The future of education

From the Hufffington Post

by Timothy Slekar

Quick Reality Check! What will happen to all public schools in 2014 under the current NCLB regulations (100% proficiency in math and reading)? Answer: They will be declared failing and will be taken over by the state and sold to educational management organizations (EMOs). The staff and faculty will be fired and then rehired at a fraction of their original salaries. The EMOs will take over local control of public schools (no more locally elected school boards), and profit — not education — will be the goal of schools.

Since Michelle and I publicly announced our “opt-out” intentions for this school year, we have recently found out that parents and teachers are being misinformed — the opt out movement is being sabotaged. Parents are now being told (by whom remains a mystery) that opting out of PSSAs in Pennsylvania will jeopardize their child’s educational future. And teachers are being told (again by whom remains a mystery) that “opt outers” want to hurt the school and teachers.

Parents are being told that if they exercise their right to opt out of NCLB testing (PSSAs), their children will be placed in remedial sections the next school year. This claim is ludicrous because schools do not receive the results from the PSSAs until mid-fall the following year. Placements are done before school starts in August. Therefore it is impossible to use PSSA data to make placements. And, since we opted our son out last year, we know this is absolutely not true.

Also, parents are being told that the PSSA test, given to students in their junior year, is a graduation requirement. However, Pennsylvania specifically allows all parents the right to opt out of PSSAs. Directly from the PA Code,

If upon inspection of State assessments parents or guardians find the assessment in conflict with their religious belief and wish their students to be excused from the assessment, the right of the parents or guardians will not be denied upon written request to the applicable school district superintendent, charter school chief executive officer or AVTS director.
Please notice that this unambiguous statement does not make an exception for the PSSAs given in a student’s junior year. This means that parents of juniors still have the right to opt out. The only thing that is required is that an alternative assessment must be given for the opt-out students in place of PSSA tests. As an educator, an “alternative assessment” sounds fantastic! Maybe students will get to engage in something and show pride, effort and commitment in what they have learned over the years?!

Michelle and I also just found out that some of the teachers are being “educated” about the motives of the opt outers. According to this “education,” opt outers’ true intentions are selfish and we only want to hurt the school and teachers. I understand why there might be some confusion, however I have gone to great lengths to explain why opting out is not directed at the teachers, the school, or the community. Look here, here, here, here, or just Google my name. If you can find one piece that demonstrates that I am anything other than pro public schools and pro teacher please let me know.

Bigger Picture
Understanding “opt out” requires the ability to see this as a movement directed at the “education reformers” who are determined to dismantle the entire system of public education in America. The reform establishment treats students, teachers, and curriculum in ways that are harmful, unethical, and unprofessional. The reason we “opt out” is because our local schools (our schools) and teachers are not allowed to be responsive and change in the direction best suited for children and teachers.

Instead, “teachers are taught to shut up and ‘teach,’ as if they could do so in silence.” Once this happens, teachers are no longer advocates for children. And, “when teachers cease to advocate, [they] cease to fulfill one of the most essential elements of teaching: the act of caring.” – Eric Shieh

Therefore, opt out is not a negative reaction directed at local schools and teachers. It is a positive action in favor of local schools and teachers. It is an action directed at the true mechanisms and personalities that have dominated the discussions concerning teaching and learning — corporate reformers. As far as I know United Opt Out is the only group advocating a movement in civil disobedience that demands an end to the current corporate-reform movement.

This is why opt out is pro child, pro teacher and pro public school. We want the end of punitive high stakes testing that labels children, teachers and schools as failures. We do not want our tax dollars going to the pockets of testing and data companies. We refuse to allow our community-based public school be labeled as “failing.”

How is this bad for children? How is this bad for teachers?

I’d be more concerned by people that intend or stand to profit from the coming collapse of public schools. Blaming Opt Outers is a smoke screen.<

Duval County’s spin doctor

Duval County Public Schools received some devastating news when Florida’s school rankings came out. Eight of our neighborhood high schools are in the bottom 25 including the lowest ranked at 404 in the state.

Our superintendent as usual put a positive spin on it and talked about two of our schools being in the top 12, rigor and our college ready curriculum. Sadly however his spin doesn’t hold up.

The two high schools in the top 12 are Paxon and Stanton, magnet schools for our top kids and remember when Stanton and Paxon were number five and twelve in the nation? Now they are that way in just the state.

There is also a difference between rigorous and advanced classes. Rigor has been destroyed by grade recovery and the districts gentlemen’s C policy, where we pass kids along whether they have the skills they need or not. Half of our kids don’t get to high school and not be able to read or do math by accident.

Finally ask Florida State College at Jacksonville where 70% of our graduates have to take remedial classes how well our college prep curriculum is doing.

I don’t think it is fair to compare Duval to St. Johns or Cay or other neighboring districts. Quite frankly our district is both a lot bigger and a lot poorer.

But what about comparing our district to Miami Dade? They have three times as many kids as us and have an even higher percentage of students receiving fee and reduced lunch. In last weeks rankings of districts they were 37th and we were 50th! We have eight high schools in the bottom 25 and they have five while having nearly three times as many high schools. Furthermore we may have two in the top twelve but they have four in the top nine.

I am sure Miami Dade has issues, but many of them are the same as ours and they are doing a much better job handling them.

The problem here is our leadership. Since Pratt-Dannals became superintendent, rigor has been gutted, discipline has been gutter and he has greatly contributed to teacher morale being gutted. His constant all is well message is both wrong and does the city a disservice by giving it a false sense of security.

It’s time we thanked him for his service and moved in a different direction, one with rigor, discipline and teacher buy in.

Chris Guerrieri
Stake Holder

Prayer and Advertising on busses gain traction, funding education still ignored

From the Tampa Bay Times

by Jeff Solochek

Two bills that gained little traction in past years have picked up momentum this season as they head for full floor votes in the coming days.

Sen. Gary Siplin’s legislation to permit prayers at school-related events is scheduled for a third reading by the Senate after having made it through three committees. In past years, it couldn’t get past panels that raised major concerns about its constitutionality.

This year, a rewrite spearheaded by Sen. David Simmons, a lawyer, is easing the path by making it clear that the prayers must be completely run by students without any school employee influence or participation. Even if the bill passes the Senate, it has yet to be heard in a single House committee, though.

On the House side, Rep. Irv Slosberg’s bill to let school districts sell ads on the sides of buses has gone to the Calendar committee to be scheduled for a floor vote. That idea failed to move in past years, but this time out lawmakers have begun to agree — however reluctantly — that this revenue source might be worth approving.

The opposition has argued that children shouldn’t be exposed to direct advertising such as this might provide. But they’re in the distinct minority so far. A similar bill in the Senate has made its way through two committees and is headed to a third before it can go to the floor

Teachers deserve thanks not ranks

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

Amidst a Mary McGrory FCAT rankings piece in the Miami Herald was this takeaway in a quote from Miami-Dade County superintendent Alberto Carvalho:

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he took pride in the district’s accomplishments, but contended that “overall rankings provide an overly simplistic view of academic success.”

Carvalho added: “Thanking, not ranking, a teacher in Miami is in order.”

While Carvalho’s not alone among Florida educators whom have been critical of the Rick Scott’s FCAT rankings gambit, his voice is not insignificant. Not only is he the leader of the state’s largest district, Carvalho now operates on a national stage. He testified to congress in September in an appearance that received high praise.

The Miami-Dade superintendent will be among the next generation of education policy-makers. Lets hope he doesn’t succumb to the blind dogmatic rhetoric of the current crop in Tallahassee, and that he advances the sort of nuanced wisdom he displayed yesterday.