Representative Carlos Trujillo doesn’t understand how democracy works, among other things

With an assist from the Stop Senate Bill 6 Facebook page

Before insulting the Parent Teacher Association of Florida
along with every other major parent and civil rights groups in Florida by implying they
are run by the teacher’s union, he claimed the parent trigger bill would give
parents a seat at the table, that it would expand democracy. Apparently the
representative doesn’t understand how democracy works.
The parent trigger bill takes the power out of
locally ELECTED school boards and hands it over to the APPOINTED State Board of
Education, who will most likely then give it to a private corporation completely
removed from the democratic process. What is democratic about that?
The representative is clueless, thinks we are or both. My bet is both.

If you are interested in contacting him here is his number and e-mail address: (850) 717-5105,
 Give him the facts about PTA and please
explain to him how democracy works 

The Buck for the Atlanta cheating scandal should stop at the President’s desk

Everybody acknowledges the president is the commander in chief of the US Military but in a way he is also the nation’s top teacher too. He sets the direction the nation’s schools go in through his policies and friends he has done a very poor job.

When the president came into office he could have done a lot of different things, he could have called for career and technical training for the students who aren’t going to go to or aren’t interested in college, he could have called for the arts to be taught to all students so they could have a well rounded education and or he could have demanded districts put into place policies that mitigate poverty which, not teacher quality, is the number one measurable item that determines success in school. He could have done any of those things and all would have a dramatic effect on our nation’s schools but he didn’t and instead he joined the blame the teacher/standardized tests/privatize public education bandwagon and because of this we get scandals in Atlanta and all across the nation and friends I guarantee you this is just the tip of the iceberg.

When people’s jobs are on the line or money is dangled in front of them many will make choices they otherwise wouldn’t. Beverly Hall Atlanta’s retired school superintendent is one such person. Her system’s turnaround won her national fame, awards, and more than $500,000 in performance bonuses. One of the awards came from Secretary of Education (who was never a teacher by the way) Arne Duncan himself. She however couldn’t do it alone and so she used her position to cajole and threaten some and to encourage others to get on the cheating bandwagon, a bandwagon which was the inevitable consequence of the President’s policies.

The president has created a system where teachers constantly have to look over their shoulders, where they have been blamed for society’s ills. With his race to the top initiative he has transformed education into a game where there are both winners and losers. He gives lip service to teachers telling they are valuable and important but then promotes high stakes testing and evaluation measures that don’t have evidence that says they work and hurt both student and teachers alike.

So President Obama, when cheating occurs because of your policies the buck stops with you and what you have wrought which will be a generation of kids who can’t think, who can only bubble and marginalized, scapegoated teachers, a profession on the ropes.

None of this is the change what we were hoping for.

Should students be tested or taught and other important questions.

Bob Peterson in Rethiking Schools asks a couple of great questions in relation to the Atlanta cheating scandal:

• Should our children be subjected to endless test prep and hours of narrow skill-driven curriculum? Or instead should they get a well rounded education like what President Obama’s daughters receive at the Sidwell Friends School or what Arne Duncan received as a child at the Chicago Lab School?

• Should students of color and those from economically disenfranchised families be subjected to narrow, test-driven schooling while children in the most affluent communities receive well-resourced, well-rounded education with much less testing?

• Why should transnational textbook/testing companies and corporate-backed philanthropic organizations determine the curriculum for our schools?

He then adds, While some policy makers and test-obsessed school “reformers” may dismiss such cheating scandals as exceptions, these scandals should serve as a wake up call to anyone concerned about the future of our schools.

Standardized testing makes us dumb

From the Technician online, by Megan Ellisor

The worst part about pre-college school life was end-of-year standardized testing. One stomach bug in May and suddenly your future was ruined. Your fifth-grade self could no longer hope to become more than a garbage person … at least, that’s how your teachers made it seem.

Students may work hard for nine months, but ultimately a huge percentage of their grades is decided by end-of-year test scores. Standardized testing doesn’t benefit the students. The high-stakes, comprehensive tests pressure teachers to teach preparation for the test rather than students’ futures.

By feigning massive improvements on end-of-year test scores, former District Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools Beverly Hall earned $500,000 in bonuses. On Friday, Hall was charged with “racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements,” according to The New York Times.

Prosecutors recommended a $7.5 million bond for Hall. If convicted, she may face up to 45 years in prison, which is more than many first-degree murderers have faced.

Though it may seem extreme, the pressure Hall placed on teachers to cheat warrants 45 years in prison. From 2001 to her retirement in 2011, Hall falsely led the 52,000 children of the district and their parents to believe they were truly improving.

The state report said that Hall “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation, which was usually enforced on principals and teachers by some of the SRT executive directors.” Because of this, the cheating went undetected for 10 years.

Thirty-four other educators were indicted along with Hall. This includes Parks Middle School Principal Christopher Waller. In Waller’s first year at Parks, 86 percent of eighth grade students scored proficient in math — a 62 percent increase from the prior year. The passing rate for the reading test rose from 35 percent to 78 percent.

The falsified scores increased so much that Parks Middle lost $750,000 in state and federal aid because it was no longer classified as a school in need of improvement. As argued by The New York Times, “That money could have been used to give struggling children academic support.”

Instead, the educators altered their students’ answers for their own self gain. After administering an end-of-year test, some teachers would sit in windowless, locked rooms and correct the wrong answers.

Students who grew up in this cheating environment are ill-equipped for college. Nybria Troy, a 15-year-old student from the Atlanta Public School System, told NBC she fell behind due to the cheating scandal: She currently reads at a fifth-grade level. Erroll Davis Jr., who succeeded Hall as superintendent in July 2011, created remedial classes to help students like Troy catch up.

But remediation will not replace 10 years of wasted education. If tested accurately, some students may find that their intelligence level is grades below that of their classmates.

Outside of this scandal, the bigger problem is that these tests — which have high stakes for the students, teachers and their bosses — encourage cheating. So much weight is put on comprehensive testing that it almost completely disregards a student’s classwork.

This can be seen in other standardized tests, like the SAT. Some students are great test-takers and score well above the SAT average, but they may not be hardworking students. Conversely, some students may be committed to learning, but are extremely anxious when it comes to test-taking and score lower.

For this reason, more than 800 accredited colleges, including our neighbor, Wake Forest, do not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. The Washington Post says these schools dropped the standardized testing requirement because “they don’t think a high-stakes test score is very revealing about a student’s abilities and find that high school grades are a more accurate reflection.”

End-of-grade testing is a good way to ensure that students across counties are learning the same topic at the same pace. However, the fact that they make up such a large portion of students’ final grades makes for a faulty education system in which we do not learn. Fifth graders need to know that earning low end-of-grade scores does not mean they’ll become garbage people — at least, not all of them.

Florida Legislators choose ALEC over parents

from Mari Corugedo VIA FACEBOOK

R-FL Legislators continue to cheat our kids from a well rounded education. Our kids have become great test takers instead of great thinkers. When will FL parents say “enough” and start electing legislators who vote to truly empower students? When will we demand and ask for our representatives to help excite students to learn? 

I guess it is to legislators’ advantage to have citizens who don’t know about learning and education. It is how they get elected, so people can continue to vote for legislators who create mantras and laws that harm, deceive, and don’t allow people to benefit economically. I hope Floridians vote each and every “yes” vote out in 2014. 

Get engaged, informed, active, and help us change Fl House and Fl Senate! Our kids future depends on it!

PTA, NAACP, LULAC, educators, parents, and other concerned citizens expressed opposition to committee of legislators, but they chose to ignore. Simply, because there is NO accountability by their constituents. We continue electing those to are harming us with horrible laws.

Sadly, R-FL represent party, corporate interest (ALEC), but not the interest of those who they should represent. 

Why do we look to Tallahassee for wisdom in Education?

By John Louis Meeks, Jr.

The most successful argument
that education reformers make is that they have to bring some common sense into
the field of education.  Teachers, after all, have no real incentive to do
the work that involves teaching our children.  These critics of public
education perpetuate the negative stereotypes of teachers who do the bare
minimum just to make sure that they pick up their paycheck, snag that beloved
tenure and while away the hours until summer vacation.

This school of thought
presumes that education is a profession that deserves the kind of scrutiny that
no other career deserves – that in spite of the fact that we indeed have
professionals who also work with children and other vulnerable populations but
do not have to face the attitudes that we teachers face from politicians and

For the sake of fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility to our taxpayers, our
state’s leaders will claim that they are helping the good teachers by making it
incredibly impossible for the so-called bad teachers to stay in the classroom.
 They would claim that it would be a bad idea to fund across-the-board pay
raises for educators because the bad teachers also benefit.  It is also
because of their zeal to root out the below par teachers that they crafted an
evaluation system that was rushed into place under the guise of serving our

In my opinion, it is irresponsible to design policy around what we do not want.
 There are indeed people who should not have gone into teaching, but we
underestimate their ability to game the very policies that are supposed to
winnow them out?

Let’s put this all into perspective for a moment and wonder aloud what this
world would be like if we treated other professions with the same lack of regard
that we have afforded public school teachers.

Firstly, let’s imagine if merit pay was applied to pastors.  I am not sure
if there is a standardized test other than our eventual day of reckoning, but
please humor me for a moment.  There is an array of centers of worship
where the faithful attend because they want to learn something spiritual or
religious.  If a good pastor was to really do his or her job, wouldn’t
there be a lot less sinning going on?  If a good pastor was to really earn
his or her pay, wouldn’t there be a lot more people living by the principles
that they teach?

Secondly, let’s pretend that we had an evaluation system that determined if
attorneys could continue with their work.  During closing arguments in a
trial, someone from the state bar association could sit in on the trial with a
clipboard and could offer ‘constructive’ feedback about how the counselor
engaged the jury in his or her argument.  If any juror was seen looking
bored or confused, this would be an obvious sign that the attorney was not up
to the high standards of appearing before any bench.  And let’s not think
about what would happen if the attorney actually lost his or her case.
 This would be a ripe time for a growth plan to help him or her shape up
or ship out to another line of work.

 Furthermore, let’s make sure that all dentists earn their
keep based solely on the results of their work.  I recently had to have
fillings and nowhere during this ordeal did I blame my dentist or the dentist’s
assistant for my sweet tooth.  After each check up, I know that I should
brush my teeth and floss more religiously but I end up taking the ultimate
responsibility for my own actions instead of claiming that my dentist’s office
does not care about my oral hygiene.  Think of the hell that there would
have been to pay if my dentist had to explain how I ended up having to get a
crown in spite of all of the free toothbrushes, floss and lectures I received.

And, finally, let’s not forget to include the men and women in Tallahassee
whose wisdom drives the decisions that affect our schools, students and
teachers the most.  Once upon a time, the state legislature decided that
it would be an excellent idea to require middle and high school students to
declare a major.  To implement this plan, dollars were spent on resources
including the online system to get all schools on board.  Hours of
training were spent to convince teachers that their time was best spent
moonlighting as guidance counselors during their day.  In Duval County
alone, social studies teachers faced the creation of new history/career
planning classes to get this misguided idea off the ground.  Thankfully,
we ignored those skeptical voices and soldiered on into the big muddy.
 Today, middle and high school students no longer have to declare majors
and their teachers no longer have to shoehorn career services into their work.
 What do I have to say to our state about this?  Apology accepted.
 Are we to hold these wise men and women in power for the errors of their
ways?  Don’t hold your breath.  We tend to forgive and forget on
Election Day anyway.  More than we can say for the abuse that public
schools receive from our elected leaders.

TWITTER: johnmeeks1974
INSTAGRAM: johnmeeks1974

Parents say No Thanks to the Parent Trigger Bill

From Kathleen Oropeza, from Fund Education Now, via Facebook

Despite a bruising defeat in the 2012 Florida Legislative session, parent trigger is something proponents are too stubborn to drop. Anointed 2013 sponsors Rep. Carlos Trujillo and Sen. Kelli Stargel, struggling to re-position their brand say, “We want to give parents a seat at the table.”

Thanks, but no thanks. Parent trigger uses parents like a stack of cheap dinner napkins. It “empowers” us to do the grunt work then mutes our voice. Parents are expected to blindly pull the trigger without any guarantees and transfer a valuable public asset to for-profit charter chain investors — the very folks who funded the creation of parent trigger in the first place.

Every Florida parent, regardless of socioeconomic status, has the legal power right now to set the table thanks to public School Advisory Councils (SAC). Before Florida politicians got dollar signs in their eyes over privatizing public education, they created SAC, a collaborative legal framework that helps parents, teachers and school districts address issues facing any school. It is in this context that struggling schools are turned around each year across Florida with very little fanfare, just a lot of hard dedicated work.
Why resurrect a parent trigger that Florida parents don’t want or need? Loss comes hard to folks who think they own the winners circle. It’s hard to justify a $2 million marketing campaign getting smoked by a handful of senators and hundreds of thousands of pesky Florida parents who refused to back down and shut up about the shameful parent trigger scheme.
Florida’s political bullies are notorious for using the “assumptive close” to publicly predict victory before a bill is even filed. So, to protect egos and political capital, parent trigger is back on the ed reform lazy susan for another run.
It’s instructive to observe the committee stops for parent trigger this year. Without fail, the same lobbyists, foundations, chamber types and paid-to-witness ex-legislators stand up proclaiming their fervent need to “help” parents get a voice. Equally without fail, 20 or more authentic parents from across Florida testify in opposition against three or four paid lobbyists.
Proponents even held a press conference to dissect the “myths” about parent trigger. Where’s the news? The same well-heeled professional proponents showed up. Not one Florida parent was there. Bordering on satire, they tried to throw the Florida PTA under the bus by questioning their status as parent representatives. That’s just silly. What member of the Tallahassee press corps is buying that?
There’s no bigger waste of taxpayer time and treasure than lawmakers who refuse to respect the will of the people. No Florida parent group supports parent trigger legislation. A rock-solid alliance of nearly a million parents across the state including NAACP, Fund Education Now, League of United Latin American Citizens, Florida PTA, Florida Gifted Network, Parents Across America FL, Testing Is Not Teaching, Marions United, Support Dade Schools, 50th No More, Citizens For Strong Schools and a host of local grassroots groups stand opposed to this deceptive scheme.
The Florida School Boards Association, whose members are the elected voice of millions of voters in the state’s 67 school districts, approved a resolution opposing any parent trigger initiatives.
Empowered parents across Florida exist at every level. It’s condescending that Florida politicians don’t respect that. Our blood, sweat and love place parents legally and morally at every table where the education of our children is discussed. No politician or flawed piece of parent trigger legislation can or ever will do that.
Florida politicians need to drop the parent trigger. Stop talking about getting us a seat at a table that we already own lock, stock and barrel. Empowered Florida parents are doing the more important everyday real work of deciding what is right for our children from inside our public neighborhood schools

Reformers spend 10s of millions of dollars; learn teachers are doing a good job.

That’s not what they wanted to learn though. They wanted to
be able see look, teachers are living off of society’s trough getting fat and
happy at the expense of the nations children. Unfortunately their own
evaluation systems that in many cases were enacted with teachers and their
unions fighting tooth and nail against, have shown what most of us who care
about public education have known for quit some time and that’s the vast
majority teachers are doing a good job.

Unfortunately this isn’t going to stop the debate as people
like Senate President Aaron Bean. Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee won’t rest until
more teachers are rated ineffective, they can’t fathom for a moment that even
the best teacher can do so much when our system decides to ignore poverty and
the negative elements it brings with it.
Friends the powers-that-be can blame teachers all they want
and start one charter school or voucher program after another but as long as they
decide to continue to ignore poverty our children especially the most
vulnerable will suffer.  

To read the New York Times exhaustive piece on the
subject click the link: