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Monday, March 31, 2014

Fresen, demonizing teachers and public schools was done for the common good!

I really don’t get how these people live with themselves.  Now he’s saying the school choice movement is responsible for magnet schools. Now I have always thought public schools should have more options with trades, skills and the arts along with the advanced academic programs but to give the school choice, err, privatization movement a scintilla of credit is beyond the pale.

From Redefined Ed: “That’s what we’ve always theorized from the moment that we started talking about choice and choice options was that, not only would it lift all ships,” Fresen said, but it would also spur school districts to create new programs “to meet different needs of students.”

“I do think that the more that you expand choice options outside of the conventional public school system, the more the conventional public school system will innovate itself, and start responding to those demands and those changes,” he said.

Basically Fresen is saying Florida’s war against teachers and public schools was all done for the common good. That all the kneecapping of teachers, the strangling requirements, the siphoning away of resources and all the money sent to the bank accounts of charter school operators and voucher providers was done to nudge public schools into doing what is right.

Give me a moment as I go hurl.

Turning our public schools into profit centers.

Vitti did the right thing about open enrollment

People who were against this plan, and I was one of them, shouldn’t count this as a victory because Vitti’s sentiment was right, we do need to bring kids back from charter schools and private schools, its just open enrollment was the wrong idea at this time.

First I believe there are a lot of better ways to bring kids back rather than fundamentally change the system.

What about making them safer? Vitti’s measures thus far, extra security, ISSP teachers and deans have been implemented half-heartedly.

What about fighting back against standardized tests one of the reasons many parents say they send their kids to private schools. Vitti’s rabbi Gary Chartrand is the chair of the state board of education, why can’t Vitti convince him that the high stakes testing culture created in Florida schools have sucked the joy out of education for untold teachers and students alike.

What about creating more programs that kids are interested in and I am not just talking about the obsession with STEM. I bet we could have two more Douglass Anderson type schools if not more.

What about making sure each class had a professional teacher rather than a Teach for America hobbyist to teach them. His reliance on then kneecaps hundreds of classrooms throughout the district and creates an ever-revolving door of teachers that will need to be replaced.

What about making classes smaller and bringing in more social workers and counselors because often why kids act up or do poorly in school has nothing to do with school at our schools that have seen the most amount of kids go to charter schools or take vouchers.

What about just getting the facts out there. Public schools without a doubt are the best things going on. They outperform charter schools as a group and they are doing well as private schools that accept vouchers despite them being able to pick who they take and keep. Furthermore the republican legislature isn’t trying to open up public school sports, clubs and extracurricular events to private school, home school and charter school kids for no reason. 

Then how about not approving anymore Charter schools, in my mind we already have 31 we don't need, ironically enough two more are most likely going to be approved tonight.

At the end of the day this decision should be up to the people of Jacksonville and it should be made through a referendum deciding if they wanted to pay for transportation, the only way to make it fair, or not.

Until then Vitti and the board did the right thing by putting on the breaks.

It’s been a very bad week for Step for Students

Friends I actually think vouchers should have a small role to play in education as a supplement. Unfortunately here in Florida some people envision them as a replacement for public education and aren’t above using dubious tactics and poor mostly minority students as props to get their way.  Step up for Students the organization that administers the vouchers and takes home nearly 7 million for their efforts had a pretty terrible week because of above.

First came the Video from Doug Tuthill their president which revealed they spend over a million dollars, some undoubtedly tax payer money to influence elections and legislation that directly benefits them. If they get their way and the bill currently working their way through the legislature passes they could conceivably triple their fees to about 25 million dollars.

Then came the revelation that the waiting list they and their supporters claimed to have that they used to justify the expansion of vouchers doesn’t actually exist.

Now they have since tried to clarify their record keeping practices but their efforts seems self serving at best.
Friends the bottom line is they don’t care about the mostly minority and poor children they serve because if they did they would insist on accountability measures, qualified teachers and legitimate curriculums but they don’t and in fact they fight against those things.

Their efforts are about three things only: funneling money to religious schools, knee capping public schools and filing their pockets, children and apparently decency and the truth don’t make the cut. 

The only question that now remains is will the Florida legislature, dominated by people who receive donations from Step up for Students will do the right thing or not, sadly history does not leave me optimistic.

Eric Fresen Florida’s worst legislator ever

Sit down friends this one is a doozy.

From the St. Augustine Record when commenting about vouchers: “There is a pent-up demand for that program, a potential demand in the future, and we are going to allow for that demand be met,” Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, told reporters after the 8-4 vote by the House Education Appropriations subcommittee.

Um what about the pent up demand to stop standardized tests? Maybe a few people do want vouchers but millions are tired of teaching to the test, sadly unlike the voucher people they haven’t contributed to Fresen’s reelection campaigns.  The bottom-line for him is if you are a public school parent or student you don’t matter to him.

It gets worse though, also from the record: .Organizations that run the program estimate as many 25,000 additional students are trying to get into the program now, although at one point Fresen contended that as many as 100,000 students want to enroll in it.

So Fresen took their money and then lied for them, talk about ethics.

What can I say about his scruples that his words don’t already say for him.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What's really happening with testing in Duval County Public Schools!

From a Reader

1.       Testing seems to be a sensitive point with the Superintendent. He has taken great pains to say that he has reduced the amount of testing and that he is encouraging a culture of instruction and child development. Is this true? Let’s examine the current testing environment in Duval County Public Schools.

2.       It is true that the Superintendent cleared the testing calendar of many tests that various District departments sent to schools. He was correct in perceiving that DCPS wanted many tests given that duplicated one another: PMA, LSA, Benchmark—many tested the same concepts.

Yet, because many of those tests were optional, most classroom teachers stopped giving them. Only the mandated tests were given to maximize instructional time. The clearing of the calendar had little practical impact.

3.       The Florida Department of Education is duplicitous when it says the only tests it requires are FCAT and EOCs. School districts have many mandates for reporting data on student progress which require the districts to choose and administer tests throughout the school year. Dr. Vitti made the decision to discontinue the September and December benchmark tests and to use other tests in their place: this year, the Curriculum Guide Assessments (CGAs).

Florida law requires that a teacher’s personal contribution to student growth be measured by testing. This requires giving a test at the beginning of the school year and a test at the end of the school year. Where Florida does not have a state assessment for the subject, for example, FCAT math, districts have to create and give their own tests. So Florida forces districts to give tests, but claims the tests are not state-required tests.

4.       Notwithstanding FLDOE’s hypocrisy, DCPS practice in administering CGAs have caused problems in themselves.

5.       CGAs are given too soon. DCPS has mandated that certain tests are given three weeks before the end of the nine weeks grading period. This has been a high level—cabinet level—decision. Students have to sit for exams with one-third or more of the content untaught. The CGAs were written to cover the entire quarterly Curriculum Guide. When the tests are given early, the students are left to struggle with concepts they have not been taught.

And then District managers wonder why performance is low.

The Superintendent says in the latest media report that he will direct that these tests take place every ten weeks. Can we trust him given what has happened this year?

We are given to understand the reason for this is that they need data to understand student progress. Really? DCPS cannot anticipate that students will not pass exams that contain material they have not been taught?

The consequence—from the people running DCPS—unintended but nevertheless real—is the corrosive effect this has on student-teacher relationships. When the test is over, the students turn to their teachers and ask, “Why didn’t you teach me what was on this test?!”

Teachers have no answer. How do you tell students it’s not your fault, you are made to do what DCPS demands? But students stop trusting that their teachers are on their side.

6.       CGAs are revised by the Accountability & Assessment department. What schools receive is not what the Curriculum and Assessment Writing Teams turn in; the tests are revised by the side of DCPS that works in testing and data. What the Academic Departments have done is changed.

If you ponder that paragraph, you come to the conclusion that Testing trumps Academics.

For example, the 2nd quarter CGA for Algebra had 37 problems for which the students were given 60 minutes. That’s an average of 1.6 minutes per problem. In comparison, the state End of Course exam gives students 160 minutes to solve 64 problems, or 2.5 minutes per problem.

Yes, DCPS only allows students 64% of the time for a problem that Florida allows for a test written to the level of difficulty of the state exam.

Why 37 problems? I talked to someone who was involved with the team that wrote the exam. It turns out that Accountability and Assessment did not want to wait for the 3rd nine weeks exam to gather student data on content that was scheduled for the 3rd nine weeks. So they moved problems from CGA 3 to CGA 2.

7.       Why does DCPS want to test students before they have the chance to learn?

8.       The Florida Times-Union quoted Dr. Vitti as saying this: “Every district needs district-wide testing for accountability... but the challenge becomes when teachers still want to use their own tests,” he said. “They believe their test questions are the right questions ... A biology student may have as many as 20 tests. That’s been a challenge.”

Is he saying that the reason we test students too much is that teachers give their own tests?

Let’s ask why teachers have to give their own tests beyond the fact that they are the best experts in what their students have been taught and what those students should therefore be held accountable for. Also, let’s ignore the fact that teachers don’t test students on material they have not yet taught.

Teachers are not respected professionals in the educational process. CGAs are like the FCAT: teachers do not see the test beforehand, and they are not allowed to work with students after the administration to go over the problems.

The most teachers are allowed to do is display the test after the test window closes and lecture students about the questions. Students may not rework the problems. All they are allowed to do is listen to the teacher lecture about the problems for 90 minutes.

Who thinks such a scenario holds any educational value?
9.       What do teachers want to do? They would like to copy the problems, cut them into individual sections, and have the students paste them into the Interactive Journals DCPS has demanded of every student in every classroom. Teachers would have students work in their journals to decode the problems, write about them, and work out solutions.

This is what’s known as a FORMATIVE assessment—the students learn from taking the test. DCPS denies them.

10.   This is all the more egregious because we are in a transition year—we move to new standards next year. These CGAs will never be used again. Why does DCPS think they need to preserve the secrecy?

The Superintendent wants to talk about the priority of the student learning experience over the testing environment? Oh, my dear Dr. Vitti, “PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF!”

Help Andrea Rediske stand up for Florida's disabled children!

from Andrea Rediske

Early in February 2014, Orange County Public Schools and the Florida Department of Education harassed our family by requiring documentation that my son was dying and in hospice care to prove that he was unable to take state-mandated standardized tests.  In order to receive the waiver for testing the previous year, I had to submit a mountain of paperwork, including details of his medical history, and a letter from his doctor.  We were assured at his IEP meeting this school year that the waiver would be granted without problems.  Obviously, this wasn’t the case.  Shortly after I came forward with our story, State Representative Karen Castor-Dentel proposed HB 895 entitled the Ethan Rediske Act, that would make it easier for severely disabled and medically fragile children to receive waivers for standardized testing. According to the language of HB 895, the process to receive a waiver for standardized testing would go through the local district superintendent rather than requiring approval from the State Commissioner of Education.  I felt so humbled, grateful, and delighted to see that my son’s struggles with standardized testing were not in vain and that he would leave a legacy for other students like him in Florida.  I was so hopeful that families like ours would be relieved of a very small part of the burden that they carry every day.  I felt at the time that the Florida legislature would see the need for this type of legislation, and that its passage would sail through the House and the Senate.  Ethan passed away on February 7, 2014.  We were overwhelmed with the love and support of so many in the wake of our son’s death, and Ethan’s story has been broadcast around the country. 

Sadly, the Ethan Rediske Act has become the center of an ugly political battle, and HB 895 as it was written will not be passed.  Shortly after Ethan’s funeral, I addressed the Florida Department of Education and the Commissioner of Education at a local meeting here in Orlando, explaining what we had been through and urging them to support this legislation.  A few days after I spoke to the FLDOE, Pam Stewart, the Commissioner of Education wrote a letter that was sent to every teacher in the state of Florida, tacitly accusing me of using our personal tragedy to fulfill my “political agenda.”  She also stated in her letter that she approved 16 out of only 30 requests for waivers that had been requested – a little more than a 50% approval rate.

Senator Andy Gardiner submitted a competing bill (SB 1512), which, in addition to providing legislation supporting vouchers for charter schools, provides permanent waivers for all standardized testing of disabled children, but which requires the approval of the Commissioner of Education, who has a track record of only approving 50% of these requests. He has a child with Down Syndrome who has been mainstreamed into public school – I completely understand why he is invested in seeing this legislation pass.  However, Senator Gardiner is completely against the Ethan Rediske act, and was instrumental in stopping the bill from ever making it onto the K-12 subcommittee agenda for discussion.  Representative Karen Castor-Dental had to negotiate verbiage of the Ethan’s Act being attached to another bill – HB 7117 that includes legislation for school accountability – most of which does not receive support from parents, teachers, or schools.  Sadly, because Ethan’s Act has so much support, the other parts of this bill will get passed along with it.  Ethan’s name has been removed from the bill entirely – many legislators do not want his name associated with the legislation because it shows that there were measures in place in the legislature that hurt disabled children.

Even if HB 7117 passes the Florida House, it is in danger of being gutted or stopped by Senator Gardiner.  Without being completely privy to all of the political machinations at play right now, it seems that both Senator Andy Gardiner and Commissioner Pam Stewart are holding all the cards.  They have powerful allies and are protected on many fronts and have the power to stop this legislation.  Pam Stewart is an appointee of Governor Rick Scott and was not elected to her position.  Senator Andy Gardiner, according to his Wikipedia entry has been voted byOrlando Magazine as one of the 50 most powerful people in Florida for 5 years.  These two individuals hold tremendous political power and seem to be very determined to stop this legislation from passing.

I can’t fully convey the depth of my anguish over this.  I had such high hopes that Florida legislators would see what my sweet son has been through, they would understand the need to protect children like him and support families like ours, and do the right thing by passing the Ethan Rediske Act.  My only hope now is that the immense support we have received over the original bill can be channeled into influencing these individuals in positions of incredible political power to somehow change their minds and their hearts and support this legislation. 

If you feel moved to write to them, please be articulate and civil.  Anything that they perceive as an attack will likely be met with more resistance.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help and support.

Senator Andy Gardiner:

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart:

An online petition against SB 1512 that includes a boilerplate message that will be sent to all Florida legislators on the Education Committee considering this bill:

Duval County wouldn’t fudge the enrollment numbers would they?

They have never fudged numbers before right?

Something has bugged me about this open enrollment proposal and that’s the report of our enrollment that I thought had actually gone up this year.  Below from a reader seems to back that up.

The Rush to Open Enrollment
One Man’s Thoughts

Open Enrollment, the latest policy initiative from the DCPS Superintendent, may be a good idea. But it has not been vetted, it may have the opposite of its intended consequences, but we are given no time to have a thorough discussion by all stakeholders in the school system.

Why the rush? Perhaps the answer is this: Last August, Duval schools were short on instructional materials. The reason given was that enrollment was up: 2,000 over the projected enrollment of 118,000 students.

If you read the media reports down to the details, you found that the enrollment was reported as 117,000 as of this month of March.

That’s right—120,000 in August; 117,000 in March.

Maybe the Superintendent is panicked by the loss of 3,000 students in six months.

That’s no reason to rush a policy into effect that could have massive unintended consequences.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

It turns out that waiting list for Vouchers doesn't really exist

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

This belongs in the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category.

The short version:

Florida’s lawmakers are considering expanding a voucher-like tax credit program because, legislators keep saying, there is a huge waiting list of families who want to participate. It turns out that there is no waiting list.

The long version:

The Florida legislature has been considering legislation that would expand the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, a voucher-like scheme that allows public money to be used for private school tuition but wouldn’t require much if anything in the way of accountability from schools that accept vouchers. (For example, the students wouldn’t have to take the high-stakes standardized tests required of public school students.)

The Senate bill’s sponsor, Republican Bill Galvano of Bradenton, wound up pulling the bill after stories about the lack of accountability began to spread, and he cited the accountability measures as the reason for his action. He did not mention an embarrassing video that was uncovered in which Doug Tuthill, the president of Step Up for Students, which administers the tax credit program, talks about how much money his organization spends funding political campaigns. The Tampa Bay Times wrote about the video in this story, which said in part:

In the video, Step Up for Students President Doug Tuthill outlined the organization’s political strategy. He talked about the role of an affiliated political committee.

“One of the primary reasons we’ve been so successful we spend about $1 million every other cycle in local political races, which in Florida is a lot of money,” Tuthill told a group at the University of California, Berkeley. “In House races and Senate races, we’re probably the biggest spender in local races.” 

Tuthill said he and other proponents “make low-income families the face of the program.”

“We put those people in the face of Democrats and say ‘How can you deny this parent the right to educate their child in the ways that they need?’ ” he said.


Just when people thought the expansion of the program was dead in the legislature for the year, Florida House members found a way to resurrect it by combining it with another reform bill still alive. What will happen is unclear.

But the larger point is that the expansion of the program has been pushed by Step Up For Students based on what it and supportive legislators have said is a very, very long waiting list of families who want to participate. Rep. Erik Fresen, a Republican from Miami who was one of the legislators who figured out how to keep the expansion idea alive, said at a hearing in Tallahassee about the bill that there is a waiting list of families seeking the tax credits that now stands “at 100,00 students.” During the debate about the legislation, a figure of 34,000 families on a waiting list has been thrown about, as have other figures.
Specifically citing such numbers suggests there is an actual waiting list. But, it turns out, there isn’t. After school activists and reporters asked for details about the waiting list, Step Up For Students acknowledged that, alas, it doesn’t really keep one. There aren’t any people on the waiting list because there isn’t a waiting list. Why?

Jon East, of the redefinED blog, which is published by Step Up For Students, wrote in this post:

The people who process applications at Step Up, which publishes this blog, have become so overwhelmed in recent years that they no longer wanted to give low-income families false hope. They concluded that the main reason for the waiting list was mostly for show, and they wanted no part of that.

Mostly for show? The organization has sought an expansion of the program, and legislators have cited the waiting list as a reason for funding it.
East continues:

For the current school year, 2013-14, the cap limit of $286 million has allowed Step Up to serve 59,765 low-income students. But applications were coming in so fast last spring that the processing team decided to stop taking them on June 28, about as month-and-a-half before school started. Even so, 94,104 students had already started.

That number from June is the origin of the 34,000 “waiting list” that has been asserted many times during the current debate. In reality, it’s not a waiting list, but it’s a powerful indication of demand.

Whatever the demand, it remains the case that public funding has no business being used to pay for private school tuition. That’s the bottom line.

The Times Union wants you to bet the farm on a maybe

Twenty one days ago nobody was talking about open enrollment, now Superintendent Vitti and the editorial staff of the Times Union want us to go full speed ahead and have provided some dubious reasons to do so.

I have serious reservations about this idea as do many including the Jacksonville Public Education fund which says without providing transportation it will most likely only benefit those families that arguably wouldn’t use it or need it. They also say the results of other districts who have tried it are mixed at best

Why not let the city of Jacksonville decide if they like the idea and I remind you that none of the school board members nor Vitti got to where they are at by talking about open enrollment, by voting on a referendum to pay for transportation. Several south Florida cities already have special revenue generating mechanisms in place dedicated solely to public education.

Regardless of how you feel about open enrollment you should realize that we shouldn’t go from not talking about it to fundamentally transforming the district in less than a month. If it is a good idea and like I said I have serious reservations it will be a good idea next year when all the problems and wrinkles of which there are many can be ironed out.

Finally I would like to say our district’s enrollment inched up this past year because more and more families are realizing public schools are the best thing going this fact would seem to mitigate the urgency of doing open enrollment now.

The Stunning hypocrisy of Representative Janet Adkins or good job Fernandina beach way to stick it to public education.

If you are one of the few parents that want a voucher then Janet Adkins is going to do everything she can to make sure you get one. Um, how many people in Fernandina Beach actually want a voucher for their kids anyway? If she has to harm the entire public school system to do it then she considers that a small price to pay.

However if you are one of the millions of parents who think Florida has gone overboard on standardized tests or are a member of the PTA, representing millions more, which has called for a moratorium on Florida’s school grading system then you can suck it. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about.

Fernidina, what have you done? You can't possibly hate public schools as much as she does!

Why in Florida are public school students left holding the (empty) bag.

The vast majority of students in Florida attend public schools but they are always last to the table. Janet Adkins, Eric Fresen and others constantly talk about the needs of a few parents they think want vouchers while ignoring the please of public school parents who say their kids are tested to much and that their schools don’t have adequate resources, two of the reasons people take their children out of public schools.

In short the Florida Legislature has created a crisis and then pointed to that crisis as a reason to allow more kids to leave their public schools.   

If Fresen and Adkins and the rest of their ilk really cared about children they would be looking to improve things in public schools instead of constantly kneecapping them and draining away resources.

From the Tampa Times: But Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, said lawmakers should focus on the children.

"I know there are many moms and dads in Florida who feel like their needs for their children are not being met, and they become frustrated with the bureaucracy that they meet in these public school institutions," she said. "Our goal today is not to save the public school institutions. Our goal today is not to protect the school enrollment. Our job today, members, is to ensure that Florida students get the very best education opportunities that they can. Period."

What about the parents of public school children Janet? Why do you constantly ignore and marginalize them?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Voucher advocate is all about accountability and fair comparisons just not right now.

From Redefined Ed: Lisa Tucker, director of First Christian Academy in DeFuniak Springs, said she supports the public schools in her area, and that she would have no problem seeing their results compared to students at her school. However, she said it could take time before those comparisons are feasible.

“I welcome accountability,” she told the committee. “I welcome a day when we are given the same test. I welcome an opportunity to show how over-qualified my staff members are. I welcome the opportunity to be that place within our community, and to provide, again, a choice that makes both systems, both schools, better.”

Just not today right?

Um, why couldn’t the comparisons be made available tomorrow?

I bet it is because the comparisons would show the exact opposite of her second paragraph.

In Florida accountability is only for public schools and private schools that take vouchers are laughing all the way to the bank.

What needs aren’t public schools meeting? The shameful hatred of public schools in Florida.

I will be honest I think public schools should have more programs that play to children’s strengths whether they be the arts, skills, trades or academics but the reason we don’t is often a byproduct of the system that seeks to privatize them after testing them out of existence. The thing is I don’t see charter schools or private schools that take vouchers offering a lot of options either. 

Janet “I really just don’t like public schools” Adkins said every child has different needs. Fair enough but what needs aren’t public schools serving that charter schools are or can. I have wracked my brain and other than perhaps religious needs I can’t think of a one.

Adkins, Bush, Weatherspoon, Fresen and the list goes on and on talk about kids needs (what about the need of many parents not to have their kids tested to death) but the truth is they don’t like public schools and for whatever reason and they have a need to punish and kneecap them.that is what this is really all about.

It is absolutely shameful.

Jalen Rose blames public schools for dropouts.

If only there were more charter schools then fewer kids would drop out. That’s his premise anyway in an opinion piece on Jeb Bush’s pro-privatization blog ReDefined Ed.

Far too many of our minority students are not receiving the education they deserve because for many, the idea of attending a quality school is simply unattainable. I believe that this is unacceptable.

To put it into perspective, an estimated 366,369 kids will drop out of high school while we watch the 63 games throughout the tournament.

This is madness.

Students in our country deserve more educational options. They deserve access to best school for their needs, no matter their family’s income, and no matter their race. I am committed to empowering parents with the ability to choose the very best school for their child.

It just so happens that he believes the best option for children is charter schools.  You know the same charter schools that suspend and expel more students than public schools do. The same charter schools that often pick and choose who they take and keep and that take fewer disabled and English as a second language learners than public schools do. Furthermore friends thousands have opened, closed and left students, families and communities in a lurch and even more are operated by mercenaries who making a buck is more important than educating our children.

It’s admirable to want things to improve especially for our children who haven’t gotten the attention and resources they deserve but the solution is not to outsource our kids education to companies who only care about the bottom line but to finally give those children the attention and resources they deserve. If Jalen Rose really cared about our children then that is what he would be advocating for.

Also a kid never dropped out of a charter school? Does he really think charter schools fix poverty? His naivety and/or hubris are stunning.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why does the state of Florida hate the Rediske family?

In a state with a lot of sad and crazy this may take the cake.

Ethan Rediske was a very sick profoundly disabled little boy that the state of Florida insisted on testing even when he was on his deathbed.

After his death his mother questioned the practice of testing the severely profound. She didn’t say progress shouldn’t be monitored, she didn’t say lets throw students like her son in a room and turn on the TV. No she just thought the tool we were using was inappropriate a sentiment shared by most special education teachers and parents, who up until the Rediske family didn’t know they were allowed to question.

Pam Stewart our commissioner of education was outraged that anybody dare question Florida’s accountability system, let alone the parent of a now deceased profoundly disabled child and she penned a letter that she sent to every teacher in the state and where she didn’t do it by name, the object of her outrage the Rediske family was easy to discern. 

However the genie was out of the bottle and more and more people began to question the practice including parents who up till now thought silence was their only option.

A bill started to move through the Florida legislature, the Ethan Rediske bill that would have made it easier for the parents of profoundly disabled children to opt out of the test. It seemed like a slam-dunk until it was mysterious pulled.
It resurfaced a few days later as part of an unpopular student accountability bill proposed by Jennifer Adkins of Fernandina beach. Mrs. Adkins would never be considered a friend of public education and has a reputation with people that follow these types of things of stretching the truth and exaggerating facts.

The Ethan Rediske part of the bill, now known as page 38, put a little bit of perfume on the pig as it is the only palatable part of Adkins entire bill and sadly also twisted the knife in the back of the Rediske family just a little bit more.

From Curmuducation: The people who have been vocally supporting this crusade now find themselves having to oppose a bill that would have brought Rediske's dream to fruition, while the very people who blocked the advance of Ethan's Law (like Rep. Adkins) try to use the story of this grieving parent to further their own agenda. I know politics are politics, but exactly how low do you have to stoop in order to make opportunistic use of the death of an 11-year-old boy? 

The bill involves, among other things, a trade-off of a three year delay for a one-year pause. Florida parents don't believe one year is sufficient to wait on implementing full on "accountability measures" (the usual crap soup of testing etc), and that aspect has been a sticking point. The bill sticks with the grading of schools as well, which people are unhappy about in FL. And it attempts to create a "smooth transition" for Florida education.

In this video, you can find Rep. Adkins
 making her impassioned plea (at the 1:36:00 mark). She manages to use Ethan Rediske as a political prop without even naming him or the bill that she has co-opted, and she invokes her own motherhood and speaks with oh-so-much-deep feelings. She has allllll the feelings. Schools need to be graded so that schools feel urgency to do a good job (because schools never work well unless they're threatened). But let's not talk about that. Let's remind you all how much you want to do something rational and right for special needs students.

In a state with a lot of sad and crazy this may have taken the cake as a grieving family was first the target of scorn and ridicule from the commissioner of education and then used as a tool to further the political agenda of in my opinion a pretty loathsome human being.

Sadly this is just what we call Thursday here in Flori-DUH! 

When rich white guys start talking about underprivlaged children and vouchers, hide your wallet. (rough draft)

Friends they only want to save poor, mostly black kids from the tyranny of their zip codes.  Who cares if they will take home 27 million in 2018 if there plan works out. That’s a small price to pay to give parents a choice.

I mean what if a parent doesn’t want their kid to learn sex ed, about evolution or they have an irrational fear or hatred of teachers unions, want their kids to go to schools without certified (or educated) teachers  in strip malls where they can learn creationism. Something like 12% of the schools that receive vouchers teach creationism. Hey you might just think that separation of church and state is just for show.  Furthermore who are we to say we can’t take money out of the coffers of the state which is supposed to be for all of our benefit, which is what public education is, and instead have it serve just a few


I get tired of the six figured executives like John east of Step for Students saying they are pushing vouchers for poor kids. Take a teacher salary and then come back and talk to me. If they were really interested in helping kids they would be lobbying to put resources and programs into our poorer schools that mitigate poverty. Wrap around services, smaller classes, a longer school day and or year and social workers and counselors because often why a kid doesn’t do well in school has nothing to do with school. That not a voucher to a private school in a strip mall where teachers with their associates degree can attempt to explain creationism is what we need.

Instead they want to send kids to a basically substandard option and yes I do know voucher kids overall are on par with public school kids, a handful of really good religious schools bringing the average up, but public schools don’t pick who they take and keep and unfortunately can’t put requirements on parents like private schools can. It’s an uneven playing field and all they can manage to do is tie.

I don’t think John East or the mercenaries at Step up for Students  and remember their, how to pay off legislators video surfaced earlier this week, care one bit about the children they say they are shilling for and neither should you.

Was representative Janet Adkins misinformed or deceptive?

From the Tampa Times grade book:  During debate over new rules (HB 7117) for Florida's school accountability system, state Rep. Janet Adkins remarked this week that schools have had since 2010 to implement the Common Core standards.

It was part of the rationale against giving schools a three-year transition period to new school grading and accountability measures, which superintendents and others have requested.

Florida Education Association president Andy Ford found the statement so misleading that he sent a letter to all House members on Thursday to rebut the claim. "Just because an elected official believes and says the Florida standards have been fully implemented since 2010, does not make it so," Ford wrote.

He noted that the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core in 2010, but that the state implementation plan didn't come out until 2011. (See it here, reiterated for the State Board on page 28 of its February 2013 meeting materials.) That plan made clear that in 2013-14 -- the current school year -- the full Common Core rollout would be in kindergarten through second grade. The rest of the grade levels would be included in 2014-15 -- that's next year.

Ford then pointed out that many teachers have yet to receive training to make the transition to the new standards and tests.

"As you can clearly see, full implementation of the Florida standards from K-12 has not yet occurred," Ford wrote. "Professional development and aligned resources are not yet fully available to Florida teachers. Our teachers need more time, more resources and more training to prepare themselves and their students for the deep learning required by these new standards."

HB 7117 has received its first reading on the House floor. Its Senate counterpart remains in the committee process.

It is my personal opinion that she will say anything to get what she wants.

The ethically challenged Eric Fresen brings back the voucher bill

I had hoped to write about a senate that was becoming moderate and  one that looked at facts and evidence and considered fairness to make their decisions, what with the watering down of a charter bill that gave away public resources and the withdraw of the public school kneecapping voucher bill but Eric Fresen of Miami made that impossible.

Eric Fresen whose sister and brother in law run a huge charter chain and who routinely votes on legislation designed not to help kids but to enrich his family brought back the voucher bill all be it though without the sales tax component.

It remains to be seen if the voucher bill will go anyway again or not. Don Geatz senate president has said repeatedly it is dead without accountability measures, something Fresen obviously thinks is only for public schools and other people, not himself or private schools that take public money.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Rick Scott gleefully sticks it to public schools and teachers again

Joining the grocer, citrus grower and Teach for America hobbyist we now have an Internet provider on the state board of education too.

From the Tampa Times: Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday named Orlando businesswoman Marva Johnson to the state Board of Education. Johnson, 44, is a corporate vice president for Bright House Networks LLC. Her term begins March 26 and ends Dec. 31, 2017.

“I am confident that Marva will be a committed servant to Florida students," Scott said in a statement. "I look forward to working with her and the entire Board of Education to further ensure that all Florida students can get a great education so they can pursue their dreams.”

Teachers need not apply.

The Charter Industry is built upon lies.

Yada, yada, yada, yes there are good charter schools, unfortunately most of the industry is made up of mercenaries and bad actors looking to make a buck.

A recent study however said kids that attend charter schools have higher graduation rates by as much as 7-11 percent! Start the fireworks and cavalcade of charter folks extolling their virtues.

First let me spit, okay, now let me tell you what is so fundamentally wrong with this study.

First as a group charter schools take fewer disabled and English as a second language speakers. Well friends that has got to be worth a percentage or two.

Next charter schools benefit from selection bias as well as being able to “counsel” out poor performers and discipline problems. Well friends that’s worth another five points or so.
But it gets even worse, much worse.

In Florida over 250 charter schools have opened, taken money and closed leaving students, families and communities in a lurch and when that happens the charter industry and studies like the Mathmatica one pretend like they never existed. It is as if there were shadows in the fog.

How many charter schools have closed nationwide? I don’t know but I imagine the number is in the thousands but regardless that is tens of thousands of kids in Florida alone the study likely excluded as I imagine the vast majority once bitten returned to their public schools. That’s probably worth a whole bunch of percentage points.

This however doesn't matter to charter school advocates because at the end of the day they don't want the right answer they want their answer to be right.I get it though, the concept of charter schools is an attractive one but the thing is how we do things is a travesty that only benefits their owners and the politicians they donate to.  

Note: I talked to one of the authors of the study and this is what the said, which by the way was nowhere in the Forbes article. The Florida part of the analysis was based on four cohorts of students who were enrolled in 8th grade in school years 1997/98-2000/01 (ie. students who began high school in years 1998/99-2001/02).  The sample was limited to these years in order to allow us to track students through college and into the workforce.  Thus the findings reflect the impact of charter high schools operating  in the late 1990s/early 2000s.  We did not determine whether or not those schools are still in operation.  The quality of charter high schools in Florida could be different today.  I hope this answers your question.

The class size amendment sure gets no respect in Florida

The Florida Tax Watch is just the latest group to take aim at the class size amendment.  The chamber of commerce as well as Gary Chartrand and Jeb Bush have also criticized it saying there is no evidence that says it works and that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

First there is evidence that says smaller classes work, there is however no evidence that says, charters, vouchers, merit pay and standardized tests, their reforms of choice lead to better education outcomes and there is even evidence that says merit pay does not work. Furthermore they are being disingenuous saying the money would be better spent elsewhere. If the money wasn’t being spent on smaller class sizes the money would not be spent on education at all.

The really maddening thing though is the same people that criticize the class size amendment are the same people that point to Bush’s A-F accountability system as why things have improved in Florida. They however don’t like to point out that things like graduation rates have improved dramatically all around the country including in states that haven’t tried to privatize their schools with charters and vouchers and who haven’t developed an A-F grading system or failed kids based on how they do on standardized tests. I saying that Bush’s reforms have held us back has as much validity as them saying they have led to our successes. In short there is no way to know.

Regardless what Bush, Chartrand, et al. refuse to acknowledge is that most of the gains Florida have coincided with the citizen driven class size amendment, the same amendment that they and the Florida legislature have constantly attacked.

Finally I would just like to add, I would be a better teacher if only I had five more students said no teacher ever.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Duval has been very charter school friendly. #whatstherush

The superintendent has said his open school policy is to bring students back from charter schools. I find that difficult to believe. 

Last year the superintendent attended a conference whose theme was how do we attract more charters. In the fall Superintendent Vitti hired a charter school lobbyist and I have seen very little resistance to the proliferation of charter schools as a dozen or so have been improved.

If the district truly wants to bring students back from charter schools it has not shown it. Which makes me wonder what the real reason why there is a rush to fundamentally change our schools. Furthermore the districts enrollment actually increased this year and since that is the case why the rush to fundamentally change our schools?

I have serious reservations about this idea, but if it is a good one then it will be a good one next year when all the kinks and wrinkles can be ironed out.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Florida’s latest worst legislator of all time Janet Adkins

Mrs. Adkins is a multiple winner of the worst legislator of all time award.

She is without a doubt one of the most anti-public education legislators in Floirda. Good job Fernandina but to today’s award.

From scathing Purple Musings: Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) heard the applause from the gallery after a public school teacher’s testimony against Florida’s continued devotion to high-stakes tests. It was the only time anyone drew such a reaction during Monday’s House Education Appropriations hearing on Adkin’s HB 7117 which establishes a one-year delay in “holding schools harmless’ for school grades. The change was prompted because of with new state  tests and full implementation of Common Core Standards.

Even though Democrats were conciliatory during testimony – three of the five on the committee voted in favor – Adkins chose to lash out at the opponents in the room and her colleagues who voted no.

Her shrill closing testimony included the reemphasis of her false assertion that Florida schools have had these standards since 2010. Both Rep. Karen Castor Dentel (D-Maitland) and FEA President Andy Ford pointed out that only K-2 kids have had them since 2010.  Never mind education commissioners Pam Stewart’s two months old  ”tweak” to Common Core that includes the laughable new name, Florida Standards. It’s these realities which prompted a longer pause from teachers, school boards and superintendents.

Adkin’s insistence upon her own talking points in the face of the obvious serves as the latest example of the zealotry among the Republican House caucus to advance Jeb Bush’s agenda.

Adkins took direct aim at public schools and the opposition to high-stakes testing when she emphasized that “we have to hold schools accountable for the money we send them.”
Her hypocrisy is easily unmasked by her vote 18 days ago for voucher expansion. Private schools who accept voucher money do not have to take the same tests. So much for ‘holding schools accountable for the money we send them.”

Now that’s some hypocrisy, to bad in Tallahassee that is more the exception rather than the rule.

The Florida Legislatures criminal conflict of interest or where are the ethics?

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

Did Rep. Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah) know something that everyone else didn’t yesterday?
On at least three occasions during yesterday’s house subcommittee  he deflected colleagues questions about his charter school expansion bill with references to a “task force” that was  working on details. Diaz references to this task force in queries about lease agreements and the proposed state standard contracts for charter schools puzzled many observers. At the time of this post, Scathing Purple Musings has yet to learn which task force Diaz was referring.
Yesterday’s House Education Appropriations hearing was the most impressive charter  school conflict of interest to date.  Rep. Erik Fresen, whose sister is vice president of Academica Charter Schools , presided over a hearing that an employee of Academica in Diaz was sponsoring a bill which benefits Academica.

Fresen clearly attempted to suppress  questioning of Diaz during the hearing, After a question from Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) Fresen asked that committee members to limit their questions to “fiscal” issues as the bill would be moving on to the full Education Committee. Jones politely responded to Fresen that she doesn’t have a seat on that committee. When Jones began her questions again,  Diaz began playing his “task force” card.
Maybe both Fresen and Diaz knew they weren’t going to get those standard contracts that charter schools wanted anyhow. Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory reports that republicans in the Florida Senate feel differently.
At any rate, how long will Floridians accept such questions ethical clashes? Why didn’t Fresen recuse himself and why is it ok for Diaz to sponsor a bill which benefits his own employer who pays him $100,000?