Testing Reform to Rise Again

IMG_0471Is there hope for a rational testing system?  Senator Don Gaetz has been a moderating voice on Florida’s overwrought testing and accountability system.  He called for the reduction of the weight from 50% to 30% of the student gain scores that are counted in teacher evaluations.  Then, in the 2015 session, he proposed substituting national tests like the SAT and ACT for the FSA.  Since college bound students must take these tests anyway, it is redundant to have them sit for state assessments as well.


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Federal Accountability Rules for School Grades

hat-157980_1280Criteria for new school grades are drafted by the U.S. Department of Education.  Under this new plan, states can choose their own indicators of school quality or student success that move beyond the traditional accountability measures based on test scores or graduation rates.  School Report Cards must also be made in consultation with parents.  The draft document is now under review and open for comment  It includes:






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VAM Scores Eliminated in Some States

teacher-23304_1280Performance evaluation are a tricky business.   Arbitrary data systems based on student test scores turn excellent teachers into mediocre ones and vice versa.  Individual judgments can also be wrong, but systems that have multiple components can be reasonably fair.

Some states are dropping student achievement gain scores and are returning to human judgment systems for teacher evaluations.  Which are these forward thinking states?





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Southern Legal Counsel Plans Appeal

justiceIt is a marathon in the Citizens for Strong Schools case.
Attorneys for the Southern Legal Counsel issued a statement regarding Judge Reynold’s ruling in the Citizens for Strong Schools vs. the Florida State Board of Education et al. The judge ruled for the State.  Basically, the ruling will be appealed.  This is no surprise; it would have been appealed regardless of which side won.
SLC issued the following statement:
“Today, the Second Judicial Circuit Court issued an order that ignores the overwhelming weight of the evidence that the public education system in Florida is failing more than a million students. Even though Florida’s constitution is the strongest educational mandate of all the states, the court incorrectly concluded that the constitution has no judicially manageable standards and that the court is prohibited from ordering relief due to separation of powers.  Southern Legal Counsel plans to appeal this decision and continue to seek a high quality education for all children in Florida”.
The final judgment considered the claims and counter claims over the constitutionality of the Florida educational system.  Highlights include:
  • Judge Reynolds ruled that the State has made education a top priority in terms of funding.  Moreover, he states that neither the defendants or the plaintiffs established the connection between the amount of resources and educational outcomes.
  • The Differentiated Accountability system needed legislative attention.   The fact that schools could remain in ‘F’ status over a number of years was the judge’s primary objection to the state system.  He argued, however, that the defendant’s own evidence showed that a school could be turned around without additional funding.
  • Districts were part of the state system.  Districts had control over local management and funding allocations and the State was not responsible for ineffective local management.
  • The constitutionality of school choice was dismissed by the judge.  He did not agree that charters and tax credit funded private schools had a negative effect on the system.
  • Judge Reynolds wrote:  “The evidence shows that many of Florida’s educational policies and programs are subject to ongoing debate without any definitive consensus in the education community.  They are political questions best resolved in the political arena”, and
  • “The Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgement without a judicially manageable or enforceable remedy.”  In other words, the cost study sought by the Plaintiffs was not a remedy.
While Judge Reynolds did concede that there were areas of concern in the Florida educational system, they did not rise to the level of constitutional violation.  This was a David vs. Goliath case.  It was reported that the State spent over two million dollars on its side while Southern Legal Counsel’s expenses were around $600,000.  SLC has to raise funds from donations while the State uses tax payer funds.  Going forward, Florida citizens will need to help equalize the balance.

Are Florida’s teachers leaving in droves?

teacher-403004_1280 (1)In an Orlando Sentinel article, Scott Maxwell cites alarming state records.  Forty percent of Florida’s new teachers leave within five years.  This rate is 15 to 20% higher than the national average, he reported.  I found a U.F. report about charter school teacher attrition.  Something is going wrong.  We know that.  Will the legislature listen?







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League Responds to Push for Vouchers

child speakingFlorida Tax Credit Vouchers are a drain on our educational system and do nothing to solve academic problems.  More and more they are beginning to look like pandering to political groups.  See the League’s response to calls for ending the lawsuit opposing the vouchers.  Protecting public schools and pushing for needed support is the way to solve inequities in education.

Pinellas to shut down 3 charters

money-40603_1280Yes, more fraud, waste and abuse that Florida must address.  The Pinellas School Board voted to shut down three NewPoint charter schools today.  Windsor Prep, East Windsor and NewPoint Pinellas are all involved in an indictment for fraud.  Read the Tampa Bay Times editorial.  The editor calls for an investigation of two other NewPoint related schools which also appear to be involved in self dealing with tax payer money.

The same charter management company is indicted in Pensacola for grand theft, money laundering and white collar crimes.


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A Charter School Sues Itself?

money-40603_1280Have you ever known something did not smell right, but you could not find the source?  A court in Missouri found it.

In Renaissance Academy for Math and Science vs. Imagine Schools, the court ruled there was hidden self dealing.  The judge fined Imagine Schools one million dollars.  This was just one school in trouble in St. Louis,  Missouri at the time.  Thirty-five hundred children had to be relocated when all Imagine charters were forced to close in St. Louis.

We all need to know how this can happen.  It is not unusual.

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