Death by a Thousand Cuts

Valerie Strauss, in the Washington Post, shares an article outlining the history of school privatization….and why it matters.

The history, written by Joanne Barkan, is well documented. It centers on the backlash from desegregation, and ties it to the increasing role of the federal government in education. For example, the first federal charter school legislation was signed by President Bill Clinton. Yet nearly twenty-five years later, support for charters and vouchers is waning. The reasons are spelled out in the discussion of the following topics:

*Sowing the seeds of market based reform
*Building a movement from the top down
*Anatomy of vouchers and charter schools
*Charter school performance
*A closer look at vouchers
*Corruption and segregation
*Shifting landscape

Even in a world where facts matter less, it is possible to help people become aware of what they can lose in the ‘world of choice’.

Test Policy to Lower Graduation Rates

The State Board of Education voted to raise alternative SAT and ACT English and Algebra I test scores for high school graduation. It also eliminated the option of using the P.E.R.T. scores to meet high school FSA graduation requirements.

The argument for raising the SAT and ACT scores was that current levels are easier than the FSA levels for the same subjects. New data collected since 2016 indicate that the increase is necessary to make the difficulty levels for the FSA Algebra I and ELA Math and the SAT/ACT comparable.

The concerns are that many students who use the alternatives to the FSA are minorities, and the state graduation rates are expected to decline as a result. They are already below the 2017 national average of 84%. When the new cutoff scores are implemented in 2020, graduation rates are likely to drop approximately ten percent. No currently enrolled high school students will be affected.

Making valid comparisons of scores on different tests is always a challenge. Nevertheless, given that the FSA end of course exams are administered on a fixed schedule, it is not always possible for students who take six week credit retrieval courses or other classes with variable time lengths to sit the FSA tests. Thus, having national tests as an option for these students is helpful.

The more important concern is judging student competence. Any test is only a partial measure of students’ skills and abilities. Determining competence is a judgment. Competence is what a panel of educators and policy makers say it is. As expectations rise for what students must know and be able to do, the cut off scores on tests rise. Students deemed ‘competent’ five years ago may not make the cut now.

Florida policy makers are driving up expectations that not all students can meet and many schools do not have the resources to help students try. Policy makers and educators manipulate the numbers to meet their goals. The result is that state mandated tests weed students out; they do not bring students up.

Yet, all students and parents have the right to know how well students and schools perform and why. This ‘why’ is the elephant in the room.

Funding levels are down and expectations are up. What’s the old adage? You can’t get something from nothing? Or is it, You get what you pay for?

You can see the DOE cut scores here.

VPK Standards Up; Scores Drop

Four year old children in Voluntary Prekindergarten have to meet higher standards, particularly in math. As a result, 43% of the providers failed to meet the new standards compared to 22% in 2013. These standards have not been taught, so lower scores are no surprise. The increase in math standards requires students to count to 31; determine which is more, equal or less in sets of ten objects, and recognize circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles.

Results of the fall 2017 by county can be found here. Scroll down to the RESULTS section.

For more information about Florida’s Early Learning Program see here.

Governor Graham on CRC Education Amendment

For years, former Governor Graham was a strong advocate for civics education. He does not support the Constitutional Revision Commission’s proposal to lump together civics, school board term limits and charters not approved by school boards in a proposal for voter approval in November.

Graham makes the case that not only is the amendment a hodge podge, it is not even good for civics education. Florida already requires students to learn a whole host of information about our governments’ policies and practices. Read Governor Graham’s comment in the Sun Sentinel and the Herald Tribune that he will not support this amendment.

I received an email message today from Chris Hand, Governor Graham’s long term associate. He does not support the education amendment either.

Advocates for this amendment claim it has a common theme. There may well be one….from groups like the Florida version of conservative Freedom Caucus. Senator Baxley from Marion County had a civics bill in the last legislative session that died.

The Koch brothers have invested millions of dollars in free social studies curriculum that has been distributed widely. This is revisionist history at best. Read about it here.

The original drafters of this amendment e.g. Erika Donalds and Gaetz, when it was divided into separate proposals, represent the conservative caucus in Florida.

Recognize this amendment for what it is…a political statement that does not belong in the Florida constitution.

Supreme Court to hear Citizens for Strong Schools case

Today the Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear the inadequate funding case for education. The plaintiffs argued that Florida’s children suffer from the failure of the State to adequately implement Article IX of the Florida Constitution. The underlying issue is whether the judicial branch can determine whether or not the quality of education in the state is justiciable. If it is not, then Article IX becomes meaningless. The quality of education would be a political determination by the legislature.

You can read a summary of the closing arguments in the case from 2016 here.