You have to tell it like it is, especially when so many people have so much money invested in a failing education reform policy. Read the summary of the report: Twenty Years Later: Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan fails Florida’s Children posted by Diane Ravitch. Find out the hard truth about the impact of the A+ Plan on student achievement, school grades, teaching, and communities. Insist on an end to policies that seek to destroy public schools and rob children of a high quality education.
Ideas are swirling around. It sounds a lot like guns for money. Diaz wants guns in schools. Districts want to fix holes in buildings. The governor wants bonuses for teachers. Many want an escape hatch from Jeb Bush’s A + Plan that supported Common Core. I wonder about that. It will not change the testing mania simply because the federal government requires annual testing. It will create more havoc to change once again. I did a count of all the curriculum changes in the last twenty years. It is unbelievable. How teachers are supposed to know what and how to teach and students are to know what is important from one year to the next is a mystery to me.
I did another check on the Bush A+ Plan with which our legislature is enamored. When competition among teachers and schools for bonuses don’t work to raise achievement, it is a problem for the legislature. Did you realize that now that the legislature knows that students are graduating from high school and need remediation in community colleges that the legislature changed the law? Remediation is no longer required. Simple fix that?
This year’s simple fix to Florida’s relatively low graduation rate is to reduce the number of credits required. Some students may be redirected to vocational/trade certification programs that require fewer credits. Actually, many of those certification programs are quite rigorous. So, it is worth considering alternatives if they are not dumbed down. Instead students need a lift up, but that does cost money.
The discussion comes down to the usual smoke and mirrors. The governor would move the bonuses into a different pot of money…the per student allocation schools have to operate. It would look like schools were getting more money. The House does not want even the appearance of a tax increase, so schools will not get the benefit of the increase in property values. But, those holes in the buildings leak. Something must be done.
From what I hear, it will be a tradeoff…guns for money with some whispers about a little religion thrown in by extending the personal learning accounts for private schools. Remember that about 83% of the children attending private schools on tax credit scholarships are going to small, poorly staffed religious schools.
Those schools are getting more economically and racially segregated. Children do not learn well in those settings, and hiding that fact in private schools is unfair to children and their families.
What a world!
An organized group of ultra conservative legislators have filed a bill to teach religion in schools. The group called ‘Florida Citizens Alliance’ does not like climate change either. FCA is a group Erika Donalds and her husband, who is in the legislature, have formed with support from others like former Senator Joe Negron’s wife Rebecca and Richard Corcoran’s wife Anne. The group is the same coalition of politicians and wealthy donors who unsuccessfully pushed Amendment 8 to create a separate charter ‘independent’ school system. Last year they got a bill passed to enable citizens to review textbooks for content they oppose.
Bill 330 by Senator Baxley from Ocala requires the Florida Curriculum Standards be revised to be minimum standards. Additional standards could be added to them. This revision is to add controversial science and economic theories to the curriculum. A similar bill was filed last year but did not pass.
What is really at stake is Florida’s Blaine Amendment in the constitution. It specifically addresses the issue of teaching a religion, not just teaching about religion. This becomes a blurry line in practice. Senator Baxley’s bill would require that schools teach about controversial topics. It is one of those tactics to infiltrate policy that keeps such topics separate from school curricula.
For a legal analysis of the Blaine amendment, see the explanation in the Stetson Law Review. I would expect the legislature to consider an amendment to the Florida constitution to overturn the Blaine amendment. Keep watching.
Politico reports that the new Florida Commissioner of Education is rumored to be former House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Stewart had announced her plans to retire at the end of Governor Scott’s term, but the State Board of Education asked her to remain to ‘groom her successor’. Corcoran pushed for Schools of Hope to replace struggling public schools with charters. He also supported the Hope Scholarships to give students who were bullied Florida tax credit scholarships to private schools. The State Board of Education is already solidly in the pro choice camp, so they likely will rubber stamp this nomination.
A preview of the conservative agenda for education is available from the Florida Citizens Alliance advocacy group. They anticipate that Governor-elect DeSantis will expand choice programs to include vocational programs that focus on apprenticeships, ending proprietary testing, and ending Common Core Standards. (I do not see where DeSantis makes any statement about K12 testing policies.)
Amendment 8 proposals to expand civics education, term limits and centralized charter systems are likely to resurface. DeSantis has made civics education a priority. This is a national priority of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative coalition of legislators. The idea is to focus on concepts that, according to Betsy DeVos, lead young people to support socialism rather than a conservative ideology that is anti-government.
If this agenda succeeds, Florida’s educational system will once again be in turmoil.
KIPP in Jacksonville has not been a success story to brag about. KIPP Jacksonville charters expanded, but the school grades fluctuate up and down. The KIPP national spokesman acknowledged problems there.
Superintendent Carvalho says the Miami KIPP will operate differently. For one thing, it will co locate within a district-run school, Poinciana Park elementary. It will pay $1 in rent. Therefore, KIPP will receive the same funding as traditional schools without the same facility costs. Improvements in the KIPP side of the school are supposed to benefit all students, but nothing in the lease agreement guarantees it. It’s a ‘verbal agreement’. Board members fear it will be a “stark symbol of inequity“.
Poinciana was an ‘F’ school in 2016. Now it is an ‘A’ school even though only about 25% of the students scored at the proficient level on the English FSA exam. So what is to be gained by adding KIPP to the school? In a way, KIPP will operate as a magnet school, but with its own management and instructional methods, within Poinciana. Parents can apply to have children attend.
Absent in the discussion are the consequences of the well documented ‘no nonsense’ strict behavioral and instructional strategies of KIPP schools. For example, studies of KIPP policies indicate that grade 5 attrition is higher than at feeder district schools even though it drops later on. Moreover, KIPP tends not to replace students who leave. When new students are admitted, they have higher achievement scores than those initially admitted.
The net effect is that KIPP schools have fewer free and reduced lunch students, fewer students with exceptionalities, and somewhat higher achievement scores simply because of the selection and attrition policies. Moreover, the attrition rate for KIPP fifth grade students is nearly twice than in district feeder schools, according to a Mathematica study.
The children who remain in KIPP are with others whose parents want them there and will tolerate the highly structured, test driven curriculum. The Atlanta school district reports that KIPP students are in school from 7:30 to 5pm weekdays and select Saturdays. They also have two weeks of instruction in the summer. They tend more often than similar students to start college, but they have trouble completing college.
What is the KIPP difference? Push kids hard, give them more time in schools, and test scores go up. So, will this new school within a school be like a magnet school for struggling children? Kids will be separated into those whose parents aspire for their children to go on to college and those who do not.
The State cannot or will not support additional instructional time for all students. The result is that these ‘no nonsense’ schools pay the cost of providing more instructional time for students by continuously hiring inexperienced teachers. They compensate by reducing teachers to be drill sergeants; it is a business strategy.
Additional resources come out of teacher salaries and benefits. Teachers leave at twice the rate as district schools, but the rigid KIPP instructional method trains new teachers over and over again.
Even if this military style disciplined approach to learning and teaching produces higher test scores for students who survive it, does it produce the creative, problem solving, self regulated people our society requires? Each of us must ask if this is the learning experience we want for our own children, or is it just something to do for ‘other kids’? There are better ideas out there, but are we willing to pay for them?
What are the societal costs when children face double segregation by race and income in their neighborhoods and then face additonal discrimination in their schools? It must be a world that says over and over No Access.
SB 966 Baxley. Adopts minimum curriculum standards. This ‘Controversial Theories’ bill allows districts to adopt more rigorous standards. If they do, they must include teaching controversial science theories and concepts in a factual, objective, and balanced manner. While creationism is not specifically mentioned in the bill, it would certainly qualify as a controversial theory.
This bill also specifies that civics education must strictly adhere to the founding values and principles of the United States as in s. 1003.42. See section 2a. It also requires that financial literacy include at least Keynesian and Hayekian economics. These theories differ in part over the role of the central government response to economic hardship i.e. increased spending vs. free market adjustments. This might be quite an intellectual load for seventh graders taking civics.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research says that 58% of people don’t know much about charter schools. Even more, 66%, know little or nothing about private school vouchers. Nevertheless, 47% favor expanding charters and 43% would expand vouchers. Media headlines say most Americans support choice, but this is misleading. Most Americans either are opposed or have no opinion. The report found that four in ten believed that the country in general would benefit from more choice.
The poll has value. It made me think. See what you think!
Senate President Joe Negron has announced his Education Committee members. They appear to share a broader spectrum of interests than those in the Florida House. The Senate Education Committee Chair will be Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Republican from Volusia County. Volusia supports public schools and has relatively few charter schools.
There are solutions to complex problems. Take for example the issue of not enough time. We all experience this concern but for children, it can impact their entire lives. Over and over again we hear that children need more time in school. Parents too have concerns about child care while they are working.
School time and work time do not match. Everyone knows something should be done, but time costs money. Here’s an example from the Christian Science Monitor that describes how a school was able to solve the time problem. They managed it differently. Read the story here. This is a fundamental change but a feasible one. IT COULD SOLVE MANY FRUSTRATIONS IN OUR DAILY LIVES and help children learn.