Arne Duncan Visits S. Pinellas Failure Factories

FAILED1 South Pinellas schools are a civil rights problem said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education.  The Tampa Bay Times series ‘Failure Factories’ on the five schools seemingly abandoned by the district received national attention.  Secretary Duncan, his heir apparent, John King, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor met with parents and district officials yesterday.

Duncan said that the children were not failures, but the adults had failed the children.  They praised the efforts of the current superintendent to improve the schools, but much is yet to be done.  Duncan acknowledged that there were ‘tremendous unmet needs’ for family services and early childhood education.  A parent called for after school services and more experienced, quality teachers.

What happens next remains to be seen.  The Florida Department of Education is investigating whether or not their has been misuse of federal Title I funds designated for children from poor families.

Even though some progress has been made under the direction of the current superintendent,  the schools cannot solve the impact of their neglect by themselves.  The solution to the problems at the schools will require intensive community involvement.  Yet, only two school board members attended the event.  The Chair of the board said she was not invited. One former parent simply called the event a ‘press conference’.  Let’s hope it was more than that.

You can watch the video and read the Tampa Bay article here.

 

 

 

 

Gainesville Sun Forum: Too Many Tests

dmbtestThe Gainesville Sun, The Bob Graham Center at the University of Florida, and the Alachua County League of  Women Voters sponsored a panel on the over abundance of required tests in Florida public schools.  Moderated by Nathan Crabbe, the panel included Superintendent of Schools Dr. Owen Roberts, Dr. Sue  Legg, President, Alachua County League of Women Voters, Susan Bowles, Alachua County Teacher of the Year, and Shan Goff, Policy Director of the Florida Foundation for Excellence in Education.

The discussion was wide ranging.  Questions were raised about the validity of the new Florida Standards Assessment, the rationale for and impact of annual testing, the use and misuse of achievement test scores for teacher and school accountability.  Dr. Roberts spoke about the need for quality preschool educational programs rather than tests that do not help children learn.  He laughed and said: If you want to help a pig gain, you feed it.  You don’t just keep weighing it.  Children’s brains need to be nourished, not measured to make them expand.  You can watch the video here.

Sandy Stenoff posted this comment on Facebook:

Susan Bowles & Sue Legg knock it out of the park on an education panel!   In response to the FEE line about needing benchmark tests to assess students, Susan Bowles countered, to audience applause,
“I am capable of assessing my children,”Sue wrapped it up with common sense, “Let’s not rush into assigning consequences for this test until we get these problems fixed,” I love the women in this state fighting for our children!

 

Florida LWV Legislative Priorities Due

legislation1The Florida LWV legislative priorities are coming due.  Please make your voices heard within your local leagues.  In order to be able to advocate for our Education Team issues, we have to make it into the top priorities statewide.

Make education tops for your local league.  Here is a list of topics we expect to come up in the legislative session.  Remember that committee meetings start in September.

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Visiting Day Care Centers

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by Janet Allen

The LWVAlachua education committee made visits to numerous child care centers in Alachua County that ranged from family centers to large commercial centers like O2B Kids and Baby Gator. We had the opportunity to talk to teachers and administrators as well as children.  When we asked about current needs they were remarkably the same.

Our Florida legislature has a major bill (SPB 7006) to improve childcare standards, and the Governor’s budget includes funds to expand the Voluntary PreK program for four year olds.  There are, however, many different types of childcare programs, and we are learning how their programs differ and what their challenges are to provide quality childcare.

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Repurposing Struggling Schools: A Different Approach for Public Schools

education-548105_1280Alachua County, Florida Superintendent Owen Roberts announced a plan to restructure three elementary schools.  Two are struggling schools that have received funding to extend school days, add teachers, and add tutors.  The schools still struggle, and they are under enrolled.  Part of the problem is due to students who leave for charters and private schools in hopes of improving access to better schools.  Unfortunately, those options make little difference for those students either.  So, what do you do when conventional wisdom does not help? Continue reading

Catching Up for Kindergarten

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Last year, political horse trading got in the way of improving regulations for early childhood programs.  Representative O’Toole’s bill, HB 7069, died on the last day of the session.   The 2015 legislative session starts in March.  Senator O’Toole is the new Chair of the House Education Committee.  Things may improve for little children.  Or, we may start pre and posting testing them!   Let’s see take a look at where we are and what may be ahead.

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Evidence that Some Programs Really Do Work

new-years-eve-2015-583216_1280Here is a nice way to start the New Year!  We have all wondered whether we throw good money after bad in desperate attempts to make life better.  Ron Haskins, in today’s New York Times laments this tendency.  But, he goes past the woe to describe social programs that have rigorous evaluations and really do work.  There is hope for our educational system.  There are specific programs that have genuinely positive impacts.

How many of these effective programs are in your schools and communities?  How can you know?  Click to see ones that do work.

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Step Back, Take Stock

The blog is one month old.  We can celebrate a little.  Thus far we have had 4500 hits on our site, and our subscriber list is growing.  Let people know.

critical-thinking (2)It is also a good time to take a minute and think.   Are we contributing useful information on school reform issues?   What is helpful?  What is missing?  Reflect on the following list and make suggestions.  I will summarize your suggestions and respond.Continue reading