Florida Senate Education Leaders Provide a Balance?

legislation1Senate 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.

 

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Federal Education Policy Changes Afoot?

creature-1529281_640I have avoided posting all of the speculation about possible changes in education leadership and policy in the new administration.  It is just plain hard on my peace of mind, especially when most of it will not happen.  I firmly believe that the real changes will be through the change in leadership in the Florida legislature.  As you know, I am not sanguine on those.   You can see previous posts.

This morning, however, I ran across an article that helps us think more realistically about what change at the federal level would take.  This Ed Week article reviews legislation that would have to be amended to redirect funding.  It also points toward a likely push for school choice funding in the Congress.  It is worth a read.

 

3rd Grade Retention and Ability Grouping Tradeoffs

 

FAILED1The Florida School Board Association (FSBA) is shifting ground on third grade student retention criteria.    Such issues make me think about ability grouping in general.  Are we going overboard?

Are we putting huge pressure on kids not only to ‘get to grade level’ but also to be ‘gifted’ or ‘highly gifted’?  Do all children feel like they have a FSA proficiency level painted on their T-shirts?  This is an age old issue of grouping and tracking vs. diverse ability classrooms where children have different strengths and weaknesses regardless of “I.Q.” as measured by a test?

The FSBA wants more evidence than a single test score to determine student achievement.  Fair enough, but there is more to think about!  In a newly adopted platform, the FSBA calls for three revisions to current practice in retaining third graders:

 

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The Silly Season Has Overtaken Us?

american-flag-1109393_640In today’s Tallahassee Democrat, Leon County Schools have been chided.  It seems the state legislature passed a measure allowing students to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance.  The Department of Education said the district went too far by creating a form to do so and putting it in the Student Handbook.  The State is involved in a lawsuit over parent’s rights to opt their children out of tests, but it is OK to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance as long as you do not tell parents?

What is that Shakespearian line:  Something is rotten in Denmark?  Should we be thinking about other things to improve our educational system?

Testing Reform to Rise Again

IMG_0471Is there hope for a rational testing system?  Senator Don Gaetz has been a moderating voice on Florida’s overwrought testing and accountability system.  He called for the reduction of the weight from 50% to 30% of the student gain scores that are counted in teacher evaluations.  Then, in the 2015 session, he proposed substituting national tests like the SAT and ACT for the FSA.  Since college bound students must take these tests anyway, it is redundant to have them sit for state assessments as well.

 

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School Boards Divide Over the Road Ahead

divide-39653_1280Little things slip into legislation. The 2016 legislature is supporting a self described conservative group of school board members called the Florida Coalition of School Board Members (FCSBM).  They do not want to pay their dues to the existing Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) that represents 65 of 67 county boards.    The reason why is simple.  Since majority rules in FSBA policy decisions, some want what one member called a ‘like minded association of their own’.  It is the classic issue in a democracy.  Majorities rule must protect the rights of minorities.  How this is done is spelled out in law based on the constitution.

The FCSBM will have a legal right to redirect their dues if Governor Scott signs HB 7069, the School Choice bill.  Rep. Kelli Stargel from Lakeland initially filed a bill that was later folded into the School Choice train bill.  Rep. Erik Fresen requested a separate line item in the state budget that allocates $200,000 in training funds for the new group.  Training already exists, but FCSB wants its own.  Why the legislature should pay for this is subject to debate.  The Florida constitution mandates that school boards be nonpartisan, but choice advocates argue that their policies are not political.  They are, however, ideological.

Differences between the new FCSBM and the existing  FSBA associations are clear.  One supports school choice and the other supports choice within the traditional public school system.  FCSBM opposed the lawsuit for Florida Tax Credit vouchers.  The existing FSBA initially supported the lawsuit and then withdrew when Judge Reynolds dismissed the suit.   FCSBM’s other 2016 legislative positions include supporting the use of test scores, value added model gain scores, and concordance scores.  They also support raising Florida standards to NAEP proficiency levels and sharing capital outlay funds with charter schools.

Founding members include Rebecca Negron, the wife of incoming Senate President Joe Negron along with board members from Collier, Escambia, Indian River, Sarasota and Duval Counties.  Fifty of the 356 locally elected school board members have now joined FSCBM.  It appears the group has national aspirations.  A web site called the American Coalition of School Board Members has been created.  There is not much on it.  They must be waiting for the funds from the 2016-17 budget to roll in.

The Florida Constitution requires the state to provide a “uniform, safe, efficient, and high quality system of free public schools”.  Yet, there is a divide in the road ahead.  We already know that what happens in schools mirrors what is happening in communities.  Must our educational system splinter regardless of the cost?   I hear echoes of the biblical phrase: ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand’.

When President Lincoln used that phrase, he also said that he did not expect the house to fail, but he did expect the house to cease to be divided.   What is the people’s choice? We have fought through differences through out our history.  Once again we are putting our nation to the test.  There has to be a better road than the one we are on. It goes in too many directions to be ‘uniform, safe, secure and high quality’.

Budget Talks on Education Break Down

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Representative Fresen refused to accept most parts of Senator Gaetz’s education funding plan.  Now, the talks will escalate to the House and Senate Appropriations committees.  It will be up to Chairmen Lee and Corcoran to hammer out a deal.  According to news reports, the only agreement between the two was to avoid increasing local property taxes to support new education funding.

 

 

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