Florida testing bills surface

SB 964: Montford, Garcia and Lee, has teeth.  This bill would have a significant impact by reducing the number of state required tests as well as reducing the negative impact on instruction because it:

  • allows SAT/ACT for 10th grade language arts and deletes the FSA 9th grade language arts, civics, algebra II, geometry and U.S. history exams.  The FSA for grades three to eight remain along with Algebra I and biology.
  • allows paper and pencil administration of online tests.
  • eliminates the Florida DOE supervision of teacher evaluations and rules that tie evaluations to student test score results.

Two other bills would only move testing to the end of the school year instead of beginning state wide testing in February.

  • HB 773  Cortes, Donalds, Eagle, Fischer, and Gruthers.  The language of this bill is very similar to the language of the SB926 thus is a companion bill.
  • SB926 Flores and Bradley moves testing to the end of the year but allows students expected to be proficient based on proficiency measures to take the state assessment once per quarter during the year.  It authorizes a comparison of SAT and ACT content with the FSA English Language Arts and Mathematics tests at the high school level.

While moving the exam period to the end of the year has some advantages, it does little to reduce the amount of testing or the time required to conduct testing.  Given that requirements to base a large percentage of teacher evaluations on student test results, the focus on drill and practice and test prep rather than on more effective, long range student learning remains.

 

Constructive Committee Discussion

The House Committee on PK12 Quality held a thoughtful meeting.

State Rep. Matt Willhite asked “Could we do without school grading?”  “When we have school grades with continuous failing grades, are we benefiting the child telling them they are in a failing school?

Sen. Jake Rayburn R. Lithia, stated that whether you give an F or not, you have to figure out what to do with low performing schools.

Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R. The Villages asked ‘If there is any benefit (from testing)?  He said that the most frequent complaint he heard was about the stress and time taken away from other academic efforts at the schools.

The State School Superintendents requested a return to paper and pencil testing which take much less time to administer than testing in limited space computer labs.  Removing test scores from teacher evaluations would allow districts to develop their own assessment strategies.

Of course we need to test to see how children are learning.  It is a matter of how much testing is needed and how scores are used.  Hitting teachers, students, and schools over the head with school grades just makes everyone frustrated and destroys neighborhoods.

Missing from the discussion was the growing evidence that over the last 15 years of school choice, many neighborhoods have gone into a downward spiral, much like in Gainesville where four low income area schools used to have grades with A, B, and Cs.  Now one school is closed and the three remaining post Ds and Fs.  Teachers and students leave.  Socio economic data show that charters in the area do not take or keep the difficult problems.  It is hard to swallow but giving parents choice has created more problems than it has solved. The charters here fail more often than the public schools.

The bottom line is that folks want to make things better, but the stronger the focus is on schools rather than kids, the bigger the problem is.  Bad problems get worse.  Everyone blames everyone else.  Grading schools and teachers highlight problems but do not fix them.

Making schools more equal could help depending upon how it was done.  Now, the three struggling schools receive $1.5 million in federal funding to support extra time and wrap around services.  The money helps but does not eliminate the failing stigma. It does nothing for similar students who are dispersed in schools across the district.   Once we had an extra hour and summer school, funded by the State, to help children who start school behind and stay behind.  Once we had high quality early Head Start.  Once we had teachers who loved their schools.  Gone, all gone.  But, at least people are talking.

Possible Compromise on Corporate Charter and Public School Facility Funding?

David Simmons has an idea that may take wings.  To ease the facility backlog for renovations and maintenance, Simmons proposes SB 604 to increase the 1.5 mills that districts can assess from l.5 to 1.7 mills.  This is still less than it used to be, but it would help generate income to remodel outdated science labs or replace dying air conditioning units.  There is a catch.  In a companion bill, SB 376, Simmons would allocate some of this money to charter schools. Districts do not have to share this funding now.

 

 

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Blow Open School Choice Year?

It’s National School Choice Week, and Florida House leaders say this is their year to get rid of restrictions to the expansion of Florida Tax Credit Scholarships and charter schools.  House Education committee chair Michael Bileca, R.Miami and House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Chair Manny Diaz R. Hialeah are leading the charge.  They may be aided by Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the House, R. Pasco.  Corcoran’s wife started Classical Preparatory School.  It is not a Title I school; it has only 30% minority and FRL children.  The percentage of minority children (30%) is similar to the district percentage.  The difference is that Classical Prep charter has 31% who qualify for FRL while the district percentage was 56.3.  So, this charter is selecting children primarily from higher income families.  It is not clear what need this charter fills.

 

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New Education Bills

Legislation

It is early days, but education bills are emerging.  Here are two that still need Senate companion bills.

HB 253 Rep. Duran, D. Miami.  The Bright Futures Scholarship recipients must log 30 hours per year volunteer work.    already has a GPA requirement and repayment if grades fall.

HB 303 Rep. Daniels, D. Jacksonville.  The bill will allow religious expression in course work, activities, and personal attire.  School employees must be allowed to participate in religious activities.

New ‘Best and Brightest’ Bonus Plan Proposed

According to the Tallahassee News Service of Florida, Governor Scott will support $43 million dollars in 2017 teacher bonuses.  Details of the plan are not yet available, but the Governor said that the plan will target new teachers who show great potential and veteran teachers who show the highest student academic growth among their peers.  The current method of qualifying based on test scores will change.

 

 

 

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New bill to end 3rd grade test based retention

Representative John Cortes D. Osceola has filed  bill 131 to end mandatory third grade retention based on the English Language Arts score on the Florida Assessment.  Districts may retain students if needed, but they must continue to provide intensive remedial instruction.  The provisions remain for promoting retained students mid year if the have improved their reading skills.

Rep. Cortes was elected to the Florida House in 2014.  He does not serve on any legislative education committees, and the bill has yet to gain a Senate sponsor.  Whether or not his bill progresses is worth watching.  Unfortunately, third grade retention helps inflate fourth grade NAEP scores, and illusion is one of the signatures of school choice.

 

 

 

 

Plan to Revise the Constitution: Take the Public Out of Public Education

Can you imagine that the Florida House and Senate would support the repeal of the Fair Districting amendments, making the redistricting process secret, as well as rescinding constitutional bans on state support for private, religious schools?   The Miami Herald reports that these are the major goals of the legislative leaders. Florida’s constitution would have to be changed, and the process is now in place.  We need to know about this; it is real.

 

 

 

 

 

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Is a war brewing over education? Be there!!

The Tampa Bay Times reported that a bi-partisan panel of legislators voiced support for teacher pay raises and less testing in schools.  Even  more surprising was the opinion that all there should be more equity in school accountability for public schools, charter schools and private schools.  This has been a major issue in the League of Women Voters  arguments that all schools that receive state funding directly or indirectly through tax credit vouchers should meet the same testing and accountability standards.

Who is supporting public schools?  Is there a war brewing?

 

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Evil Afoot? Who is the devil?

man-1776934_640The Tampa Bay Times says yes, indeed there is evil afoot in Tallahassee.  Daniel Ruth calls on his creative writing skills to explain incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s comment that the Florida Education Association (and I suppose the League) is evil for opposing Florida tax credit vouchers for private schools.  He calls Corcoran ‘a cunning chap’ for running on a platform emphasizing the need for civility and responsible government.  Maybe Corcoran just meant for other people, not himself.  Corcoran’s message is anything but civil or responsible.

Ruth says, “Alas, this is Tallahassee where sober judgment goes to die.”

He continues with a quote from Corcoran about a group of professional educators who were trying to protect funding for public schools and opposed Corcoran’s plan to slash the education budget.

Corcoran referred to the educators as ‘the ISIS of the three Rs’.

This is not the rhetoric that leads to constructive approaches to improve student learning.  In fact, Corcoran has no apparent interest in negotiating with anyone including fellow Republican Senate President Joe  Negron.  He was quoted in the Miami Herald : “We are going to govern unabashedly principled and unabashedly conservative….That creates tensions, that creates internal strife.”

Put on your armor; you will need it.

 

 

 

 

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