It is Time to Talk about ESSA

child speakingThere is the law, and then there are the regulations to implement the law.  Some say the new federal Department of Education proposed regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) overstep the intention of the law.  They create more stringent rules about testing and accountability than the ESSA intended.  The Florida Department of Education has put out a call for your input about the regulations. You have until July 22, 2016 to respond.  Responding in a meaningful way takes some thought.



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Today the Value of Diversity Was Affirmed

justiceAll the money pouring into school choice helps hire professionals to give a positive spin to a poor idea.  What can be wrong with giving parents choice and take state dollars with them to charter and private schools, spin masters say.

Some parents cannot resist the allure of a selective quasi ‘private education’ even if it is not high quality.  Today the Supreme Court provided a compelling ruling that can change the conversation.

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Alachua County Superintendent Resigns

Dr__Owen_RobertsDr. Owen Roberts resigned as Alachua County Superintendent effective 20 weeks from now.  The problems have been building over the past year.  One can only hope that the truly exciting initiatives he has sponsored will not be lost.  The preschool center at Duval, the arts and music magnet transformation at Rawlings elementary, the incorporation of the System of Care to help at risk children and their families in seven schools, the Parent Academy to help parents build learning skills with their preschool children,  the robotics program, and the new community school at Howard Bishop all represent his priorities.  The list goes on.  Alachua County Schools have risen from a ‘C’ grade to an ‘A’.  The awards to programs across the county have received national attention.

So what happened to derail Dr. Robert’s administration?



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School Board Official ‘Bought’?

money-40603_1280When is it a conflict of interest for a district school board member’s campaign to be financed by a charter school management company and its associates?

The Tampa Bay Times reports that one third of a Hillsborough school board member’s 2016 election campaign is financed by the charter sector.   Contributions to local school board candidates from charter advocacy groups is becoming a national strategy.  Is this democracy in action or something more sinister?  The issue is complicated by questions about the meaning of public education.





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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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Federal Accountability Rules for School Grades

hat-157980_1280Criteria for new school grades are drafted by the U.S. Department of Education.  Under this new plan, states can choose their own indicators of school quality or student success that move beyond the traditional accountability measures based on test scores or graduation rates.  School Report Cards must also be made in consultation with parents.  The draft document is now under review and open for comment  It includes:






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Lawsuit Testimony Can Break Your Heart

justiceFlorida’s educational system is on trial in Tallahassee.  The charge?  One million Florida students cannot read at grade level.  Testimony about the plight of these children can break your heart.  Thousands are homeless.  Most are from poor families.  In some rural counties children are too hungry to learn, and schools provide three meals a day.  These children, the plaintiffs argue need much more than school districts can provide with current funding.  

The Florida League of Women Voters recognizes that the solutions to these problems are complex, but applauds the attention the suit brings to the weaknesses in our educational system.  What are the arguments and what is the defense?  What do the witnesses say? 

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Learning Your Way: A glimpse into the world to come

woman-1172721_1280In my last post, I commented that the conversation about education reform was beginning to shift from the evils of constant testing back to include new approaches to teaching and learning.  Who would believe I would find an example moments later.

We can call this topic the ‘learning my way’ approach.  A teacher at PK Yonge laboratory school in Gainesville has won an award for incorporating student directed learning strategies in his classroom.    How he does it is bound to engage students.  The idea came from a Harvard workshop years ago.  He now leads them.


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Race and Testing Wars

skills-835747_1280The pushback against testing is spreading.  The New York Times reports that some minority groups have joined the anti testing movement.  This is a significant change from what began as a white middle class movement.  Testing is the stick that education reformers like current U.S. DOE Secretary John King and others use to spotlight struggling schools.  Without testing, many argue, the plight of these students is ignored.

Now, some black parents and children are joining the Opt Out groups in Baltimore and Philadelphia.  Educators cite examples of students who feel labeled as failures and curriculum that is little more than test prep.  Warren Simmons, a senior fellow at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, sums up the problem.  Testing identifies there is a problem but does not tell you what is wrong and how to fix it.

I take heart when I consider the evolving discussion about educational policy.  Since the 1990s, we have moved from a focus on basic skills to one on critical thinking and problem solving.  We then moved into high gear on testing in order to motivate educators to identify the needs of all students.  Even now the conversation is moving toward the appropriate roles of teaching and technology to improve learning.  There are also hints about the role of neuroscience in defining appropriate learning strategies.

Eventually we will get to the heart of the matter:  time and money.  This will become the biggest test of our political will to adapt our educational system to meet the needs of the nation.  These discussion too are emerging in the courts.





Teachers vote with their feet

teacher-403004_1280 (1)Does eliminating tenure makes any difference in the quality of the teacher workforce (as judged by achievement test score gains)?  The Brookings Institute published an article that sheds some light on the impact prior to 2011.  By comparing the departure rate of teachers with lower gain scores to those with higher gain scores, one would expect more lower rated teachers to leave.





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