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A quick quiz about teaching

From the Ecology of Education, by Jason Flom

I submitted 5 open-ended questions I thought lawmakers should ask teachers before crafting bills aimed at reforming education.

The policymakers on the Education Policy Committee thought it was a great idea (especially after the stink teachers made about not being included in reform efforts in Florida). However, in order to more easily quantify the responses, they added multiple choices to each question.

As one senator told me, “Not only will this help us employ data to specifically target areas teachers identify as being most critical to school improvement, it will also make it easier for teachers to complete, as it is in a format they are quite familiar with.”

Touché, Senator. Touché.

Below is a sample of the survey legislators will be sending out to educators across the nation: Education Reform Questions for Teachers

Teachers, we want to know what you think! By filling out this quick survey you will become a partner in this democratic and transparent process to shape education reform! Your voice will be heard! After we compile the results, in partnership with your recommendations, we’ll craft legislation accordingly.

Directions: For each question, please use a number 2 pencil and circle the answer you think is better than the others.

1. What inspired you to go into the field of teaching?

A. The prestige.

B. The money.

C. The hours.

D. The ability to slack off and still get paid.

E. All of the above.

2. Why do you stay in the classroom?

A. Tenure.

B. Mounting debt.

C. You enjoy spending your salary on materials for students.

D. It’s so easy you barely have to do anything but ride the benefits package all the way to the bank.

E. All of the above.

3. Which of the below would attract and keep more high quality candidates to the field of education?

A. Larger class sizes.

B. Merit pay based on high-stakes, multiple-choice assessments.

C. More textbooks and testing.

D. Increased adherence to rigid, common standards.

E. All of the above.

4. How can we help improve teacher effectiveness?

A. Eliminate extracurricular programs (such as art & PE) to ensure more class time to work on core subjects.

B. Restrict classroom materials to keep students from getting distracted by too many resources.

C. Mandate longer school days and school year.

D. Prohibit field trips and limit free-time to provide more opportunities for you to teach skills.

E. All of the above.

5. In your professional opinion, the best way to improve public education is to…

A. Privatize it.

B. Siphon money away from it to strengthen teachers’ and students’ will to survive.

C. Reduce benefits for teachers.

D. Villanize unions & scapegoat teachers, while simultaneously pandering to big business lobbyists.

E. All of the above.

STOP!

You Have Reached the End of the Survey! Put your pencil down & mail this in.

http://ecologyofeducation.net/wsite/?p=2336

If parents and teachers don't believe in standardized tests who does?

From Good Education, by Liz Dywer

The number of standardized tests students have to take is about to increase, but the according to a national survey from Scholastic and the Gates Foundation, the nation’s teachers overwhelmingly don’t see the high-stakes exams as essential.

The survey asked more than 10,000 educators about their classrooms, schools, and how student and teacher performances should be measured. A huge majority of teachers believe in measuring student achievement, but they believe it should be measured with a variety of assessments, not just standardized tests. The majority—62 percent—believe that formative assessments, which are quizzes, tests, observations, summaries, and reviews that give students feedback and help teachers hone their classroom instruction, are essential to student achievement. In comparison, only 7 percent of educators see standardized tests as being essential.

“There needs to be less emphasis on mastering a test, and more emphasis on mastering the skills and higher-level concepts in the core subjects,” wrote one New Mexico teacher. The teacher emphasis on formative assessments makes sense, since those ongoing checks for student understanding help educators decide whether they need to spend more time on a particular subject, or if their class is ready to move on to another concept. With standardized tests, students often don’t get their results until months after they’ve taken them—which often ends up being after the school year is over, making them much less useful to the learning process.

The survey begs the question: If growing numbers of parents are considering opting out of standardized testing, and teachers themselves don't believe high stakes tests as essential to learning, why are we ramping up the amount of testing in our schools?

http://www.good.is/post/only-7-percent-of-teachers-believe-in-standardized-tests/

Trailer for Bully

How the government has failed education and lined the pockets of companies

This is about Texas but it may as well have been about Florida. -cpg

From the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, A speech given by John Kuhn

When a government fails to safeguard the development of its most vulnerable children and fails to ensure the advancement of their well-being;

When the Constitution no longer guides its leaders and the people must sue the state to force it to honor its promises;

When moderation is lost by those in power alongside honest dealing and the greater good, then that government must be held accountable in the court of public opinion. A statement of our just grievances is in order.

This government has failed to establish an equitable system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources; and more shameful yet, possessed of the wise words of our fathers who recorded that “a people must be educated” for liberty to survive.

This government has allowed state testing to become a perversion, growing like Johnson grass through the garden of learning and choking to death all knowledge that isn’t on the test, killing ancient wisdom like debate, logic, and ethics--deep human learning that once provided this state a renewable crop of leaders who knew courage instead of expedience, truth instead of spin, and personal risk for the public good instead of personal enrichment and reelection at all costs.

This government has eroded the authority of locally elected school boards to make decisions about everything from school calendars to curriculum, replacing local control with Austin control and local blame. They have no confidence in local trustees or the voters who put them in office.

This government has found the money to pay the Pearson Corporation $500 million for a test while cutting $5 billion from the fund that pays for teacher salaries.

This government has financed never-ending tax breaks for incredibly wealthy businesses by wringing our classrooms like a washcloth.

This government has mandated so much remediation in tested subjects that vocational training won’t fit into student schedules; this government has imperiously decided that all children are college bound whether they like it or not.

It has encouraged the proliferation of tax-funded for-profit schools that kick out and keep out the students who are hardest to teach, because when it’s about profit, it’s not about kids.

This government’s representatives have repeatedly lied to the voters, shamelessly calling a $5 billion cut an increase.

This government has chosen to fund favored schoolchildren at two and three times the rate allocated for less favored children, whose only offense is living in the wrong Texas zip codes;

It has created a strict accountability system for teachers while NOT developing any system whatsoever to illuminate the progress of politicians in remediating out-of-school factors that devastate student test scores; factors like parental unemployment go unmeasured, racial income disparities — that’s a gap no one tries to close — child homelessness is irrelevant, crime and incarceration rates for fathers are too unimportant to track, rates of drug use and child abuse and preventable illness do not matter because those are factors that lay squarely within the politicians’ realm of responsibility, and they just keep getting worse. But they don’t want to talk about the gaps in their data; they want to decry the status quo in classrooms and preserve the status quo in Austin.

If the teacher is the quarterback, Congress is the offensive line. Their performance impacts our performance, but they keep letting us get sacked by poverty, broken homes, student mobility, hunger, health care. And they just say “Oops” as that linebacker blows by them and buries his facemask in our chest. Then we get back to the huddle and they say, “You gotta complete your passes.” We’re aware of that. Make your blocks, legislators. Give us time to stand in the pocket and throw good passes. Do your job. It doesn’t take a great quarterback rating to win games; it takes a team effort.

Have the elected officials in Austin made adequate yearly progress? Nobody knows, because they keep their achievement gaps swept safely under a rug so they can’t be criticized, so they can’t be held accountable for decades of zero progress. The human cost of their failures is staggering, but our politicians have seen fit to create an accountability system that holds least accountable those with the most power and influence.

This government has strangled true learning at the local level because of its addiction to bureaucratic coercion.

Tragically, this government has lost sight of the exceptionalism of our state’s character and has repeatedly lamented the quality of our students based on nothing but the comparison of their test scores to those of students in Europe and Asia, as if greatness doesn’t exist outside of a standardized test; it has forgotten that the tests that make Texans great have never been taken with pencil and paper but rather were tests of bone and spirit taken at places like the Alamo and San Jacinto. Inside the Apollo capsule and on foreign shores, our kids have never failed the tests that matter. Our kids have passed countless tests of courage and ingenuity, tests of mettle and character and resilience.

This government has neglected the classics and has called on our children to become technicians instead of humans, regurgitators of math and science facts, who produce well-rounded bubbles in place of well-rounded souls; it has sought to make our children quantifiable shells of people, their guiding light of curiosity snuffed out by an idiot’s opinion of what constitutes a human education.

These and other grievances were patiently borne by the teachers of Texas, until they reached that point at which patience is no longer a virtue. We appealed to our government last spring in this very spot, called upon those in power to encourage and support the teachers who day by day struggle to educate the poorest children in the most neglected corners of our state. Yet they responded to our entreaties with new condemnations of the work we do. Our appeals have been made in vain.

We are forced to the melancholy conclusion that this government favors business interests that want a profit-based education system that would enrich investors, rather than a publicly owned system that enriches our children.

You can keep your for-profit schools. I want a locally elected school board that answers to me, to parents and local taxpayers, not to shareholders. I want a quality public education for ALL Texas children. I want adequate and equitable funding, so that families in every part of Texas can count on the consistent quality of our public school system like we count on the consistent quality of our interstate highway system, because we don’t want to wreck our children any more than we want to wreck our cars.

Texas officials, you build your hateful machine that blames teachers for the failures of politicians; we’ll still be here teaching when your engine of shame is laid upon the scrapheap of history. For now, we’ll bravely take these lashes you give because we know that — no matter what you say — the only crime of the public school teacher in 2012 is his or her willingness to embrace and teach broken children. If that’s a crime, then find us guilty. If caring for the least of these makes us unacceptable, then bring on your label gun. We’re not afraid.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/a-statement-of-our-just-grievances/2012/03/30/gIQAXTqGmS_blog.html?wprss=rss_answer-sheet%3f

Hiring teachers, lowering class sizes and restoring the arts and how to pay for it

From the Sun Sentinel By Cara Fitzpatrick, Sun Sentinel

For the first time in several years, the Broward School District plans to hire teachers, reduce class sizes and restore art, music and physical education in its elementary schools.

To help pay for it, Superintendent Robert Runcie said there likely will be layoffs from the district's administration. He also is pushing for a change in high school schedules, something that could prove unpopular with parents who favor "block" scheduling.

Students on block schedules take fewer classes a day, but have longer class periods. Runcie said that makes it tough to keep class sizes low and limits the number of electives a student can take.

Miramar "We're going to try to work that out and hope that rational minds prevail," he said.

District officials haven't determined yet how many teachers would be hired or how many workers would be laid off. Runcie said those details should be worked out next month; he estimated that "hundreds" of teachers would ultimately be hired.

Teachers also are unlikely to get raises this year, he said. Last year, teachers each received a $500 bonus, the first time in three years that the district and the teachers union reached an agreement.

Runcie said raises would require even greater cuts. District officials will be negotiating with the union over the next couple of weeks, he said. But the "bottom line" is "we're not going to have any layoff of teachers," Runcie said.

District officials have fewer budget constraints this year, although funding is still down. Last year, the district faced a $171 million shortfall and used about $55 million in one-time funds to help fill the gap.

For the coming year, the state restored about $63 million to the school district, or about $155 more per student. The district estimates it will receive about $6,379 total per student next year.

With cost-cutting and some additional money coming in, the district so far faces only a $4 million shortfall, according to budget documents.

Runcie said it's a "major priority" to lower class sizes this year.

He said the district can't have a repeat of last year when it cut about 1,000 teachers, resulting in overloaded classes and a whopping $66 million fine from the state. Broward was the state's worst class-size offender, with more than half of its classes over the limits by the October deadline.

Some elective classes, which don't fall under the state's rules, had 40, 60 or even 70 students. Some Advanced Placement classes, which were exempt from the rules for the first time, had 30 or more students. Before the change, they were limited to 25.

The district's fine has been reduced to between $6 million and $8 million, he said.

Some high schools eliminated dozens of teacher positions last year because of the cuts. Cypress Bay High, the county's biggest high school, lost 40 teacher jobs, followed by 30 at Miramar High, 29 at Boyd Anderson High and 27 at South Plantation High.

Elementary schools lost only a few teachers each, but cut electives. More than 50 elementary schools cut students' library time, 44 cut art, 30 cut physical education and 26 cut music.

Runcie already has announced that he will try to restore those classes by cutting about $15 million from the district's transportation department. To hit that number, more than 100 vacant positions are being absorbed and some employees will be laid off, he said.

Bus routes also will be reviewed to reduce fuel usage and equipment could be sold.

About $28 million will be cut from the district's administrative side, including the $15 million from transportation, he said. The other $13 million will come from consolidating job functions and "some layoffs."

The district's top officials are looking at the departments for redundant positions, he said. For example, if every department has its own budget director, some of those jobs could be consolidated, he said. Same goes for similar jobs in the schools.

Runcie said he's also going to try to eliminate some of the principals' non-instructional job duties so that they can focus on instruction and academics.

Schools should start looking at their individual budgets in the next couple of weeks, he said. District officials will release a more complete budget then too, he said.

"We're just trying to work out the details," he said.

cdfitzpatrick@tribune.com, 954-356-4527, Twitter @Fitz_ly

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/fl-broward-schools-budget-20120330,0,5160241.story

What has to happen before the people say enough to the school board?!?

The school board mislead the public when they fired the superintendent.

They showed they didn’t know what they were doing when they pled poverty, firing people, cutting salaries and ending programs, while they sat on over a hundred million dollars. There was also the Bank of America school fiasco too.

They start new programs that fail, like the reading initiative that they packed with too many students and Schools of the Future for overage students which was in such disarray that they fired the principal mid year and are currently still looking for missing equipment.

They outsourced the management of four schools at the price of two million dollars because they couldn’t come up with solutions.

They have ignored locals that can’t find teaching positions and brought in hobbyists to work as teachers in our most struggling schools.

Under this boards watch both teacher morale and student accountability have been destroyed.

Because of their changes to grade recovery, attendance and behavior no longer matter.

We have one of the worse graduation rates in the state and our FCAT scores are some of the lowest.

Only a quarter of the kids who take A.P. tests pass them and we spend over a million dollars annually on failed tests.

So what happens? Betty Burney and Martha Barrett decide to run for third and fourth terms and a former mayor throws Barrett a fundraiser with the city’s who’s who in attendance.

Jacksonville what is it going to take?

Where does the lottery money go?

From the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, by Valerie Strauss

State lotteries that participate in games such as Mega Millions were sold to the public as enterprises that would benefit schools with millions of dollars in proceeds a year. So has public education really received a windfall?

A woman fills out her numbers for the Mega Million jackpot, which is estimated at $540 million dollars, March 29, 2012 at the Town and Country in McAllen, Tx. (Gabe Hernandez - Associated Press)

If you look at the payouts from lotteries to schools, you might be impressed by the numbers. In California, for example, all lottery donations to public schools from kindergarten through college, total $24,018,713,472 since 1985. Yes, that’s $24 billion. K-12 schools alone have received a total of $19.3 billion.

It makes you wonder how some California public schools have had to hold bake sales to keep the lights on, doesn’t it?

In fact, in state after state, where lotteries send millions of dollars to public education, schools are still starved. Why?

Because instead of using the money as additional funding, legislatures have used the lottery money to pay for the education budget and spent the money that would have been used had there been no lottery cash on other things. Public school budgets, as a result, haven’t gotten a boost because of the lottery funding.

In Virginia, lottery tickets have a tag­line that says “Helping Virginia’s Public Schools” and more than $5 billion in lottery proceeds have gone to public education in the last 24 years, about $450 million annually.

But, according to the Virginian-Pilot, the money is used by state lawmakers to cover education expenses rather than extra money. And when it is time to cut budgets, education doesn’t get spared.

“That’s been a slow and insidious movement that’s been going on for a few years now,” Kitty Boitnott, president of the Virginia Education Association, was quoted in the Virginian-Pilot, as saying. “It’s a big ruse, and I don’t believe Virginians, in general, are aware of it.”

In Maryland, more than $519 million of lottery proceeds was contributed to the state in 2011, and that was used for programs including education, public health, public safety and the environment, according to the Maryland Lottery Web site. The lottery has given more than $12 billion to the state since 1973. Yet, still, the state government is considering raising taxes in order to keep the state’s highly regarded public education system funded at record levels.

In Washington D.C., the lottery since 1982 has contributed more than $1.6 billion to the city’s general fund for programs including schools, recreation and parks, public safety, housing, and senior and child services. Still the city can’t meet its education needs: The mayor, Vincent C. Gray, has proposed a spending plan for next year that provides a 2 percent raise in the student funding formula, my colleague Bill Turque reported. But basic costs have risen closer to 5 percent.

In Texas, where the lottery was sold to the public, as in other places, as a fun game that would reap big rewards for public education. According to the American-Statesman, in 1996, “lottery proceeds paid for about two weeks of schooling for Texas students.” By 2010, the money covered barely three days.

Forty two states plus the District of Columbia and the U. S. Virgin Islands participate in the Mega Millions game. So, yes, a lot of money goes to public schools from the lotteries. But no, the money doesn’t do what it was promised it would by any means.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/mega-millions-do-lotteries-really-benefit-public-schools/2012/03/30/gIQAbTUNlS_blog.html?wprss=rss_answer-sheet

Duval County’s inconsistent charter school logic

Let me just say I am not a fan of how charter schools are done in Florida. They were envisioned being centers of parent and teacher driven innovation but instead they have become publically funded private schools run by hedge fund managers and real estate tycoons interested in profiting off our children. Now there may be a few good ones who are concerned with how our children do but there are so many more concerned with the bottom line it makes them all suspect.

Recently Jacksonville charter schools have been in the news and they are another example of the “what the heck are they doing” nature of our school board.

First they voted to allow the KIPP charter school to expand despite the fact its first year test scores were the lowest in North East Florida and its kids regressed. One of the reasons is undoubtedly because Gary Chartrand is heavenly involved in the school. This non-educator has bought hook line and sinker into the charter school movement, which is probably why he over thousands of better choices was placed on the state board of education (which has very few real educators on it by the way).

Gary Chartrand is also running his protégé in the district 3 school board race, Ashley Smith-Juarez.

Next the superintendent recommended the closing of the SOS academy because the highest grade they have achieved is a D. This is actually pretty good for Charter schools as last year 17 of the 32 “f” schools in Florida were charter schools.

Then the board has voted to fight the state because they approved a virtual charter school, yes that’s right, a virtual charter school, that the county had turned down.

Why does one get to expand, while another one faces closure and the third can’t get approval? Where is the rhyme and reason?
blech

Duval's sinking ship

The superintendent says he hopes we don’t lose a lot of god people. I agree, I hope we don’t lose any good people, the people we need to lose is Pratt-Dannals people.

One of the biggest problems we have here in the county is a lack of leadership and that’s because whom you know rather than ability has been more important when determining promotions and positions. Pratt-Dannals promotes his people and then they drag their people along with them. Then if they fail they don’t have much to worry about as they are often promoted out or transferred to another schol where they can continue to do their damage, our management style mirroring the Catholic church of the sixties and seventies.

Then look at his inner circle which has dozens of people making six figures, the price of loyalty and hurting kids and teachers apparently has at least five zeroes behind a one. If he says we have to pay top dollar for top talent, Duval County has both got a bad deal and then has insulted it’s teaching staff who is underpaid compared to the state and national averages.

Even if we get the right guy to replace him it will be years before we recover from Pratt-Dannals.

Forty-seven Duval County school board employees make over 100 thousand dollars.

A handful are principals but the majority are administrators, who don’t have any direct student responsibilities. I am all for people making money but why are they making so much money? Nobody would do the job for eighty thousand dollars? Be careful if you use the, to attract talent you need to pay for it, argument because you might just insult seven thousand teachers.

I understand principals making a low six figure salary but of the group of forty-seven they are at the bottom, with most of the wealth concentrated at 1701 Prudential Drive in the superintendents inner circle.

Click the blog title or paste below in your browser to see who is making what.

http://news.jacksonville.com/govtsalaries/index.php?action=search&munc%5B%5D=11&salary=100000&q=&county%5B%5D=2&position%5B%5D=1&year%5B%5D=2010&Submit.x=96&Submit.y=2

What does having a "B" District mean?

The Superintendent and the school board like to say over and over how we are a B school district and I am reminded of the old saying, if you repeat the big lie long enough some people will buy it.

What exactly does a B mean? Well for Duval it means we are the 50th ranked district out of 67. It’s a good thing Florida doesn’t grade on a curve right? It means we have eight of the bottom 25 high schools in the state including number 404 out of 404 and our middle schools are in a similar predicament. It means less than two thirds of our kids graduate on time (just over half of our African American kids do) and many of those needed social promotions and grade recovery to do so. Less than half our kids arrive to high school reading on grade level and if we didn’t force so many level ones and twos into Advanced Placement classes, where they have no business being, then we would be in real trouble. By the way our kids only pass one in four A.P. tests. That is what earns a B grade in Florida.

The truth is we have a lot of wonderful things going on in the district. A lot of great teachers and a lot of great kids but it is also the truth that most of our successes are happening in spite of Burney, Barrett, Gentry, the rest of the school board and the superintendent not because of them.

Betty Burney tells custodians not to hold their breath

This time last year the district said it was broke and facing massive cuts. They told the custodians that weren’t outsourced that they would have to take a seven percent pay cut (on top of the three percent cut all employees took). The custodians, their backs up against the wall accepted it.

Fast-forward a year and it turns out the district was sitting on over a hundred million dollars and it turns out, people didn’t have to lose their jobs, programs didn’t have to be ended and the custodians didn’t have to take the crippling cut.

The situation was so egregious that board chair Betty Burney told the custodians that they would be taken care of. It’s a good thing she didn’t tell them to hold their breaths because then they would have been in real trouble.

The hundred plus million dollar surplus was discovered over six weeks ago. Betty Burney said their grievances would be addressed weeks ago and still nothing has happened.

The hard working men and women of Duval County deserve much better than lip service, misdirection and outright lies.

Peter Rummell, goes from hero to zero

In the fall when peter Rummell crossed party lines to support Alvin Brown he was hailed as a hero who put what was best for the city over politics.

Fast-forward six months and all of a sudden he is a goat drawing the ire of Betty Burney and Jake Godbold and all because Mr. Rummell expressed concerns over the direction the school board was taking our schools.

Friends we should all have concerns with the direction the school board has been taking our schools. Betty Burney, Martha Barrett who Jake Godbold is supporting and Jake Godbld represent the status quo, which is nearly a decade of bad decisions that have hurt our city and it’s children.

If it turns out Mr. Rummell has some insidious plan to take over our schools lets cross that bridge when we come to it but in the meantime lets not forget about the terrible job that the board has done and lets not give them four more years to do more damage.

Jake Godbold offends me (rough draft)

Jake Godbold offends me

First there was Colts fever and if you know what that was I am sorry to bring it up. If you don’t it’s best you leave it that way.

Then he threw a fundraiser for Martha Barrett. Ms. Barrett is running for her fourth term on the school board and been on the board for arguably the worse eight years sense segregation. She has been on a board that has destroyed teacher morale and ended student accountability along with many other decisions that have hurt both teachers and children.

Then the former mayor has the nerve to question bussinessman Peter Rummells aims and refer to some secret master plan. Up to this point all Mr. Rummell has done is express concern about the direction the board is taking our schools a concern we should all share.

In questioning Mr. Rummell he said (reported in a Times Union article), Rummell decided, Peter Rummell, that he was going to form a group of men, retired executives with a lot of brains and put them in each School Board district no matter who ran, whether they were an incumbent, had done a good job, had worked hard, had a good record, didn't matter. He thought that these retired, pinstriped, blue-eyed, blonde-head guys would be the best person to run for and represent him on the School Board. They're going to keep on with that kind of crap and they're going to ruin public education."
He basicaly, with no real idea what Mr. Rummells plan is, implied he was going to bring his Nazi friends in to take over the schools. Make no mistake friends that when Goldbod was reffering to with his blond haired, blueyed executives crack.

Mr. Goldbold, Martha Barrett is ruining education and you are supporting her. Do we really need years 11, 12, 13 and 14 before we figure out she can’t do the job?

Mr. Goldbold you and your uninformed views and Nazi references offend me.

Jacksonville's leaders out of tune with the reality of our schools

Former Mayor Jake Godbold ripped into business leader Peter Rummell for his widely-rumored plans to run several retired CEOs as candidates for four upcoming School Board seats.

Godbold made the comments Wednesday in front of a who’s who in Jacksonville leadership during a fundraising event for incumbent board member Martha Barrett. Rummell is chairman of the Jacksonville Civic Council. (from the Times Union)

He made the comments in front of a who’s who in Jacksonville’s leadership. A who's who.

In case you didn’t know it, Ms. Barrett is running for her fourth term as school board member. Our schools have regressed under her supposed leadership and are currently heading in the wrong direction under her supposed leadership.

For any of the who’s who in Jacksonville’s leadership to support her is a travesty.

Do you think are schools are better off than they were four, eight or even 12 years ago? Do you think they are heading in the right direction? It shows just how out of touch our town’s who’s who in leadership is if they would think for an instant about supporting her.

To support her is to support more failed policies which do our children and city a disservice.

More (school) district officials desert sinking ship

Micheal Perrone the districts six figure Chief Financial Officer announced, like the deputy superintendent did a few weeks ago, that he was leaving the district.

You might remember his one big accomplishment, helping hide over a hundred million dollars while the district pled poverty, fired people and cut programs. They also reduced salaries too, though his, 120,000, strangely enough did not take a hit. In fact it had gone up by over twenty thousand dollars since 2008. When did the recession start again?

He is just the second of which I am sure will be many district people leaving the county. Their patron Ed Pratt-Dannals forced out by the one moment of clarity the school board has had in the last five years and after reading what he had to say, (according to the Times Union) Perrone said district officials didn't try to hide the money. The large reserve was not explicitly part of the three-month-long budget discussions the School Board had last year as it grappled with finding $91 million in cuts to balance its budget. (didn’t try, not explicitly??), I don’t think he will be missed.

What school board is Jake Godbold talking about?

In the Times Union when speaking about Peter Rummell and the school board this is what former Mayor Jake Godbold had to say.

“Something I absolutely disagree with that group is…Rummell decided, Peter Rummell, that he was going to form a group of men, retired executives with a lot of brains and put them in each School Board district no matter who ran,” Godbold said. “Whether they were an incumbent, had done a good job, had worked hard, had a good record, didn’t matter.

Um, hmm, exactly what school board member is the former Mayor talking about? It’s not a member in Jacksonville that is for sure! The veterans on the board have been horrific for the city and its children. None have done a good job, none have a good record and if they have worked hard then I haven’t seen it.

The former mayor is completely out of touch with what is and has been happening in our schools.

Does Jake Godbold or Peter Rummell have our schools best interests at heart? (rough draft)

Let me just say I share Peter Rummell’s frustration at how our schools have been run over the last decade. The board and superintendent have destroyed teacher morale, ruined student accountability and made one horrific decision that has hurt kids after another.

So if Jake Godbold was endorsing Martha Barrett or any other veteran member of the school board when he was calling out Rummell and the civic council then he showed how ignorant he is about what is happening in our schools. To embrace the status quo is to embrace policies that have held back our city and hurt our kids.

However if Mr. Godbold was correct when he described Mr. Rummell’s plans to put business leaders on the board then Mr. Rummell is equally wrong.

One of the biggest problems are schools have had is they have been run by politicians either on the way up or way down or people who aren’t in education foolish enough to think they can fix the problems in education. You see everybody has been in a classroom so they think they understand the problems and issues and have solutions but they are usually wrong and the city and its children have often paid the price for their hubris. You know what friends, everybody has been in a doctor’s office too but not everybody thinks they can be a doctor and rightfully so.

Ask yourself a couple questions. Is the school system better off than it was eight years ago and do you think it is heading in the right direction? If you answered no to either then voting for Barrett and Burney doesn’t make sense.

Next do you think it takes the same skills to teach a class of 25 teenagers, with 25 different personalities, interests and desires, who are on a half dozen different levels, while dealing with their parents too as it does to manage a business? If you answered no, then if Rummell’s plan was described correctly then that doesn’t make sense either.

Of course little we have done about education around here has made sense for quite some time.

On-line schools should prove their worth before being allowed to expand

From the Orlando Sentinel's editorial board

Like death and taxes, reports of America's education demise have become inevitable.

The latest comes from the Council on Foreign Relations in its report, "U.S. Education Reform and National Security":

"Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy and grow its economy."

Tough to argue when one out of every four students isn't earning a high-school diploma, and barely 22 percent of U.S. high-schoolers measure "college ready" in all of their core subjects.

No wonder Florida's Board of Education on Tuesday listened as Florida public-school and college leaders delivered the saving gospel of expanded online learning.

Nationally, virtual schools are the fastest-growing traditional public-school alternative. For example, Florida Virtual School, which started in 1997 with only 77 students, served more than 122,000 students during the 2010-11 school year.

Digital devotees, such as Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, say students learn faster and cheaper — Florida Virtual School says it shaves $2,100 off the cost of the same education at regular public schools. That's a bonus in these cash-strapped school times.

However, online learning isn't without potential minuses. Researchers at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado last year found that students plus an online education equals less accountability.

The report also questioned the charge toward full-time virtual schools, noting the lack of well-regarded research that shows virtual schools are an adequate replacement for orthodox teaching.

Similarly, critics have questioned Florida Virtual School's accountability and performance. In particular, the "mastery-based" concept, which gives pupils the option of retaking tests (with new questions) until they earn an acceptable score. Not exactly an even playing field when comparing results to traditional schools where teachers have discretion whether or not to re-administer tests.

Exploring learning options to give students the best chance to succeed is the responsible thing for state education officials to do.

So, too, is seeking solid evidence that online learning delivers superior or at least comparable results, and beefing up accountability, before expanding the virtual landscape.

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-03-29/opinion/os-ed-online-learning-032912-20120328_1_florida-virtual-school-online-education-traditional-schools

Is it schools, parents or both?

From the blog Redefined Ed, by Ron Mattus

It’s a common refrain in ed reform debates: If only more parents would do the right thing, schools would be a lot easier to fix. Especially, it seems, black parents.

Whenever I wrote a newspaper story about struggling black students, it was guaranteed to make the web site’s “most commented” list. Scores of angry people would write in to berate and belittle black parents, often in blatantly racist terms. Bill Cosby makes similarly hard-line arguments in a tough-love kind of way. So do some media personalities, like nationally syndicated columnist Bill Maxwell.

In his column last Sunday, Maxwell takes on a faith-based group in Pinellas County, Florida called FAST, which stands for Faith and Action for Strength Together. FAST recently made headlines for urging the Pinellas County School Board to do something about abysmal reading scores in 20 high-poverty schools, many of them with predominantly black student populations. In a public meeting, 3,000 members of the group called on the board to adopt a “direct instruction” approach.

As he has done before, Maxwell called for more accountability from black parents. He suggested it was a waste of time to focus on what schools may or may not be doing. He said the district’s web site had plenty of good tips.

Maxwell is right to stress how much parents matter. Nobody in their right mind disagrees. But like many things in education, this isn’t a case of either-or.

Instead of slamming parents, I think it would be more useful to talk more about key questions that don’t get asked enough:

• Why is it that some parents are not as involved as much as we’d like?

• What efforts are truly successful at getting them more involved?

• What should schools do while they’re waiting for parents to become more involved?

• And why is that some schools – most notably the “no excuses” charter schools, but also some traditional public and private schools – are able to get traction with struggling, low-income students despite a lack of parental involvement?

The truth is, schools matter, too.

High-poverty schools often compound the problems of low-income students by saddling them with a far greater percentage of less-effective teachers. As I wrote last week, everybody knows that’s true – but with high-poverty schools it’s just kind of accepted in a way that it would never be in more affluent schools. We know how much teachers matter. So that kind of look-the-other way response has devastating consequences. It ensures the cycle becomes that much more vicious.

In Florida, it’s also clear that some school districts are making stronger gains with black students than others. Compared to black students in Florida’s 12 biggest districts, black students in Pinellas are dead last in both reading and math. That black-black gap is growing, even though the free and reduced price lunch rates among black students in Pinellas are about average.

Pinellas also stands out in this way: Next to black students in the other big districts, its black students have among the highest rates of being labeled disabled, a rate of 20 percent.

Given those numbers, isn’t the school district a fair target for scrutiny, too?

All this isn’t to say that FAST is totally right.

I respectfully say I don’t agree with the group’s general approach to making change or, in this case, its specific, proposed solution. FAST puts school board members and other high-ranking officials on the spot, literally, by having them stand up in public and answer “yes” or “no” to whether they will commit to a specific proposed policy. This makes for interesting drama and it’s good for generating news stories. But I still think honest dialogue – and I say this carefully, because I know how frustrated FAST members must be, and how much every minute matters in a situation this dire – is a better way to go.

I also think that while FAST’s remedy in this case, direct instruction for reading, may be useful for many students – and maybe even needs to be expanded to more students – I cringe at solutions that smack of one-size-fits-all. We need more customized learning for students, whether it’s the school they’re in or the curriculum they’re exposed to, not the other way around.

On the whole, FAST deserves a lot of credit. In a day and age when established parent groups usually ignore the glaring issues facing low-income parents, it is beyond refreshing to see a group that doesn’t – and to do it with the urgency it deserves.

They shouldn’t ignore Maxwell’s good points. But they shouldn’t ease up on the district either.

http://www.redefinedonline.org/2012/03/parents-and-schools-both-deserve-scrutiny/

How can schools force parents to be involved?

From the Tampa Times, by Bill Maxwell

I am always glad when a grass roots organization takes a stand for improving public education for children. I am especially glad when such an organization seeks help for young black males who, as a group, are in dire straits on all measures of academic achievement.

One such organization in Pinellas County is Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST, a coalition of 38 churches, mosques and synagogues. Founded in 2004, FAST has become known for its annual "Nehemiah Action Assembly." At these events, leaders ask public officials to answer tough "yes" or "no" questions while committing to support specific policies of community concern.

A focus of Monday's gathering was an attempt to persuade superintendent John Stewart and School Board members to adopt "direct instruction." FAST leaders argue the program would improve reading scores. A 2010 report found Pinellas had the lowest graduation rate for African-American boys in the nation. The 20 low-performing schools are in neighborhoods that have high percentages of black students who receive free or reduced-price lunch.

Before the meeting, I telephoned the Rev. Robert Ward, a leader of FAST's education committee. I sensed that the organization unfairly places all the blame on our schools for the dismal performance of African-American boys. Knowing that School Board members would be on the hot seat, I wanted to know if FAST ever requires black parents and other guardians to answer yes or no to questions about their direct involvement in their children's learning.

The answer was no. Ward said his committee only listens to the concerns of black parents and grandparents. He said they work with other organizations that deal with parenting issues.

That is unfortunate and misguided, I suggested. FAST, although well intentioned and successful in some areas, needs to establish a take-no-excuses effort that focuses exclusively on involving black parents in their children's learning both at home and at school. Otherwise, everyone's time and resources are being squandered.

Years of research consistently confirm that the parent is the child's first and most effective teacher — especially during the early years. A British study indicates, moreover, that on average young children who read and are read to at home in addition to reading at school perform better than peers who read only at school. FAST should convene a Nehemiah assembly at least once a month and ask black parents yes or no questions.

Below are some questions I crafted from research by the Michigan Education Department. Parents who cannot answer yes to each question should never blame anyone but themselves for their boys' problems.

• Have you established a daily family routine that provides time and a quiet place to study, assigning responsibility for household chores, being firm about bedtime and having dinner together? Yes or no?

• Do you monitor out-of-school activities, set limits on TV watching, check up on your children when you are not home and arrange for after-school activities and supervised care? Yes or no?

• Do you model the value of learning, self-discipline and hard work, communicating through questioning and conversation and demonstrating that achievement comes from working hard? Yes or no?

• Do you express high but realistic expectations for achievement, setting goals and standards that are appropriate for your children's age and maturity, recognizing and encouraging special talents and informing friends and family about successes? Yes or no?

• Do you encourage your children's development and progress in school, maintaining a warm and supportive home, showing interest in your children's progress at school, helping with homework, discussing the value of a good education and possible career options and staying in touch with teachers and school staff? Yes or no?

• Do you encourage reading, writing and discussions among family members, reading to your children, listening to your children read and talking about what is being read? Yes or no?

I can almost guarantee that parents who answered yes to these questions have boys who do well in school. Parents who genuinely want to learn how to get involved in their children's learning can easily do so by visiting the Pinellas School Board's website, pcsb.org. Click on the "Parents & Students" link. I was amazed at the wealth of helpful programs available with the click of a mouse. Parents who do not have computers at home can visit a nearby public library.

Here is my Nehemiah-style question to FAST members: Will you all establish no-excuses parent-involvement assemblies to encourage black parents to become responsible for their children's learning — starting at home?

Yes or no?

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/article1221554.ece

How education is different than the real world

From the Assailed Teacher blog

The funny thing is that in the “real” world we would never ask a cardiologist to perform brain surgery. It would be a recipe for disaster, but in the educational world high school teachers are asked to get kids with 3rd grade reading levels through a high school level regents class. Math teachers are asked to teach literacy to their students. Why? How did a freshman in high school with a third grade reading level reach a regents level science class?

Twenty years ago there were fewer administrators, fewer superintendents thus more money was spent in the classroom. Now educational budgets are getting chopped but yet more 6 figure – out of the classroom positions – exist than ever before. So let’s evaluate how well a cardiologist performs brain surgery shall we. I wonder how that will turn out? Hmmm It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to see this end badly.

And for what? To justify the salaries of these glorified positions? To justify a policy that has been in placed almost a decade now and is obviously failing? What if for every school that closes a superintendent loses their job? Aren’t these schools failing under their watch?

If the quality of Bloomberg’s high school diploma is so high why are colleges increasing the number of remedial courses for incoming freshman?

The mayor, the superintendent have completely lost sight at the problem. 13 years ago when I taught and a student failed my class that student was in the principal’s office with their parent explaining why they failed and how they will fix it. Now a student fails and the teacher is in the office trying to explain why they fail. Did they fail b/c there was no rubric on the wall? Or b/c the teacher did not have a strong Do Now? Or maybe they failed because the teacher did not implement the proper use of Cornell notes. To that I say, you know what they do not do at Cornell? Yup cornell notes.

Thirteen years ago administrators and teachers were not this divided, they worked together and at the end of the day despite their differences it was understood they had each others back.

The system is so focused on meaningless numbers they have lost sight of the people behind the numbers, the students. I recently told my students (a group of juniors with freshman credits) that they treat their grade like the D.O.E. treats them. “You kids want your 65 but have forgotten what it means to earn a 65, or an 85 and dare I say a 55. Just like the D.O.E. wants it’s data but has completely lost sight of the person behind the data”. They have completely devalued education. What it means to educate.

In order for true growth to occur a person must learn responsibility and most experience failure, thus learning from their mistakes. How is a student going to learn responsibility when the teacher is responsible for that student’s irresponsibility. How is a system going to grow when they don’t see passed their ego’s to admit their mistakes.

Education has lost it’s integrity, it’s unity. It will never succeed unless we stop dividing the roles and come back to a united front putting the kids first and the numbers second.

http://theassailedteacher.com/2012/03/29/teachers-disgruntled/

Is the Duval County School Board looking for a non-educator to run our schools?

First they have plans to meet with the Center for Reform of School Systems. This group is financed by the Broad foundation. The Broad foundation runs a superintendent academy, the mission of which is to move professionals from their current careers in business, the military, law and the government into superintendents and upper-level management positions of urban public school districts. Then in their new positions, they can implement the foundation’s corporate reform agenda.

Then in the Times Union when discussing hiring a search firm, W.C. Gentry said, "We're letting the search firms know that we want to know their experience in both a superintendent search as well as a so-called non-traditional search, which is more of an executive search."

Is he setting Jacksonville up for the possibility of a non educator taking the helm of our schools? This is a distinct possibility coming from Mr. Gentry as he was never a educator and over his last four years as he let the superintendent run roughshod over the district he hasn’t shown much support for teachers either. He with his letter of the law mentality has shown he doesn’t always understand the importance of educators.

One of the biggest problems education has is non-educators thinking they can just walk right in and save the day. I am not saying teachers have all the answers but since they are the ones who work directly with the kids and can see what works and doesn’t work they are in a much better position to come up with solutions.

I am not so sure if Mr. Gentry has realized that yet.

Will he, won't he, will he, won't he, the W.C. Gentry saga

W.C. Gentry only ran for school board after a failed attempt to join the state legislature. His ample fortune at least assisted his run and he has been on the board for arguably the worse four years since the city was segregated. Teacher morale plummeted, student accountability was eradicated and the district despite its claims to the contrary, is in a much worse place than it as four years ago.

Is he running for school board again? Who knows? Last year he told the audience of First Coast Connect that he wouldn’t but then did an about face and indicated to other board members and the Times Union that he would. Now according to the Times Union he may try and join the state legislature or he might run for school board, he doesn’t know yet.

Friends in District 7, is he who you want representing you and your children? A man who can’t decide what job he wants and if that is the case the reasons he wants the job must be unclear too. Couples that with his recent distain for the public with his letter of the law notes when the decision to fire the superintendent was made, I can’t help but think the city can do better and the children of Jacksonville deserve better.

Charter Schools are not saving education

From the San Francisco Chronicle, by David Sirota

Talk K-12 education for more than five minutes, and inevitably, the conversation turns to charter schools - those publicly funded, privately administered institutions that now educate more than 2 million American children. Parents wonder if they are better than the neighborhood public school. Politicians tout them as a silver-bullet solution to the education crisis. Education technology companies promote them for their profit potential.

But are charter schools living up to their original mission as experimental schools pioneering better education outcomes and reducing segregation? That was the vision of the late American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker when he proposed charters a quarter-century ago. According to new data, it looks as if those objectives are not being realized.

In recent years, major studies suggest that, on the whole, charter schools are producing worse educational achievement results than traditional public schools. For example, Stanford University researchers discovered that while 17 percent of charter schools "provide superior education opportunities for their students," a whopping "37 percent deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their students would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools." Likewise, the National Center for Education Statistics found that charter school students performed worse on academic assessments than their peers in traditional public schools.

These numbers might be a bit less alarming if charters were making sure to "not be school(s) where all the advantaged kids or all the white kids or any other group is segregated," as Shanker envisioned. According to a new report from the National Education Policy Center, however, charters "tend to be more racially segregated than traditional public schools" - and in lots of places, they seem to be openly hostile to children who are poor, who are from minority communities or who have special education needs.

A smattering of headlines from across the country tells that story. "Nashville charter schools blasted over racial imbalance," blared a recent headline in the Tennessean. "Colorado charter schools enroll fewer with needs," screamed the Denver Post. "Charter schools enrolling low number of poor students," reported the Miami Herald. The list goes on and on.

Some apologists might claim that, for all their faults, charter schools at least save school districts money. But as evidence suggests from Ohio to New Mexico to Tennessee to Florida to Pennsylvania, charter schools are often more expensive than their counterparts.

Does this all mean that charter schools are inherently bad? Of course not. However, the data do suggest that charter schools are not a systemic answer to America's education crisis. In many cases they distract from the real ills plaguing the education system - ills rooted in economic inequality and anemic school budgets.

Such challenges aren't sexy, simple or politically convenient - but they are the true problems at the heart of our education system. And those problems will continue harming kids unless they are addressed.

ds@davidsirota.com

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/22/EDCB1NOSSG.DTL#ixzz1qSeK5wUt

Arne Duncan, tests first, kids last

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

Last weekend’s release by the Atlanta Journal Constitutionof an investigative report into possible cheating across the nation drew this email comment from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:

“These findings are concerning,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an emailed statement after being briefed on the AJC’s analysis.

He added: “States, districts, schools and testing companies should have sensible safeguards in place to ensure tests accurately reflect student learning.”

Does Duncan believe that tests can accurately “reflect student learning?” If so, he’s taking the position that one multiple choice test – designed far away from the building where a student goes to school – is absolute in measuring something – student learning - that is both broad and ambiguous.

Duncan’s statement reveals just how much the main players in education reform are devoted to testing. The tests which the Secretary is so enamored with were once called “achievement” tests and later, “assessment” tools. Nonetheless, Duncan’s statement shows that education reformers are trying to maintain the narrative that standardized tests have more value and are far more important than they ever have been before.

http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/arne-duncan-feels-tests-accurately-reflect-student-learning/

Florida's education money laundering scheme

What would prevent a corporation from setting up dummy sub-par a for profit charter school in a strip mall and use all the money they would have paid in taxes to be diverted into their shadow charter organization?

As the money earmarked for the education of Florida's children is diverted for profit, the meager left-overs provide little capital to provide a quality education to unsuspecting students enrolled in their charter school. Each year the charter school will earn an F, as does well over 50 percent of charters in Florida. They will get more chances and more tax money like KIPP year after year. Their stockholders will give more donations to the super pac or donate directly to the politicians which gives them the power to perpetuate this government for sale to the highest bidder.

It is simply money laundering to avoid taxes in a state that has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the nation. It begs a larger question which should be addressed. If all these tax incentives diversions are so great, and supposed to lure corporations to move here, and improve the quality of education in Florida through "competition" and unequally applied "accountability", why aren't more high tech corporations moving to Florida?

It may have something to do with the statistics that indicate we are nearly last in many academic performance indicators such as NAEP, SAT and ACT scores. Additionally, other quality of life indicators include but are not limited to; Infant mortality, child poverty, violent crime, and homelessness do not paint a pleasant image of the state.

It's okay for vacation, but I wouldn't want to raise my kids here.

I think it is safe to say that Oracle, Microsoft and Intel will not be moving to this academic Mecca anytime soon. These corporations will stay in states that have triple or quadurple our corporate tax rate. Their behavior speaks volumes of what well educated, intelligent professionals who are on the cutting edge of innovation value in their community.

Watch out institutions of higher ed. You are next. Can't you see it coming? Look at all these online for profit schools. They remind me of an era when you could get a degree through mail order correspondence courses. This was pervasive from the late 1800's to the 2nd world war. They were as ubiquitous as the Sears Roebuck Catalog. They were a joke then, and society knew it.

Everyone quickly figured out that you could get someone to fill out the books for you just as you can get anyone to sit in front of a PC and fill the screen. We know it is happening but we choose not to think about it or, were we wiser then? Is history repeating itself?

Is the Fix for the new superintendent in?

I am troubled by the notion that Betty Burney and the Board will be meeting with the Center for Reform of School Systems. This group is financed by the Broad foundation and they or their satellite organizations have been known to support corporate refroms such as vouchers, charter schools, high stakes testing, performance pay for teachers and recently the parent trigger movement. Parent Revolution the organization responsible for the parent trigger legislation like the Center for Reform of Schools Systems receives funding from the broad foundation.

The Broad foundation also runs a superintendent academy, the mission of which is to move professionals from their current careers in business, the military, law and the government into superintendents and upper-level management positions of urban public school districts. Then in their new positions, they can implement the foundation’s corporate reform agenda.

Then you couple this with their speeding up of the time table for hiring the new super and thus far how they have kept the public at arms length during the process is all very troubling.

We should be concerned and pay very close attention to the hiring process of the next superintendent.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Only losers with the FCAT

From the Miami Herald, BY KATHLEEN McGRORY
kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com

Ceresta Smith had a litany of concerns about high-stakes testing.
So when it came time for her teenage daughter to take the portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test required for graduation, Smith allowed her to opt out.

“It’s not that my husband and I are against standardized testing,” said Smith, a public school teacher in Miami-Dade County. “Both of us acknowledge that testing can be a very useful diagnostic tool. But as it is being used now, it is damaging to kids and it is creating a racial divide in our schools.”

Smith is part of a coalition of teachers urging parents across the country to opt their children out of standardized tests. The group – which says parents have a right to say no to standardized tests — has supporters in all 50 states, Smith said, and has caught the attention of education bloggers and think tanks.

State education officials, however, say state law requires all children to participate in the testing program.

“It really is in the best interest of the student to participate,” Deputy K-12 Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen said. “The purpose of the exam is to collect information about how well a student is mastering information.”

Standardized testing grew more controversial when federal lawmakers signed the No Child Left Behind Act a decade ago. The law required states to develop standardized tests in order to receive federal education funding.

It also mandated significant changes be made at the lowest-performing schools, which often enroll large number of poor and minority children.

Smith and others argue that those lowest-performing schools have been hurt the most because they have had to focus on improving their FCAT scores at the expense of electives and other academic programs.

“Our kids are stressed out,” Smith said. “And when they graduate, they aren’t college-ready. The only people who are benefitting from the tests are the corporations that are making big financial profits.”

Adding a new layer to the debate in Florida: Teacher compensation will soon be tied to student test scores.

State lawmakers say the policy will enable Florida to attract and retain high-quality teachers. But teachers’ unions argue the measure isn’t a fair way to evaluate teachers.

Is opting out really an option?

Under state law, participation in the testing program is “mandatory” for all students attending public school, including children in juvenile justice programs. Teachers statewide are directed to administer the exams.

A Broward County schools spokeswoman said parents cannot opt children out of state tests, including the FCAT. The Miami-Dade district had a similar take.

“The Florida Department of Education has advised us that students must be presented with the test materials and the opportunity to test [for] the full administration,” Miami-Dade schools spokesman John Schuster said. “If the student refuses to take the test, the answer document will be returned blank.”

But the law is silent on what happens if a parent or child opts out.
Each year, scores of kids statewide miss the exams, a state education department spokeswoman said. And while school districts need 90 percent of children to take exams to get a school grade, the impact on the child is minimal.

Only two of the exams dictate if a child will move on to the next grade or graduate from high school: the third-grade and the tenth-grade reading exams. In each case, there are options for children who miss or fail the exams.

Third-graders can present a portfolio of work that demonstrates their reading skills. High school students can submit concordant scores on the SAT or ACT.

State education officials say they do not have figures on how many children have opted out of the FCAT. Tappen, the deputy chancellor, said she had never heard of a student opting out.

Last year, a Tallahassee mother made headlines when she told the school district her son would not be taking the sixth-grade FCAT. But teachers gave the boy the exam, and he ended up taking it.

Smith said she and her daughter, Aisha Daniels, made the decision to opt out of the exam together.

Aisha, 16, said standardized testing has had a negative impact on the arts curriculum at her school, Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School in northeast Miami-Dade County.

“My teachers can’t get us canvases or paint,” Aisha said. “They are putting all of the money into tests. We’re doing tests, tests, tests, and we can’t focus on the arts.”

After Smith and her daughter decided against taking the 10th grade FCATs last year, Smith wrote a note to the principal requesting her daughter be given an alternative assignment during the testing period.

On testing day, school officials offered Aisha an opportunity to take the exam. But when she declined, the teachers gave her something else to do.

Aisha said she felt strongly about taking a stand, even though her teachers and school administrators gave her a hard time.

Smith felt similarly — so much so that she got involved in the movement on a national level. Her group is now planning an Occupy the Department of Education rally this spring to raise awareness.

Smith, who teaches at Norland Senior High, said she will continue to proctor FCAT while on the clock at work.

“But as a taxpayer and parent, I cannot be silent on it,” she said.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/27/v-fullstory/2717878/can-parents-have-kids-opt-out.html#storylink=cpy

FCAT, children's futures tied to one test

From the Tampa Times, by Jeff Solochek

Florida's annual FCAT testing time is right around the corner. Stress levels rise for many children and teachers as their futures are increasingly tied to the test results.

Should they just say no?

A coalition of teachers around the country is saying that the value of testing is not as it once was, as states use the exams for many purposes other than evaluating and improving student learning and teacher instruction. They're urging a boycott.

"Our kids are stressed out," Miami-Dade teacher Ceresta Smith told the Miami Herald. "And when they graduate, they aren't college ready. The only people who are benefitting from the tests are the corporations that are making big financial profits."

Florida's testing program is mandatory in law. But the law says nothing about families opting out.

Of course school leaders frown upon the idea, because they're held accountable for participation in addition to performance. But is this perhaps another way for parents and educators to band together and let the state know how they feel about high-stakes testing? Even former Pinellas School Board member Mary Russell talked of a boycott back in 2003.

Is it time to renew the idea.

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/content/fcat-looms-it-time-skip

In Florida Public Money goes to Private Schools

From the Palm Beach Post, by John Kennedy

The Republican-ruled House agreed to expand the state's corporate-tax-credit private-school-voucher program, with Democrats decrying the move to pull dollars from the state treasury that could go to public schools.

Businesses get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donating to the program, which began in 2001 as a centerpiece of then-Gov. Jeb Bush's drive to give parents options to leave troubled public schools and instead send their children to private schools.

The program began by making as much as $50 million a year eligible for tax credits statewide, but it has grown steadily since then, including a sliding scale passed two years ago that would allow the cap to climb to $219 million this year.

The measure approved Wednesday would expand the total amount available for credits to $229 million next year.

Democrats fiercely fought the proposed increase, which still needs to clear the Senate.

"This bill is about private schools," said Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston. "Please don't take any more money out of public schools."

Lawmakers actually set aside an additional $1 billion for public schools this year, although critics have cautioned that the boost fails to cover the $1.3 billion that Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature cut from schools last year, bringing per-pupil spending to its lowest level in six years.

But the House sponsor of the corporate-tax-credit voucher bill (HB 859), Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-New Port Richey, said the money redirected from taxes to private groups that provide vouchers helps students leave "failing schools." He rattled off state Education Department statistics suggesting the performance of such students improves after they move on.

But students who take public vouchers to go to private schools are exempt from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) that is required of public school students. The House bill does authorize participating schools to administer state assessment tests, and orders public school districts to provide the material and whatever support the private schools need.

The House passed the bill on the same day that a unanimous vote in the Senate sent a House bill (HB 870) to the governor that would cut funding for public schools scoring below the state average on certain end-of-course tests.

That's just one provision in the wide-ranging education bill, but it drew the most discussion Wednesday. It applies to tests in algebra I and biology I and would not go into effect for another three years. The bill also calls for more advanced courses and early high school graduation.

Some senators public schools will be punished despite making efforts to bring their test scores up. Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who is in line to become Senate president in November, promised to help those schools.

As of November, 1,181 private schools participated in the corporate tax voucher program and scholarships were awarded to 37,578 students, records show. The scholarship amount per-student is about two-thirds what the state spends on public school students.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/state/florida-house-would-hike-corporate-tax-cut-to-2223548.html

The school board avoids including the public again!

The school board had to cancel and reschedule meetings related to the hiring of the new superintendent. They didn’t’ properly notify the public. They caught the mistake and canceled or rescheduled the meetings so no big deal right?

Wrong

Mistakes are made and if they are rectified it is no big deal however a pattern of excluding the public has emerged and that can’t be denied. The board continues to schedule meetings either early in the morning or afternoon when teachers and most of the public cannot attend because they are working.

I realize no time will be perfect for everybody but why doesn’t the school board schedule their meetings for times when more of the public and teachers can attend? The obvious answer is they don’t care what they have to say. Another disturbing pattern the school board has developed.

Only 4 of the first 50 Teach for America teachers remain in Jacksonville's schools

Since 2008, Teach for America has partnered with the district to bring in “about 50” new teachers each year

How many of those “about 50” from that first year do you think are still teaching this year? No I will just tell you, the thought of people guessing numbers that aren’t even close is unbearable.

Four, just four.

If you didn’t know Teach for America takes non education majors off supposed elite campuses puts them through a five week education boot camp and then places them in our most struggling schools to serve a two year commitment.

I am sure those four that lasted are much better teachers today than they were when they started. You see this is what happens to teachers because experience, despite what proponents of Teach for America will tell you, matters.

This year Duval County is supposed to bring in over a hundred TFA teachers while local teachers and college of Ed grads, people who would most likely stay a lot longer than just two years, can’t find jobs! These are the people we should be looking to place in our classrooms.

Our children deserve better than hobbyists looking for an adventure.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Kids are 64% better, Just ask the Duval County School Board

Duval County’s arrest rate has dropped 64% in two years? Which do you think played a greater roll for this dramatic drop? Our kids are committing 64% fewer crimes because of some miraculous training that school’s staffs have received or because Duval County Public Schools replaced the real police with school police?

You know I can’t condone former Raines principal Maxey lying to the police but I sincerely believe he believed he was doing what the district wanted him to do and that’s don’t involve the police because it would mess up the districts precious numbers.

Numbers friends, not the safety of teachers and students and not making sure schools are conducive to learning, is the district’s only real concern.

George Maxey got a raw deal

I just want to say I can’t condone lying to the police. Educators should always strive to do the right thing by their students even if it is hard and even if they might not like it. With that being said I think I can understand why Maxey did what he did and that’s, the superintendent told him to.

Now the superintendent didn’t say let kids who steal get off, no he says things like handle incidents in house and have the police involved as little as possible. I can imagine principal Maxey at least partly thought he was just following orders but like another group who claimed the same thing, this can often have disastrous consequences.

The district isn’t concerned with doing what’s right, it is concerned with appearances. We pass kids along without the knowledge and the skills they need, a work ethic and discipline to be successful. We don’t want a log jam of overage children nor do we want to invest in summer school. Instead of educating children cajole teachers into passing them or use grade recovery to move them out. Instead of disciplining kids we brow beat teachers into accepting maladaptive learning environments. Instead of giving kids consequences we look the other way because we don’t want our numbers to look bad.

I know several teachers, the victims of assaults or batteries that have been told not to involve the police, have had their paper work lost, not given time off to take care of it, or had various obstacles put in their way. The district with Pratt-Dannals at the helm likes to boast how discipline is way up and how referrals, suspensions and police incidents are way down but the truth is a lot different and please don’t take my word for it, ask any teacher in a neighborhood high or middle school. Teachers and students are touched or threatened and Items are stole from teacher’s desks or from students book bags all the time and administrations yawn as they go through the motion trying to find the culprits not that much of a punishment happens if they do. Once the police were involved Maxeys fate was sealed but don't think similar incidents don't fly under the radar.

We say Maxey should have done the right thing but the sad thing, the very sad thing is I am not sure if he knew what the right thing to do was.

I think insteaad of ruining this man's career a 30 day suspension would have been more appropriate.

Standardized Testing and Its Victims, part 2

From Education Week, by Alfie Kohn

Faced with inconvenient facts such as these, the leading fall-back position for defenders of standardized testing runs as follows: Even if it's true that suburban schools are being dumbed down by the tests, inner-city schools are often horrendous to begin with. There, at least, standards are finally being raised as a result of high-stakes testing.

Let's assume this argument is made in good faith, rather than as a cover for pursuing a standards-and-testing agenda for other reasons. Moreover, let's immediately concede the major premise here, that low-income minority students have been badly served for years. The problem is that the cure is in many ways worse than the disease—and not only because of the preceding eight facts, which remain both stubbornly true and painfully relevant to testing in the inner city. As Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., put it in a speech delivered last spring: "Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker, and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high-stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity." Here's why.

*The tests may be biased. For decades, critics have complained that many standardized tests are unfair because the questions require a set of knowledge and skills more likely to be possessed by children from a privileged background. The discriminatory effect is particularly pronounced with norm-referenced tests, where the imperative to spread out the scores often produces questions that tap knowledge gained outside of school. This, as W. James Popham argues, provides a powerful advantage to students whose parents are affluent and well-educated. It's more than a little ironic to rely on biased tests to "close the gap" between rich and poor.

*Guess who can afford better test preparation. When the stakes rise, people seek help anywhere they can find it, and companies eager to profit from this desperation by selling test-prep materials and services have begun to appear on the scene, most recently tailoring their products to state exams. Naturally, affluent families, schools, and districts are better able to afford such products, and the most effective versions of such products, thereby exacerbating the inequity of such testing. Moreover, when poorer schools do manage to scrape together the money to buy these materials, it's often at the expense of books and other educational resources that they really need.

*The quality of instruction declines most for those who have least. Standardized tests tend to measure the temporary acquisition of facts and skills, including the skill of test-taking itself, more than genuine understanding. To that extent, the fact that such tests are more likely to be used and emphasized in schools with higher percentages of minority students (a fact that has been empirically verified) predictably results in poorer-quality teaching in such schools. The use of a high-stakes strategy only underscores the preoccupation with these tests and, as a result, accelerates a reliance on direct-instruction techniques and endless practice tests. "Skills-based instruction, the type to which most children of color are subjected, tends to foster low-level uniformity and subvert academic potential," as Dorothy Strickland, an African-American professor at Rutgers University, has remarked.

Again, there's no denying that many schools serving low-income children of color were second-rate to begin with. Now, however, some of these schools, in Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, and elsewhere, are arguably becoming third-rate as testing pressures lead to a more systematic use of low-level, drill-and-skill teaching, often in the context of packaged programs purchased by school districts. Thus, when someone emphasizes the importance of "higher expectations" for minority children, we might reply, "Higher expectations to do what? Bubble-in more ovals correctly on a bad test—or pursue engaging projects that promote sophisticated thinking?" The movement driven by "tougher standards," "accountability," and similar slogans arguably lowers meaningful expectations insofar as it relies on standardized testing as the primary measure of achievement. The more that poor children fill in worksheets on command (in an effort to raise their test scores), the further they fall behind affluent kids who are more likely to get lessons that help them understand ideas. If the drilling does result in higher scores, the proper response is not celebration, but outrage: The test results may well have improved at the expense of real learning.

*Standards aren't the main ingredient that's in low supply. Anyone who is serious about addressing the inequities of American education would naturally want to investigate differences in available resources. A good argument could be made that the fairest allocation strategy, which is only common sense in some countries, is to provide not merely equal amounts across schools and districts, but more for the most challenging student populations. This does happen in some states—by no means all—but, even when it does, the money is commonly offered as a short-term grant (hardly sufficient to compensate for years of inadequate funding) and is often earmarked for test preparation rather than for higher-quality teaching. Worse, high-stakes testing systems may provide more money to those already successful (for example, in the form of bonuses for good scores) and less to those whose need is greatest.

Many public officials, along with like-minded journalists and other observers, are apt to minimize the matter of resources and assume that everything deficient about education for poor and minority children can be remedied by more forceful demands that we "raise the bar." The implication here would seem to be that teachers and students could be doing a better job but have, for some reason, chosen not to do so and need only be bribed or threatened into improvement. (In fact, this is the tacit assumption behind all incentive systems.) The focus among policymakers has been on standards of outcome rather than standards of opportunity.

To make matters worse, some supporters of high-stakes testing have not just ignored, but contemptuously dismissed, the relevance of barriers to achievement in certain neighborhoods. Explanations about very real obstacles such as racism, poverty, fear of crime, low teacher salaries, inadequate facilities, and language barriers are sometimes written off as mere "excuses." This is at once naive and callous, and, like any other example of minimizing the relevance of structural constraints, ultimately serves the interests of those fortunate enough not to face them.

*Those allegedly being helped will be driven out. When rewards and punishments are applied to educators, those who teach low-scoring populations are the most likely to be branded as failures and may decide to leave the profession. Minority and low-income students are disproportionately affected by the incessant pressure on teachers to raise scores. But when high stakes are applied to the students themselves, there is little doubt about who is most likely to be denied diplomas as a consequence of failing an exit exam—or who will simply give up and drop out in anticipation of such an outcome. If states persist in making a student's fate rest on a single test, the likely result over the next few years will be nothing short of catastrophic. Unless we act to stop this, we will be facing a scenario that might be described without exaggeration as an educational ethnic cleansing.

Let's be charitable and assume that the ethnic aspect of this perfectly predictable consequence is unintentional. Still, it is hard to deny that high-stakes testing, even when the tests aren't norm-referenced, is ultimately about sorting. Someone unfamiliar with the relevant psychological research (and with reality) might insist that raising the bar will "motivate" more students to succeed. But perform the following thought experiment: Imagine that almost all the students in a given state met the standards and passed the tests. What would be the reaction from most politicians, businesspeople, and pundits? Would they now concede that our public schools are terrific—or would they take this result as prima facie evidence that the standards were too low and the tests were too easy? As Deborah Meier and others have observed, the phrase "high standards" by definition means standards that everyone won't be able to meet.

The tests are just the means by which this game is played. It is a game that a lot of kids—predominantly kids of color—simply cannot win. Invoking these very kids to justify a top-down, heavy-handed, corporate-style, test-driven version of school reform requires a stunning degree of audacity. To take the cause of equity seriously is to work for the elimination of tracking, for more equitable funding, and for the universal implementation of more sophisticated approaches to pedagogy (as opposed to heavily scripted direct-instruction programs). But standardized testing, while bad news across the board, is especially hurtful to students who need our help the most.

http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/staiv.htm

Standardized Testing and Its Victims, part 1

From Education Week, by Alfie Kohn

Standardized testing has swelled and mutated, like a creature in one of those old horror movies, to the point that it now threatens to swallow our schools whole. (Of course, on "The Late, Late Show," no one ever insists that the monster is really doing us a favor by making its victims more "accountable.") But let's put aside metaphors and even opinions for a moment so that we can review some indisputable facts on the subject.

Fact 1. Our children are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in our history and unparalleled anywhere else in the world. While previous generations of American students have had to sit through tests, never have the tests been given so frequently, and never have they played such a prominent role in schooling. The current situation is also unusual from an international perspective: Few countries use standardized tests for children below high school age—or multiple-choice tests for students of any age.

Fact 2. Noninstructional factors explain most of the variance among test scores when schools or districts are compared. A study of math results on the 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress found that the combination of four such variables (number of parents living at home, parents' educational background, type of community, and poverty rate) accounted for a whopping 89 percent of the differences in state scores. To the best of my knowledge, all such analyses of state tests have found comparable results, with the numbers varying only slightly as a function of which socioeconomic variables were considered.

Fact 3. Norm-referenced tests were never intended to measure the quality of learning or teaching. The Stanford, Metropolitan, and California Achievement Tests (SAT, MAT, and CAT), as well as the Iowa and Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS and CTBS), are designed so that only about half the test-takers will respond correctly to most items. The main objective of these tests is to rank, not to rate; to spread out the scores, not to gauge the quality of a given student or school.

Fact 4. Standardized-test scores often measure superficial thinking. In a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, elementary school students were classified as "actively" engaged in learning if they asked questions of themselves while they read and tried to connect what they were doing to past learning; and as "superficially" engaged if they just copied down answers, guessed a lot, and skipped the hard parts. It turned out that high scores on both the CTBS and the MAT were more likely to be found among students who exhibited the superficial approach to learning. Similar findings have emerged from studies of middle school students (also using the CTBS) and high school students (using the other SAT, the college-admission exam). To be sure, there are plenty of students who think deeply and score well on tests—and plenty of students who do neither. But, as a rule, it appears that standardized-test results are positively correlated with a shallow approach to learning.

Fact 5. Virtually all specialists condemn the practice of giving standardized tests to children younger than 8 or 9 years old. I say "virtually" to cover myself here, but, in fact, I have yet to find a single reputable scholar in the field of early-childhood education who endorses such testing for young children.

Fact 6. Virtually all relevant experts and organizations condemn the practice of basing important decisions, such as graduation or promotion, on the results of a single test. The National Research Council takes this position, as do most other professional groups (such as the American Educational Research Association and the American Psychological Association), the generally pro-testing American Federation of Teachers, and even the companies that manufacture and sell the exams. Yet just such high-stakes testing is currently taking place, or scheduled to be introduced soon, in more than half the states.

Fact 7. The time, energy, and money that are being devoted to preparing students for standardized tests have to come from somewhere. Schools across the country are cutting back or even eliminating programs in the arts, recess for young children, electives for high schoolers, class meetings (and other activities intended to promote social and moral learning), discussions about current events (since that material will not appear on the test), the use of literature in the early grades (if the tests are focused narrowly on decoding skills), and entire subject areas such as science (if the tests cover only language arts and math). Anyone who doubts the scope and significance of what is being sacrificed in the desperate quest to raise scores has not been inside a school lately.

Fact 8. Many educators are leaving the field because of what is being done to schools in the name of "accountability" and "tougher standards." I have no hard numbers here, but there is more than enough anecdotal evidence—corroborated by administrators, teacher-educators, and other observers across the country, and supported by several state surveys that quantify the extent of disenchantment with testing— to warrant classifying this as a fact. Prospective teachers are rethinking whether they want to begin a career in which high test scores matter most, and in which they will be pressured to produce these scores. Similarly, as the New York Times reported in its lead story of Sept. 3, 2000, "a growing number of schools are rudderless, struggling to replace a graying corps of principals at a time when the pressure to raise test scores and other new demands have made an already difficult job an increasingly thankless one." It also seems clear that most of the people who are quitting, or seriously thinking about doing so, are not mediocre performers who are afraid of being held accountable. Rather, they are among the very best educators, frustrated by the difficulty of doing high-quality teaching in the current climate.

http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/staiv.htm

The fabric of education is unraveling

From Bridging Differences, by Diane Ravitch

There comes a time when you look at the rug on the floor, the one you've seen many times, and you see a pattern that you had never noticed before. You may have seen this squiggle or that flower, but you did not see the pattern into which the squiggles and flowers and trails of ivy combined.

In American education, we can now discern the pattern on the rug.

Consider the budget cuts to schools in the past four years. From the budget cuts come layoffs, rising class sizes, less time for the arts and physical education, less time for history, civics, foreign languages, and other non-tested subjects. Add on the mandates of No Child Left Behind, which demands 100 percent proficiency in math and reading and stigmatizes more than half the public schools in the nation as "failing" for not reaching an unattainable goal.

Along comes the Obama administration with the Race to the Top, and the pattern on the rug gets clearer. It tells cash-strapped states that they can compete for federal funding, but only if they open more privately managed schools (where few teachers have any job protections), only if they adopt national standards that have never been field-tested, only if they agree to evaluate teachers by student test scores, and only if they are ready to close down low-performing schools, fire the principal and staff, and call it a turnaround.

Race to the Top seems to have catalyzed a national narrative, at least among the mainstream media. The good guys open charter schools and fire bad teachers. The bad guys are lazy teachers who get lifetime tenure just for breathing and showing up. Most evil of all are the unions, who protect the bad teachers and fend off any effort to evaluate them. Anyone who questions the headlong rush to privatization and the blind faith in standardized testing will be smeared as "a defender of the status quo" who has "no solutions." Even if all the "reformers'" solutions are destructive and stale, even though they consistently have failed to produce better education, the reformers never think twice about their palette of "solutions."

Just by happenstance, a major documentary appears in September 2010 ("Waiting for 'Superman'") to recapitulate this narrative to millions. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation puts up the money to ensure that this morality tale of good reformers and bad teachers is shown to state legislatures, to civic groups, to people living in housing projects. The movie itself is financed in part by an evangelical billionaire (Philip Anschutz) who contributes heavily to libertarian and ultra-conservative causes.

At the same time, a small group of high-profile figures, led by Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, proclaim that low test scores are caused by bad teachers, and if they had their way, they would abolish tenure, seniority, and any other job protections for those greedy, lazy teachers. Freed of those encumbrances, teachers would hold on to their jobs only if their students' test scores went up. Economist Eric Hanushek adds another twist to the emerging scenario: fire 5 to 10 percent of the teachers whose students get the lowest scores, and amazing things are sure to happen: Bad teachers will be replaced by average teachers, test scores will rise to the top of the world, and the nation's gross domestic product will rise by trillions of dollars.

Governors and state legislatures heed these messages. How could they not? In state after state, men with vast personal fortunes invest in campaigns to end teachers' tenure, end seniority (now called Last In, First Out, or LIFO), and clear the way for private takeovers of public schools, where teachers work with no job rights at all. Understandably, the message is embraced by right-wing governors like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, and Rick Scott of Florida, but also by Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo of New York and Daniel Malloy of Connecticut, as well as independent Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, the richest foundation in the United States, the Gates Foundation, pours hundreds of millions of dollars into a project to find the perfect teacher evaluation system, thus reinforcing the "reform" narrative that the best way to fix what ails public education is to create a foolproof way to find and fire those malingering bad teachers. Where the Gates Foundation leads, many other foundations follow, sure that this philanthropic behemoth is wisest because it has the most money and presumably the best thinking.

Just recently, the fabulously rich foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, released an accounting of its grants in the education sector. This foundation is known for its love of all things private, and its antipathy for unions, government regulation, and public education. This year, Walton handed out $159 million to its favorites. Tidy sums were paid to the KIPP schools (mostly non-union) and to Teach For America, which claims that neither training nor experience is necessary to succeed in the classroom. And along with grants to "right to work" organizations, libertarian think tanks, and promoters of voucher and charters, there were grants for allegedly liberal or nonpartisan organizations like Education Trust, the Brookings Institution, Education Week (the weekly newspaper for K-12 news, which hosts our blog), Bellwether Education Partners (home to Time magazine columnist Andrew Rotherham), the United Negro College Fund (which helps explain, along with over $1 billion from the Gates Foundation, why the president of UNCF recently urged wavering legislators in Georgia to vote for charter legislation), and Stand for Children (whose founder Jonah Edelman, son of civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman, gets hefty donations from equity investors, promotes charter schools, and led the successful battle to curtail teachers' job protections in Illinois). Walton granted $2.2 million to IFF, an organization that recently drafted a report to redesign the District of Columbia's public schools by increased privatization, and awarded $500,000 to Mind Trust of Indianapolis, whose plan proposes to eliminate the central school district and privatize public schools in that city. Walton gave $1 million to Michelle Rhee's Students First campaign, which works with Republican governors to oppose teachers' unions and job protections for teachers and to advocate for vouchers and charters.

The bitter fruit of the past few years of reform: The latest survey of the attitudes of American teachers shows a deeply demoralized profession. Job satisfaction of our nation's teachers has plummeted since 2009, the period in which attacks on teachers soared while budgets shrunk. Nearly one-third of teachers—1 million teachers—are considering quitting. That's a 70 percent increase since 2009. Who will replace them? The latest survey published by Gates and Scholastic found that: "Only 26 percent of teachers say that the results of standardized tests are an accurate reflection of student achievement most teachers."

Our policymakers claim that they are infusing business values into education, but what smart corporation purposefully demoralizes its employees and measures their worth with a metric the employees don't believe to be valid or accurate?

And while the new value-added assessments are supposed to identify the best and worst teachers—those likeliest to get a bonus or a pink slip—the public release of teacher data reports in New York City demonstrated how inaccurate and unreliable these ratings are. While policymakers eagerly await the evidence they need to begin firing the lowest-rated teachers, a new study by the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, or CALDER, finds that teacher turnover demoralizes the entire staff and lowers achievement, not just for students whose teachers were removed, but for all the students in the school.

Last week, I met a principal from Tennessee at the annual meeting of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. She said her school is one of the highest-performing in the state and has been for many years. Every year, it gets an A for achievement and an F for value-added. She spends most of her time evaluating teachers to meet the demands of Tennessee's Race to the Top award. She reminded me that Tennessee has been doing value-added for 20 years, that it started this process under the auspices of William Sanders. She reminded me that he was trained as an agricultural statistician. She said, he thinks that children are like wheat, and their test scores should be equally predictable. She's retiring in a few months.

The pattern on the rug grows clear. Teaching will become a job, not a profession. Young people will typically spend a year or two as teachers, then move on to other, more rewarding careers. Federal and state policy will promote online learning, and computers will replace teaches. Online class sizes will reach 1:100, even 1:200; the job of monitoring the screens will be outsourced, creating large economies for state budgets. For-profit companies will make large profits. The Common Core standards will create a national marketplace for vendors, as Secretary Arne Duncan's chief of staff, Joanne Weiss, predicted. Entrepreneurs will reap the rewards of the new American style of education. As profits grow, the cost of education will be contained. Public education will increasingly be handed over to businesses designed to maximize economic efficiency and produce dependable profits for investors.

The report last week from the Klein-Rice commission of the Council on Foreign Relations reveals how this manner of thinking about education has become the conventional wisdom. Public schools as we know them, the commission suggests, are a threat to national security. What's needed to protect us from foreign enemies is more competition and choice, more privatization of our public schools, more No Child Left Behind, more Race to the Top. Big commissions tend to reflect the status quo. This one does, for sure.

See the pattern on the rug? It grows clearer every day. It is not about improving education. It is not about helping our society become more literate and better educated. Follow the money. We are indeed a nation at risk.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2012/03/the_pattern_on_the_rug.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BridgingDifferences+%28Education+Week+Blog%3A+Bridging+Differences%29