Another Floirida school district comes out against the FCAT. Duval still silent

By Scott Travis, Sun Sentinel

Broward County school leaders are speaking out against what they see as a nasty four-letter word: FCAT.

The School Board unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday opposing standardized testing as the primary means for evaluating schools, students and teachers. They say there is so much focus on students doing well on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test that it’s thwarting teacher creativity and hindering students’ ability to learn.

They say many students are being poorly educated on subjects not directly tested on the FCAT, including history, art and music. At the same time, the tests have become so stressful that kids are staying home sick, skipping school and dropping out, they said.

Rick Scott “This is destroying public education, destroying the teaching profession and destroying children,” School Board member Robin Bartleman said. “The classroom should be fun. Kids should be excited about learning and not be afraid they’re going to be punished for one test.”

The resolution asks Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Department of Education and state and federal lawmakers to revamp state and federal accountability systems so that they include a variety of measures to determine how students perform.

The resolution claims standardized testing is “an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness.”

The effort is part of a national movement, where parent groups and school boards are signing petitions and resolutions opposing high stakes testing. The Palm Beach County School District passed a similar resolution in April, and Martin and St. Lucie counties have also joined the fight.

Florida will soon tie teacher pay to how well students’ perform on the test. Schools are graded based on the scores and can receive extra funding if they score well. If a school receives an F grade from the state or fails to meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards, its students can transfer to another school.

Anti-FCAT sentiment has intensified in recent weeks, as this year’s test scores have proved disappointing. Third-grade reading and math scores dropped slightly, while writing scores for several grades were so abysmal that the state Board of Education voted in an emergency meeting to loosen the school grading criteria so there wouldn’t be large numbers of failing schools.

Officials from the Department of Education and Gov. Scott’s office couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday, despite attempts by phone and email.

Opposition to the FCAT was strong in the board room Wednesday, with students, parents and teachers sharing horror stories.

“It’s caused a lot of anxiety for me,” said Blaire Hirt, 17, a senior at Piper High School in Sunrise. “The morning of the FCAT writing, I threw up.”

The Florida School Boards Association is expected to discuss the issue at its June 14 meeting in Tampa.

State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, said she would like to see a task force formed to re-examine how schools are held accountable.

“You don’t want to end accountability,” she said. “What kind of accountability and what impact it has on children and families are what we need to agree on.”

stravis@tribune.com or 561-243-6637 or 954-425-1421

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/highered/fl-broward-fcat-resolution-20120530,0,7725230.story

Why for one second would you think charter schools were public schools?

From the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, By Valerie Strauss,

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch for her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website. The item was first published on May 1. In their blog, Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” a critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement.

The visionaries of the charter school idea — Raymond Budde of the University of Massachusetts and Albert Shanker of the American Federation of Teachers — never intended that charter schools would compete with public schools.

Budde saw charters as a way to reorganize public school districts and to provide more freedom for teachers. He envisioned teams of teachers asking for a charter for three to five years, during which time they would operate with full autonomy over curriculum and instruction, with no interference from the superintendent or the principal.

Shanker thought that charter schools should be created by teams of teachers who would explore new ways to reach unmotivated students. He envisioned charter schools as self-governing, as schools that encouraged faculty decisionmaking and participatory governance. He imagined schools that taught by coaching rather than lecturing, that strived for creativity and problem-solving rather than mastery of standardized tests or regurgitation of facts. He never thought of charters as non-union schools where teachers would work 70-hour weeks and be subject to dismissal based on the scores of their students.

Today, charter schools are very far from the original visions of Budde and Shanker. Few are run by teams of teachers. Most are managed by for-profit corporations or by nonprofit corporations with private boards of directors. The charter reflects the aims of the corporation, not the aims of its teachers. Most charters are non-union and rely on young teachers who work long hours and leave after a few years, thus keeping costs low. Many have high executive compensation. Charters have a high rate of teacher and principal turnover. Clearly, charters do not “belong” to the professionals who work in them, but to the corporation and its directors, who hold the charter.

Which raises the question of this blog: Are charter schools public schools? They say they are. But what we now see is that they are public when it comes to collecting tax money, but not in most other respects.

In New York state, the charters went to court to fight audits by the state comptroller; they argued that they are nonprofit educational institutions, not public agencies. They said that only their authorizers had the power to audit them, not public officials. The state law was amended to give the comptroller the authority to audit their use of public monies.

In Chicago and in Philadelphia, charter schools fought efforts by their teachers to unionize on grounds that they were not public schools and thus were not subject to state labor laws. The charter school in Chicago argued in court that it was a private school, not a public school, and thus not subject to the same laws as public schools.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a charter school in Arizona was a private nonprofit corporation, not a state agency, when it was sued by an employee who had been discharged. In this case, a federal court agreed with the charter school that charters are not public schools when it comes to the rights of their employees.

Bruce Baker at Rutgers University, who has written thoughtfully about charters, recently considered whether charters are public or private or neither. Charters, he points out, can limit their total enrollment; can admit students only on an annual basis and not accept any mid-year; and “can set academic, behavior, and cultural standards that promote exclusion of students via attrition.”

Baker writes:

“Imagine a community park, for example, that is paid for with tax dollars collected by all taxpayers in the community, and managed by a private board of directors. That board has determined that the park may reasonably serve only 100 of the community’s 1,000 residents. The amount of tax levied is adjusted for the park’s capacity. To determine who gets to use the park annually, interested residents subscribe to a lottery, where 100 are chosen each year. Others continue to pay the tax whether chosen for park access or not. The park has a big fence around it, and only those granted access through the lottery may gain entrance. Imagine also that each of the 100 lottery winners must sign a code of conduct to be unilaterally enforced by the private manager of the park. That management firm can establish its own procedures (or essentially have none) for determining who has or has not abided by the code of conduct and revoke access privileges unilaterally.”

Today, charters say that they are public when it suits their purpose (getting the same amount of money as public schools), and they say they are not really public when they want to escape the accountability and transparency that accompany the receipt of public funding. Some have a large budget to market their wares. (Regular public schools have no money for marketing.) Some use marketing to create demand so that they can get more charters.

Charters are typically more segregated than the district in which they are located. Some are all-black; some are Muslim-themed; some are centered on other specific cultural groups. Some charters are not for minorities or the poor. Wealthy parents in Los Altos, Calif., opened a charter for their children, which takes space and money away from the remaining public schools of the community. Parents at that charter school are expected to make a gift of $5,000 annually for each child.

The issue is complicated. But I find it hard to refer to charter schools — as they have evolved — as public schools. If they are for-profit, they should not be called public schools. There is simply no precedent in American history for a profit-making public school with stockholders. All public money allotted to a public school should be spent by the school and in the school on teaching and learning, on bringing the students to school, and on maintenance of the facility.

If charters are nonprofit but subcontract the management of the school to a for-profit corporation, they are not (in my view) a public school. This is a dodge that some entrepreneurs have come up with to make money from tax receipts.

If a charter sponsor is involved in complicated real-estate transactions that profit the sponsor, then the school is an accessory to private profit-making and not a public school.

I am also concerned about the selectivity and attrition rates in many charters, which suggests that they pick and choose in ways that enable them to be competitive, but lessens their “publicness.” There are selective institutions within public education, but their selective nature is in the open.

I will think about this more. I have met some thoughtful charter leaders who are trying to serve the needs of children, not corporate sponsors; who do not skim the best and forget the rest; who do not push out low-performing kids. But my sense is that they are not typical.

Like Bruce Baker, I think we need to develop a typology. Just because some group says its school is a public school doesn’t make it one. Just because it gets public tax dollars doesn’t make it a public school. We need to think more about what we mean by “public.”

What concerns me most is the possibility that policymakers are promoting dual school systems: a privileged group of schools called charters that can select their students and exclude the ones that are hardest to educate; and the remaining schools composed of students who couldn’t get into the charters or got kicked out. I wonder also whether it is wise in the long run to create one set of schools that is free from regulation and a competing set of schools that is subject to ever tighter regulation. What is the endgame? Is it our goal to undermine public education so thoroughly that teachers and students alike turn away from it?

It’s been almost 60 years since the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Have charters become a quiet way of reversing the Brown decision of 1954? I worry that we are slipping back into deeply ingrained patterns, based sometimes on race, sometimes on class, sometimes on ethnicity. We must think long-term and ask where we are heading.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/are-charter-schools-still-public/2012/05/30/gJQAisee1U_blog.html?wprss=rss_answer-sheet

Jacksonville, we have a big reading problem.

First you should know the way scores are compiled on the FCAT reading tests are a bit disingenuous. i.e. have you ever wondered why the reading scores are so good in our elementary schools but are pretty poor in our high schools? Well it’s because the thresholds for success are different, it is a lot easier to get a three (passing) on the test in elementary school than it is a high school.

With that being said many of our high school reading scores are pretty poor.

At six of our high schools over a third of the students scored a one (out of 5) on the FCAT and there is no way to spin that into anything positive. (Jackson -46%, Englewood -37%, Ribault-34%, Raines -44%, Randolph 40% and Forrest-36%).

If you wanted to know the schools that had two thirds of their students scoring below a three, you can add Ed White (73%), Lee (64%), First Coast 70% and Terry Parker (66%) to the list above with Atlantic Coast (56%) and Frank Peterson (59%) just missing it.

The cities magnet schools continue to do very well, Stanton and Paxon had one percent of their kids score a one, with Douglass Anderson having 4%. Then Fletcher and Mandarin had combined one and two scores of 45 and 46% respectively.

Looking back historically forcing children into intensive reading courses doesn’t seem to be working as our scores really are not improving.

Some potential solutions: first we should train our content area teachers (science and social studies) in reading and then encourage these teachers to use more reading strategies in their classes. Teachers already have a lot on their plates and if we are going to put something on them we need to take something off. We need to relax the learning schedule and assemble a bank of articles for teachers to use, that correspond with their subject matter. If they have to find their own articles then we’re not going to get the level of participation we need and if we don’t relax the learning schedule then we can’t expect them to do additional work.

Summer school: we need legitimate summer school, not throw kids in front of the computer school and we need it for a lot more of our kids. A lot of our kids need longer to learn material and less time to forget it.

More career academies, we need to teach more kids, trades, skills and the arts and then we can use these things as an inducement. Oh you want to be in cosmetology; well we better make sure we get those grades up.

Start younger: smaller classes in elementary school, with more assistants and electives. Of the three groups of teachers, elementary, middle and high school, elementary teachers often have the most tasks and the least amount of planning time.

School IDS should double as library cards (and bus passes too).

We have a huge reading problem but we have reading solutions too.

Merit pay on trial today

From the Orlando Sentinel, by Leslie Postal

The Florida Education Association has sued the state over the merit pay law approved last year and also has filed an administrative challenge to how the state is implementing the law — which overhauls teacher evaluations and pay plans.

The administrative challenge is to be heard starting today at 9 a.m. in Tallahassee, the teachers union said.

The union and two teachers challenged part of the new teacher evaluation plan in April, saying it gives the state “unbridled discretion” over how school districts judge teacher quality. The challenge concerns a rule detailing what must be included in new evaluation plans, based on student test score data and on classroom observations.

Attorney Tony Demma said in April that the state rule requires action from districts beyond what the law spells out and has a long list of vague requirements.

An administrative law judge has scheduled two days for the hearing on the challenge, said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the union.

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_education_edblog/2012/05/merit-pay-feas-administrative-challenge-to-be-heard-today.html

Florida polls show state fed up with FCAT

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

The Florida Current and the Northwest Florida Daily News have polls which shows that by 61% to 39% and 83% to 17% , respectively, Floridians want something else for their children.

Rebukes continue for Jeb Bush’s test-based system. Such polling data when combined with the outrage that Bush’s hand-picked education commissioner in Gerard Robinson is facing on his FCAT Listening/Apology/It’s Here to Stay Tour indicate significant opposition by Floridians – voters and taxpayers all.

The implications of the collapse of Bush’s test-based system are more far-reaching than what appears on the surface. Bush has been going all over the country and selling his Florida model to friendly Republican governors and ALEC-driven legislatures. News of Florida’s implosion will give pause to policy-makers and justification to opponents.

But won’t a Florida crash grievously wound the Common Core Standards movement, too? It is the existence of the standards which enables test corporations like Pearson to assume valid licenses to create tests. If teachers are teaching the standards, they say, kids will do well on tests and be prepared for the future. This attempt to narrow curriculum and put the teaching-learning dynamic into a box is running into a wall. Doesn’t the amount of remediation – 55% of Florida college freshmen need it – already dispatch the myth of the link between standards, testing and success?

http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/two-polls-show-floridians-want-an-end-to-reliance-on-high-stakes-test/

Opposition to high-stakes standardized testing is growing around the country, if this keeps up, even President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are going to have to notice.

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

Opposition to high-stakes standardized testing is growing around the country, with more parents choosing to opt their children out of taking exams, more school boards expressing disapproval of testing accountability systems and even a group of superintendents joining the fight.

Just last month I wrote about the growing resistance, noting that it wasn’t yet full-fledged but that it seemed to be picking up steam. It has and still is.

A national resolution protesting high-stakes test that was released in April already has support from more than 300 organizations and more than 8,000 individuals.

In Georgia, a group of school district superintendents, led by PelhamCity Schools chief Jim Arnold have started a petition calling on the state legislature to rethink its test-based accountability system. (Other superintendens on board include Danny Hawkins of Whitfield County Schools and Bill McCown of Gordon County Schools.)

That petition is based on a resolution that has been passed now by about 520 local school boards in Texas — including Houston, the home of the so-called “Texas miracle” that launched the high-stakes testing era. Those school boards represent more than 40 percent of the state’s students. It was the Texas education commission, Robert Scott, who earlier this year made news by saying publicly that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be. He recently announced that he was resigning.

Arnold was influenced by a petition started in New York by school principals protesting the state’s new educator evaluation system that used in part standardized test scores of students. More than 1,400 New York principals have signed it.

Then professors in New York launched their own petition against the state’s educator evaluation system, while scores of professors and researchers from at least 16 universities throughout the Chicago metropolitan area signed an open letter to the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and Chicago school officials warning against implementing a teacher evaluation system that is based on standardized test scores.

What’s the reason for the growing resistance? Actually, there are a number of them. Student scores on standardized tests have become the main accountability measure today for students, schools, teachers, principals, districts and even states. Assessment experts have warned that standardized tests are not designed for such purposes, but they are being used by reformers who either don’t believe the experts or are ignoring them.

Here’s more of what’s going on, from Monty Neill, executive director of the non-profit National Center for Fair & Open Testing, known ass FairTest:

*Testing errors, such as the notorious “Pineapple story” in New York and the “I have a secret” writing prompt in New Jersey have further roiled the waters. “Pineapple” was just one of more than 20 mistakes on the New York exams. The impact was intensified because New York’s tests are now kept secret. Until recently the state made its questions and answers public after administering them. Under its new contact with test-maker Pearson, however, they are secret, as they are in most states. Teachers face severe sanctions for revealing scores, but students and their parents have been revealing the flaws.

*In New York, parents are organizing to boycott the June administration of a “try out” test. Students will answer experimental questions so Pearson can select items for future tests, perhaps to be used in multiple states for more profits, as was “Pineapple.” The company already had included experimental questions on the May state tests.

Some parents opted their children out of the regular New York tests. In some cases, principals allowed the students to do schoolwork when exams were being administered, but in other schools principals threatened parents with truancy and child-endangerment laws. (Given that the tests have been known to increase fights in school, create emotional distress, and even induce vomiting, the real “child endangerment” is the testing.) Now, more and more parents, urban and suburban, are rising up to say, “Enough,” “No Mas.”

Opting out is not new. Boycotts grew in states such as Massachusetts when increased testing began under No Child Left Behind. Attaching high stakes to them, such as graduation and school sanctions, quieted the revolt. Students needed to pass to graduate and schools that did not test enough students would automatically fail. Still, in states such as Colorado, steady work by groups such as the Coalition for Better Schools has produced growing numbers of opting out parents. And in Snohomish, Washington, 550 parents held their children out, and they are working to spread the refusal to other communities.

*The national resolution has been endorsed by a variety of mjor national organizations have also endorsed the resolution. This includes education groups such as the National Education Association and National Association for Bilingual Education; civil rights organizations such as the NAACP-Legal Defense and Educational Fund and its Asian American counterpart, AALDEF; National Opportunity to Learn Campaign; religious denominations including Presbyterians; and more. The National PTA sent to its members a letter saying the resolution is congruent with PTA policy and urging locals to sign it.

You can see the list of signers – and add your endorsement – at the resolution home page http://timeoutfromtesting.org/nationalresolution/.

* In Florida, two county school boards voted to support the national resolution: Palm Beach (the nation’s 11th largest) and Saint Lucie.

* More media attention is being paid to the emerging testing revolt. In Florida, for example, stories have proliferated in newspapers and on television. Editorials and columnists have denounced the state’s testing policy. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal, CNN and MSNBC are among the major outlets providing coverage (as well, of course, as this blog). Nat Hentoff headlined his column for Southern Standard, “Parents rebel against standardized tests.”

If this keeps up, even President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are going to have to notice.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/high-stakes-testing-protests-spreading/2012/05/30/gJQA6OQX0U_blog.html?wprss=rss_answer-sheet

This bias against vocational education is dysfunctional

From Edutopia, by Mark Phillips

Some years ago I was hired by Norway’s Ministry of Education to train vocational education teachers. Having myself attended a comprehensive high school where vocational students were those who couldn’t make it academically, and having taught in a suburban high school where there was zero vocational education, it was eye-opening to be in a country where vocational education had high prestige, was well-funded, and included students who could have gone to medical school if that had been their preference.

I was reminded of this experience recently when Tony Wagner, the author of The Global Achievement Gap and, most recently, Creating Innovators (much more on that book in a future column), spoke with educators and parents in my community and noted that in Finland’s highly successful educational system, 45% of the students choose a technical track, not an academic track, after completing their basic education.

Blue-Collar Stigma in White-Collar Society

I’m sure many high school counselors have had some students confide that what they enjoyed doing most was working with their hands, whether on car engines, electrical circuits in the house, hair, or doing therapeutic massage. I bet that many of these students also confided that there is no way they could tell their parents that they’d rather pursue one of these occupations than go to college to prepare for a professional or business career.

We live in a society that places a high value on the professions and white-collar jobs, and that still considers blue-collar work lower status. It’s no surprise that parents want their children to pursue careers that will maintain or increase their status. This is even more evident in high socio-economic communities. And for most teachers, if the student is academically successful, this will be seen as a “waste of talent.”

The same dilemma often exists for students who are working to overcome the achievement gap. Most schools that are effectively helping kids to overcome this gap and achieve academically also place a premium on college admissions, often the mark of success for these schools. And kids who are the first in their families to graduate high school appear foolish to “throw this all away” by choosing some alternative to college and a blue collar career.

This bias against vocational education is dysfunctional. First, it is destructive to our children. They should have the opportunity to be trained in whatever skills their natural gifts and preferences lead them to, rather than more or less condemning them to jobs they’ll find meaningless. If a young person has an affinity for hair design or one of the trades, to keep him or her from developing the skills to pursue this calling is destructive.

Second, it is destructive to our society. Many of the skills most needed to compete in the global market of the 21st century are technical skills that fall into the technical/vocational area. The absence of excellence in many technical and vocational fields is also costing us economically as a nation.

In the early sixties, John Gardner, in his classic book Excellence, talked about the importance of vocational education and of developing excellence across all occupations for the social and economic health of our society. Unfortunately, we’ve made little progress in the intervening years. Students who don’t excel in traditional academic areas, or who have little interest in them, should not meet with disappointment or disapproval from parents and teachers. As another Gardner, Howard Gardner, has repeatedly pointed out, there are varied types of intelligence, and they are of equal value. As one example, bodily-kinesthetic and spatial intelligence are frequently high in those who are successful in varied technical trades. And there is absolutely no contradiction between recognizing and developing these intelligences and developing basic verbal and mathematical literacy for all students.

Vocational Education Groundswell

While changing societal values will take time, changes can take place on a school or district level more immediately. And the good news is that there are increasing models and resources to guide educators.

Joe Klein in a recent Time magazine article described an increasing number of excellent and well-funded vocational programs in the U.S., particularly in Arizona. Two of these, the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa and the Career and Technical Education Program at Monument Valley High School in Kayenta, provide both inspiration and practical models that could be implemented in many districts.

There are also more schools across the U.S. that are creating internship programs to help students gain workplace experiences while enrolled in an academic high school. At City Arts and Technology High in San Francisco, all juniors and seniors secure internships in the community, where they are mentored by an on-site professional and regularly visited by their school advisor. MetWest High School in Oakland, California is one of many that place student internships at the center of their mission. And Nancy Hoffman’s excellent new book, Schooling in the Workplace, looks at how six countries successfully integrate schools and workplaces, while also providing a look at where this is happening in the U.S.

Finally, being able to begin legitimizing vocational education in a district may also depend on successfully re-educating parents regarding the value of occupations that aren’t high on the social status scale. Mike Rose’s The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker, provides an excellent antidote to our social biases about intelligence and an eye-opening look at the combination of cognitive and manual skills needed in occupations that our society has mistakenly devalued.

Vocational education on both a secondary and post-secondary level should be highly valued, well-funded and effectively implemented. The first steps can and should be taken on a local level.

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/vocational-education-benefits-mark-phillips

The FCAT is testing our patience

From the Miami Herald, BY MICHAEL PUTNEY, mputney@justnews.com

A friend who’s deeply involved in her children’s schools called the other day thrilled to report that her ninth-grade daughter had scored a 5 on her FCAT, equivalent to an A. A few days later she called again to say her son, a third grader, had earned 5s on both his reading and math FCAT’s. So Shelby and Adam, good on you, as the Aussies would say.

But it’s bad for most other students here and across the state on the latest round of FCATs. Roughly half of all ninth and 10th graders in the state failed the reading FCAT 2.0. The scores for writing were so dismal for third and fourth graders — just 27 percent got a passing grade — that the state Board of Education held an emergency meeting and lowered the grading scale so scores would resemble last year’s, when 81 percent of kids were at or above grade level.

Still, roughly 9,000 third graders in South Florida stand a good chance of not moving on to fourth grade. And a higher-than-expected number of high school seniors may not graduate.

State Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, assessing the FCAT fiasco, predicted a “wake-up moment” in Florida’s future.

The wake-up moment should happen right now and should start with Robinson. It was on his watch that FCAT policies and standards changed some 18 times since the school year began, according to Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. He contends the changes were inadequately relayed to superintendents and school districts, much less to principals, teachers, students and parents.

Carvalho says almost everyone was caught by surprise this spring when the FCATs were tougher, graded more rigorously and concentrated on knowledge and skills teachers hadn’t been warned about. Bob Martinez, the Coral Gables lawyer who serves as vice chairman of the state education board, says Robinson and the state DOE left the board in the dark about many of the FCAT changes.

It was Martinez who has led the charge to slow down the FCAT changes and temporarily lower the grading scale so that everyone in the education system has a chance to catch up and play on an even field. That’s certainly needed.

But there’s plenty about the explanations and excuses for the pathetic FCAT results that is unacceptable. Too little time to prepare kids to take one high-stakes test? Teachers and their unions complain endlessly that’s all they do, work to get kids ready to take the FCAT and “teach to the test.” But considering these dismal FCAT scores, I get the impression that many teachers are preparing kids on how to take a test, not necessarily to learn and understand the material on the test.

Third and fourth grade teachers complain they were blind-sided by the emphasis in this year’s writing FCAT on grammar, punctuation and spelling. Really, how so? If teachers are doing a good job teaching writing aren’t they insisting on correct grammar, punctuation and spelling along with everything else? Sure, the mechanics of writing aren’t easy, but no literate person can function without a basic understanding of them. I remember what a drag it was many years ago to diagram sentences and identify the parts of speech. Sure glad I was taught to do so.

Every time I go into a South Florida school I come away impressed with the dedication and passion of most principals, teachers and staff. In my visits to classrooms I’ve seen real learning going on, and it’s gratifying. But given these FCAT results, it’s not good enough.

Our best teachers have to be paid more and be less constricted by the demands that their students pass one high-stakes test. Our bad-to-substandard teachers have to be retrained or asked to leave the classroom because they’re causing harm. A student in the classroom of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in a school year, according to Eric Hanushek of Stanford. A student in a very good teacher’s classroom, he says, will learn a year and a half’s worth of material.

Research says the most important part of a child’s education — more than class size, funding or the school he attends — is the quality of the teacher.

Prof. Hanushek says replacing the bottom 6 to 10 percent of bad teachers with an average teacher would raise America’s schools past the middling position we occupy now in world rankings. It would surely bring up our FCAT scores.

Florida’s wake-up moment should be now when it comes to our schools. And it should start with teachers.

Along with that wake-up call to Education Commissioner Robinson.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/29/2822793/fcat-testing-our-patience.html#storylink=cpy

6 ways to get rich off education

1) Open an eraser store in any ‘winning’ RttT state.

2) Open a 100% Virtual Charter School in your tool shed.

3) Marry a Pearson.

4) Become a Florida State Legislator.

5) Rent out any random property you own to a charter school for 30k a month, that’s what the Mavericks chain did… after they bought the property and yes friends that does mean they rented to themselves.

6) Buy stock in a #2 pencil company after the test and sell it just before the next one.

Is desegregation dead in public education?

From the Tampa Bay Times, by Jeff Solochek

Fifty-eight years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, many education scholars and advocates are taking a renewed look at whether the nation’s public schools have returned to segregation because of where people choose to (or sometimes, have no choice to) live. We see the results all over the Tampa area — schools where more than 90 percent of the students are poor, or black, or Hispanic, as well as schools where students are predominantly white, with little poverty.

As the schools grow more divided, the question arises about how to tackle any inequalities that emerge. Should communities return to busing? Is separate but equal education acceptable, provided the education truly is equal? Does school choice provide an answer?

The NY Times gathered some commenters, from adults who were bused when children to academics, to give their views and suggestions. Among them:

Richard Kahlenberg, the Century Foundation: “While the news media routinely shower attention on high-poverty schools that work, research shows that middle-class schools are 22 times more likely to be high performing than high-poverty schools. Poor children can learn to high levels, but they are much more likely to do so if they are surrounded by peers with big dreams, a community of parents who are in a position to volunteer in class and know how to hold school officials accountable and talented teachers with high expectations.”

Terry L. Stoops, John Locke Foundation: “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the state’s second-largest school district, discontinued its race-based busing program and implemented a policy that combined parental choice with neighborhood school assignment. It was a sea change for the district that had been at the center of a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision that led to the widespread adoption of forced busing in the South. So, how do low-income students in the districts compare? The performance of disadvantaged students in Wake County has stalled. In contrast, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s reading and math test scores, as well as graduation rates, have surged.”

Donna Bivens, Union of Minority Neighborhoods in Boston: “In our busing and desegregation project at the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, we are listening and learning from Boston’s crisis. We are trying to openly discuss how racism and class inequity thwart school integration and undermine the creation of high quality, equitable school systems.”

What do you see in your public school system? Are leaders there trying to mitigate for segregation that exists? If so, what’s working and what’s not?

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/content/desegregation-dead-public-education