Should Florida Fail 3/4s of Third Graders?

IMG_0471Have you seen the latest headlines:  Florida is the only state meeting NAEP standards?  You might think we have the highest standards in the country.

What it really means is that Florida is the only state which reports five levels on its state assessment that correspond to the five levels of NAEP.  This is a good thing.

It is not enough.

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Common Core Botched or Needed for Jobs?

electrician-1080554_1280Was the Common Core movement simply botched or just renamed?  We know that most states have adapted their state standards to align with but not mirror Common Core standards.  We also know that there is substantive reasons for concerns over the suitability of the standards especially for primary school age children.

Yes, the tests are also not perfect.  Even worse, the test and punish mentality is worse than the problems that Common Core is supposed to correct.  You cannot use the ‘drill and test’ instructional method to teach critical thinking and problem solving.  The tests themselves, moreover, are a work in progress.  Questions are complex and testing is time consuming.  If the end of year assessment paradigm were scrapped for a periodic diagnostic testing program, everyone would benefit.

The deeper question that has to be addressed is:  Why the Common Core in the first place?  Politicians and educational policy analysts are grappling with a genuine concern for the future opportunities for our children.  They clearly are–too often–using strongman techniques to get their message across.  What message is it?  It is one we need to hear.

The World Economic Forum just published its report on The Future of Jobs.  We know that traditional middle and lower middle class jobs are disappearing.  New jobs are being created that require different skill sets–and those skill sets tend to change rapidly.

How must the educational sector adapt to meet these new conditions?  This is a vitally important issue.  Our local district’s advisory council has been charged with evaluating its career and vocational programs.  What would the World Economic Forum advise us to do?

  • Evaluate job skills programs.  They may be short sighted if those skills will change in a few years time.
  • Research work force talent trends and skills gaps.
  • Evaluate programs for their impact on diverse groups in order to improve workforce parity.
  • Reduce the dichotomy between Humanities and Sciences and applied and pure training.
  • Encourage alignment of programs with life long learning and skills retraining.








workforce parity

dichotomy between Humanities and Sciences and  applied and pure training

life long learning and reskilling

Comparing Canada and the U.S. on Education

flag-1040547_1280A reader sent this thoughtful article by Ben Levin.  I was pleased because I too have been musing about Canada’s high ranking on the international PISA test.  Canada significantly out performs the U.S. in math, science and reading.

I looked for reasons–Canada has a strict immigration policy based on skill levels of applicants.  Canada has a lower poverty rate.  These things are true, but according to Politico, if you use scores only from white U.S. citizens, Canada still outperforms the U.S. fifteen year old students. To make it to the top of the score scale, the U.S. can only use schools with less than ten percent enrolled from families living in poverty.  Even in those schools, math scores would only be ranked 8th, but reading and science would be second to Shanghai.

Florida paid to get its own PISA scores.  The results were surprisingly low.  Our students were well below the U.S. average PISA scores in science and math and just average in reading.  As a leading proponent for school reform, this is not good news for Florida.

The U.S. has the largest income gap in the world. Depending upon how it is measured, however, basic living conditions for the poor in the U.S.  are not worse than in other developed countries.  Yet, PISA scores have gone up in many countries, ours remain stagnant.

In the following article, Ben Levin compares U.S. and Canadian educational systems and finds some similarities and four very real differences.  Perhaps we can learn from our northern neighbors.  How uneven is the funding for U.S. schools?  How uneven is the quality?  This has to be a serious concern.  There are lawsuits over equity and funding all over the U.S., and yes, in Florida.

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Congress Passes New Federal ESEA Bill

legislation1We posted several analyses of the updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Current legislation, called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is on its way to the President’s desk.   No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top are gone.  What remains are annual testing requirements and support for charter schools.  Responsibility for most education accountability reverts to the states.  Thus, each state can determine how test scores are used for teacher evaluation, school grades and the Common Core.

States are required to identify schools with under performing students and help fix them.  What this means is unclear.  For a good analysis, see Education Week.  Many provisions are subject to different interpretations.  One thing is clear, citizens need to turn to their state legislatures  to make reasonable, valid decisions about how test scores are used.  Continued policies that force districts and teachers to focus instruction on ‘passing the test’ can be changed, if the voters insist.


Facts to Counter Bias Against Teaching Profession

skills-835747_1280Some groups are making teachers into scapegoats to justify opposition to unions, taxes, or facing problems in low income neighborhood schools.   In a 20014 speech, U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan claimed that academically, our teachers were in the bottom third of their college class.  He argues that new teachers are underprepared, and low-income students get short changed.  Somehow better qualified teachers would improve our ranking on international tests.

A New York Times article by Daniel Willingham Teachers Aren’t Dumb takes a different view and gives facts to back it up.

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Florida Test Reform: What Might We Expect from the legislature?

critical-thinking (2)There will be hearings in the legislature about reforms to Florida’s state-wide testing.  The Seminole County school district is leading a movement to replace the FSA at least for high school graduation.  Senators Gaetz and Legg have made public statements about the need for reform.

What can we realistically expect?

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FSA Validity Study Released

image001When we ask if a test is valid, it is critical to ask:  valid for what purpose?  The  report on the validity of the Florida FSA test was released today.  There were findings from six studies conducted by Alpine Testing Solutions and EdCount LLC.

Given that there were six sets of results and conclusions, the researchers did not state that the test as whole was valid.  Let’s look at each study’s conclusions.  Even more interesting are the results of the analyses taken together and called Cross Study Conclusions.

The study found reasons to be cautious about some of the uses of the scores.  The researchers reported that the Florida DOE did not intend to report scale scores or performance standards this first year.  Students would receive a percentile ranking, the number of points earned out of the number possible, and the average number of points statewide by category.  Interim cut scores for ELA grade 3 and Algebra I would be set by percentile equating based on the FCAT cut scores.

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Difference Between U. S. House and Senate Education Bills

congress-74032_1280The Senate version of the education bill (See: US Senator Lamar Alexandar Bill ) and the House version differ mostly on the requirements for achievement testing.

The House version is a reintroduction of last year’s Student Success Act.  Both version emphasize returning control to the states.

A summary of the House version follows.  We will track the bills.  Check Legislative Updates on the rotating banner for the blog.  It is the photo of the green chalkboard.

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Are KIPP Charters the Answer? Depends upon the question…


KIPP is reputed to be one of the most successful charter chains.  It serves low income minority students. U.S. DOE Secretary Duncan has praised KIPP charters.  Gary Chartrand, the Chair of the Florida Board of Education promotes them.  It has a ‘no excuses’ policy for behavior as well as high academic expectations for all students. Is KIPP success hype or real?  There are some things we need to know; let’s not make hasty judgments.  Read about their results.

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