s what DeSantis said he is doing:

The governor announced Tuesday that he would ask the Republican-led legislature (which will do pretty much anything he wants) to end the Florida State Assessment (FSA) system, which tests students in reading and math and other subjects at the end of each school year.

Those tests — and others like them used in every state for years — are given at the end of each academic year, virtually always after significant test prep that eats up days of instructional time. Scores are not available until after the school year ends, and teachers don’t know which questions students got wrong.

The new Florida Assessment of Student Thinking, DeSantis said, will give three short exams to monitor student progress in fall, winter and spring, giving teachers more time to teach as well as real-time data to target instruction — and will cost less money. He said the exams would be individualized, which would mean online adaptive tests that some Florida districts already use for progress monitoring.


“We will continue to set high standards, but we also have to recognize it is the year 2021 and the FSA is, quite frankly, outdated,” DeSantis said. “There will be 75 percent less time for testing, which will mean more time for learning.”


Many educators like progress monitoring for the reasons the governor enunciated: that it helps them measure growth in their students and adapt instruction in real time. But under the new plan, the state will decide which assessments are used, taking that choice away from districts and teachers.

Exactly which assessments will be used remains to be seen, as does the answer to these questions:

How will three short tests a year substitute for math and English and end-of-course subject exams that make up the current FSA suite of assessments?

Will there be three short tests for each subject?

Will the end-of-course exams in subjects other than math and English remain as they are now?

Another key issue: Was DeSantis saying that he was giving up the high stakes currently attached to test scores?

On the same day of the governor’s announcement, the Florida Education Department issued two lists — one of the things that are wrong with the FSA, and another of things that are good about the system to be created.

One item on the FSA-is-bad list is this: “high stakes test.” Student FSA scores are used for things that include deciding whether to allow a third-grade student move to fourth grade or a high school senior to graduate, assigning grades to schools and states on how well they are doing, giving bonuses to teachers, and determining eligibility for vouchers.

Assessment experts have long said that the exams are not intended to be used in that way, but states have used them in that way anyway.

The Education Department’s list praising the new tests doesn’t mention anything about high stakes. So is DeSantis really ending not only the FSA tests but also the high stakes attached to them? He was asked about this Tuesday when the announcement was made, and he let Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran respond.

No, Corcoran said, the high stakes linked to the current end-of-the-year tests would not go away.

They would remain unchanged.

If the stakes aren’t going away, that means the spring test will provide results used for high-stakes purposes. It is also possible that the other two exams could have stakes attached to them too. Some teachers are always concerned that teachers could be prepping kids for three standardized tests a year instead of one.

“I suspect the time needed for state tests will be about the same: three hours for each subject,” said veteran teacher Gregory Sampson. “With high stakes continuing to be attached, there could be even more test prep as districts have three tests to be ready for instead of one. Districts will probably do pre-progress monitoring tests to anticipate what their results will be.”

The Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was founded by Bush, who pioneered and has continued to champion the high-stakes standardized testing model used across the country, raised similar concerns (the irony can’t be overstated here). After praising DeSantis for moving “statewide assessments to an online and adaptive testing approach,” a foundation release asked:

• Does changing the nature of teacher-driven progress-monitoring tools create high-stakes stressors on students three times a year?

• Will educators be required to teach on a schedule set by Tallahassee to be “on track” for three statewide progress monitoring tests?

• Will the spring progress monitoring test simply be a replacement for the end-of-year test and result in teachers having less time to cover the full year of content?

Cindy Hamilton, co-founder of the Opt Out Florida Network, who has long criticized the state’s testing scheme, put it this way: “The Florida Department of Education has made it clear that these stakes are not going away. School grades, teacher evaluations, placement decisions, third-grade retention, those things are all still going to happen. With these stakes attached, the test becomes less about the student and more about the punitive consequences.”

Some Florida assessment reform activists also say they are concerned that DeSantis may be gearing up for a fight with the federal government.
The U.S. Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor K-12 education law to No Child Left Behind, requires that schools test students in reading and math once a year in grades three through eight, as well as once in high school — and in science three times, once each in grade school, middle school and high school.

The DeSantis plan has this timeline: The last FSA exams will be administered in spring 2022, and the following year will be a “pause” in accountability while “a new baseline for accountability” will be set. In the 2023-24 school year, a “unified” progress monitoring system will be established, new cut scores will be set and there will be a “return to accountability.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Education Department said that DeSantis had not told the federal agency of Florida’s plans. States have leeway in creating their own accountability systems, the spokesperson said, but they must meet federal requirements.
Bob Schaeffer, executive director of the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, said there is concern that DeSantis may be getting ready to “bash Washington for inhibiting [states’ rights] by goading the U.S. Department of Education into rejecting a scheme that fails to comply with federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

After DeSantis made his announcement, he received praise from at least one critic: Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers union.

“It’s not everything we want, but it’s a huge step, and I hope it opens the door to more conversation about how to more effectively assess students,” Spar said, adding that the union wants to negotiate with the governor and legislature about the new system.

Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who has bucked the governor by imposing a mask mandate in the district’s schools, also praised the governor’s move. He tweeted: “Fewer, better state assessments with greater reliance on ongoing, real-time progress monitoring data enable timely academic recalibration opportunities that are right for Florida’s kids.”

While many in the education world lamented the quality of the end-of-year exams students have been taking, there is no guarantee that the new ones will be better.

The use of online adaptive exams means that the tests can be individualized as each student goes through the questions. If a student gets a question wrong, an easier question may appear next — which would be different from one given to a student who got the first one correct.

There have been studies showing that computer adaptive testing (CAT) can cut testing time by 50 percent or more without any loss in measurement precision. But there are important issues that could be of concern to educators.

For one thing, students usually can’t return to a previous question to answer it.

For another, questions on linear standardized tests are reviewed by subject matter experts, but that is difficult if not impossible to do with computer adaptive tests because there are many more questions and combinations of questions that are utilized, experts say. One report on CAT said that if “a CAT selects items solely based on the test-takers’ ability, content balance and coverage may be easily distorted for some test-takers.” Also, questions will be used repeatedly and therefore can be shared, raising test security concerns.

In a separate concern, student privacy advocates also worry that these online tests gather an enormous amount of student data that can be sold to third parties.

DeSantis’s announcement reflects what has been in recent years growing disenchantment with standardized testing, which in the past two decades reached a point where kids were going to testing pep rallies and spending hundreds of hours preparing for exams. Curriculums narrowed because only math and reading were tested, and schemes to use the test scores for various accountability purposes got out of hand.

The 2020 testing season was canceled by the Trump administration when schools were shut at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Biden administration required states to give the tests this year — despite criticism that the scores would reflect what everybody already knew: Students lost ground because of the pandemic.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said earlier this year that he would be open to talking to states about changes in their testing system — but it remains to be seen if DeSantis’s plan will pass federal muster….

Valerie Strauss is an education writer who authors The Answer Sheet blog. She came to The Washington Post as an assistant foreign editor for Asia in 1987 and weekend foreign desk editor after working for Reuters as national security editor and a military/foreign affairs reporter on Capitol Hill. She also previously worked at UPI and the LA Times.

Governor Ron DeSantis has decided to drop standardized testing and replace it with “progress monitoring.”

The devil is in the details. How will the state monitor “progress” without standardized testing? Is he trying to hide the poor performance of charter schools?

Florida blogger Billy Townsend explains what’s happening here. He says Ron is ditching Jeb.

The Washington Post editorial board published a statement condemning Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ fierce opposition to mandates for masks and vaccinations. He wants to run for President as the candidate most like Trump.

It wrote:

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, has descended to a jaw-dropping level of cynicism. At a news conference on Monday, he announced that if local governments in Florida impose vaccine mandates on their employees, he would fine them $5,000 for every worker. Then he stood silently by as Gainesville city employees made false claims about the mRNA vaccines that have saved countless lives during the pandemic.

Although the wave of illness from the delta variant appears to be receding in Florida, the state has suffered a terrible summer toll of hospitalizations and deaths. A governor facing such a cataclysm might naturally be expected to use all methods to keep people safe. Instead, Mr. DeSantis, an ally of former president Donald Trump, has for months been campaigning against mask and vaccine mandates and actively sought to prevent business, government and schools from imposing them. These are vital tools to save lives in the face of a highly transmissible disease, but the governor insists that everyone should have the right to make their own decision. He casts himself as a defender of personal freedom.

This is a favorite argument of Republican governors and others, including Mr. Trump, who last year amid lockdowns was tweeting “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and other states. But personal freedom does not give an individual the right to hurt others. Those not wearing masks and refusing to get vaccinated are spreading the virus and overcrowding the nation’s hospitals. They are the majority of those who are dying. This is not freedom; it is recklessness.

An Appeals Court in Florida overruled a lower court and reinstated Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on face-mask mandates by school districts. The decision overrides not only public health experts but common sense. At the same time, it guts local control, not permitting school districts to protect the health of their students. DeSantis’s hostility to face mask mandates will cause more cases and more deaths. Unnecessarily. Blood on his hands.

Once again, Governor DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates was overruled, at least for now. Florida has been hard hit by the Delta variant of COVID yet the Governor doesn’t want school districts to require masking. The state will appeal the ruling, since DeSantis is strongly committed to allowing parents—not schools—to decide whether students should wear masks.

The Miami Herald reported:

Tallahassee — A Leon County judge on Wednesday blocked Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration from enforcing a ban on strict mask mandates in schools after vacating a stay on a ruling tied to a parent-led lawsuit.

That means 13 school districts with mask requirements that allow only medical opt-outs can keep enforcing their mandates. Their ability to do so might be short lived, however, as the state is expected to appeal Judge John Cooper’s decision.

The ruling had been paused on Friday when the state appealed to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

Cooper, however, said he does not believe the state will be harmed if his ruling stays in place through the appeals process. That’s because Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration can still enforce the Parents’ Bill of Rights — which the state invoked to enforce its ban on mask mandates — as long as the state follows it in full. That means the state cannot punish districts that have demonstrated their mask policy “is reasonable” and achieves a “compelling state interest.”

“This case has generated a lot of heat and a lot of light, but the bottom line is this case is about enforcing the law the Legislature passed, and that’s why I think setting aside this stay is appropriate,” Cooper said.

The underlying legal battle has the attention of 13 school districts in Florida — which comprise more than a majority of all public school childrenin the state — that have imposed mask mandates. The state has withheld funds equivalent to monthly salaries of school board members in two of the districts, in Broward and Alachua counties.

The court decision Wednesday is part of an ongoing, broader parent-led lawsuit that contends DeSantis and his administration overstepped their legal authority when issuing a blanket ban on mask mandates with no parent opt-out except for medical reasons.

Cooper concluded, after a four-day trial last month, that DeSantis and his administration acted “without legal authority” when invoking the Parents’ Bill of Rights to enforce the ban on mask mandates.

That law says the state is not allowed to “infringe on the fundamental rights of a parent” to direct the upbringing, education, healthcare, and mental health of a child “without demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest.”

Cooper noted defendants used the first half of the statute but not the second part when they issued their order. Therefore, their actions were unlawful.

A circuit court judge in Leon County, Florida, ruled that Governor Ron DeSantis had exceeded his authority by preventing local school districts from mandating masks. Governor DeSantis must not interfere with the right of school districts to protect the health and safety of students.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP) — School districts in Florida may impose mask mandates, a judge said Friday, ruling that Gov. Ron DeSantis overstepped his authority by issuing an executive order banning the mandates.

Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis’ order is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The governor’s order gave parents the sole right to decide if their child wears a mask at school.null

Cooper said DeSantis’ order “is without legal authority.”

His decision came after a three-day virtual hearing, and after at least 10 Florida school boards voted to defy DeSantis and impose mask requirements with no parental opt-out.

Cooper said that while the governor and others have argued that a new Florida law gives parents the ultimate authority to oversee health issues for their children, it also exempts government actions that are needed to protect public health and are reasonable and limited in scope. He said a school district’s decision to require student masking to prevent the spread of the virus falls within that exemption.null

The judge also noted that two Florida Supreme Court decisions from 1914 and 1939 found that individual rights are limited by their impact on the rights of others. For example, he said, adults have the right to drink alcohol but not to drive drunk. There is a right to free speech, but not to harass or threaten others or yell “fire” in a crowded theater, he said.

President Biden announced that the U.S. Department of Education will take legal action against the eight states that do not permit school districts to require students and staff to wear masks. In so doing, these states put students at risk and violate their right to education.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Erica L. Green wrote in the New York Times:

President Biden, escalating his fight with Republican governors who are blocking local school districts from requiring masks to protect against the coronavirus, said Wednesday that his Education Department would use its broad powers — including taking possible legal action — to deter states from barring universal masking in classrooms.

Mr. Biden said he had directed Miguel Cardona, his education secretary, “to take additional steps to protect our children,” including against governors who he said are “setting a dangerous tone” in issuing executive orders banning mask mandates and threatening to penalize school officials who defy them.

“Unfortunately, as you’ve seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain,” Mr. Biden said in remarks from the East Room of the White House, adding, “We are not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.”

Valerie Strauss wrote in the Washington Post about Biden’s announcement:

He did not name any specific governor, but Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, are among those state leaders who have threatened to withhold funding from districts or take other action against those districts that defy them. In Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest district in the country, on Wednesday passed a universal masking mandate — with only a medical opt-out — as did Hillsborough County Public Schools.

“I’m directing the secretary of education to take additional steps to protect our children,” Biden said. “This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action if appropriate against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local schools officials and educators.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said masking is one of the strongest tools that can be taken to protect the spread of the delta variant, which has caused a rise in pediatric coronavirus cases. The agency this summer, in a shift in guidance, recommended everyone over the age of 2 — even those who are vaccinated — wear masks inside school buildings.

In letters to the governors of Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, Cardona said bans on school masking mandates are putting students at risk and “may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by federal law.”

Cardona, in a Wednesday post on the department’s Homeroom Blog, said the department can investigate any state educational agency whose policies or actions “may infringe on the rights of every student to access public education equally.”

“The department will also receive and respond as appropriate to complaints from the public, including parents, guardians, and others about students who may experience discrimination as a result of states not allowing local school districts to reduce virus transmission risk through masking requirements and other mitigation measures,” he wrote. “As always, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights evaluates allegations of discrimination on a case-by-case basis, looking at the specific facts of each case.

Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that prohibits school districts from adopting mask mandates for all students and staff, even though Florida hospitals are overflowing withbCOVID patients. DeSantis has presidential aspirations.

The leadership of Miami-Dade County and Broward County have decided to defy DeSantis’ reckless decision and protect their students and staff.

MIAMI – Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said he agrees with recommendations by health experts that Miami-Dade County Public Schools implement a face mask mandate with an opt-out medical accommodation starting Aug. 23.

The School Board of Miami-Dade County will discuss and finalize on the issue when they meet at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools students start the 2021-22 school year in a week. New teachers had to report on Aug. 11 and the first regular teacher planning is on Wednesday.

Given the evidence on vaccine breakthrough cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status on July 27.

According to the CDC, the level of transmissibility remains high in Miami-Dade. The Aug. 6-12 case positivity rate was 20.3% in Miami-Dade, according to the Florida Department of Health. The Delta variant is the main driver of the ongoing COVID surge.

Broward County Public Schools will begin the new 2021-22 school year on Aug. 18 with a face mask mandate. School Board of Broward County members first approved a universal face mask mandate on July 28.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on July 30 to protect parents’ freedom to opt-out from school districts’ face mask mandates and tasked the Florida Department of Education with enforcing the order….