CRC Education Amendments ATTACK K12 Public Schools

The Constitutional Revision Commission members are filing amendments to the Florida Constitution. Four general categories include:

Remove local control of school boards CRC Member Erika Donalds, a pro choice Collier County School Board member, would remove these local options that districts now have by:
1. P43: Requiring term limits for school board members
2. P33: Requiring appointed superintendents
3. P32: Preventing salaries for local and state school board members

Privatization of Public Schools
1. P45 Donalds: Cannot limit the legislature from providing other educational services in addition to the system of free public schools

Remove restriction on Separation of Church and State
1. P59 Johnson: Article IX Section I that prohibits state funds for religious schools would be amended to eliminate restrictions on public funding for educational services at religious entities.
2. P4 Martinez: This ‘Declaration of Rights’ amendment removes prohibition in Article I Section 3 on funding for church, sect, religious denomination or sectarian institution

Expand Charter Schools
P.71 Donalds: Charter Schools Authorization. The amendment gives the legislature free rein to increase or otherwise change current authorization of charter schools to other entities than school districts, municipalities, businesses, colleges/universities

School Operation
P. 10 Gaetz: Require Civics literacy
P. 82 Heuchan: Require schools cannot open before seven days before Labor Day.

State University System
P. 25 Plymale: Establish Community College System
P. 44 Washington: Require minimum vote threshold for tuition and fee increases.
P. 70 Keiser: Tuition and fee waivers for certain members of the military and/or spouse and children
P. 60 Johnson: Bright Futures scholarship and Public Student Assistance Grant funding mandates and qualifications
P. 57 and P. 49, P. 16 Kruppenbacher and Gainey: Death benefits for survivors of first responders etc. that equal tuition and fee costs for post secondary education.

I will provide an analysis of the implications of the PK12 amendments in the weeks ahead.

Signs of Stress: Is school policy hurting kids?

Are there connections between school policies and children’s stress symptoms or is it just peer relationships that cause anxiety? Anne Hartley posted an article about the expansion of Rocketship Charter Schools in California. A physician responded to the article by citing the medical problems the children he sees from another Rocketship school. What is it about this school that contributes to the problems these children are experiencing?

The test driven curriculum can create stress in any school. It may be, however, that no nonsense discipline problems may escalate the stress reactions. Some children simply leave these schools.

Edushyster posted some examples of how teachers are coached to maintain control of everything a child does in school. What is curious is that the teachers are controlled in the same way. In this article, a teacher describes the training. It is unreal. Trainers sat in the back of the class and told her what to say and how to respond to children. She had an earphone, and they used walkie talkies.

This is worth taking some time to read. Variations of this no nonsense approach are used by many charter schools e.g. KIPP and Success charters. This approach goes way beyond the ‘Do what I say or face punishment’ approach to teaching and learning. This teacher had to say to herself “I am not Tom Brady”. Read the article to find out why.

Teaching is more than a job!

Bart Nourse, film producer of Passion to Teach, shared his thoughts on the real solution to improving teaching and learning. He gives a goal to work toward i.e. steps toward making teaching a true profession.

Bart says:

I still believe the ‘upstream’ factors (professionalism in teaching and intrinsic motivation in learning) matter more than the ‘downstream’ stuff (testing and assessment regulations).  That having professional teachers, as members of a true profession, gets and keeps the right people on the bus (Jim Collins, Built to Last; From Good to Great).  Only then can the bus gather up and move students along the ways of intrinsic motivation to the destination of learning for life.

Nine elements of a true profession follow.  Rather than strengthening these, we are now weakening them (i.e. most of them; some do not exist.)  That will keep teaching in the U.S. “just a job.”  How different from Singapore, where “teacher” means “nation builder.”  How different from Finland, where teachers operate (for the most part) autonomously.  The nine:
1.     Specialized, prolonged education at training schools
2.     Apprenticeship
3.     Examinations
4.     Certification to practice
5.     Continuing professional development
6.     Full-time occupation
7.     Establishment of associations:  national, state, local
8.     Self-regulation of occupation:  powers to set the “rules”
9.     Code of professional ethics

No Rules for the Rich Schools?

HB 7069 relaxed rules for “Schools of Excellence”. These are the 640 schools with high achieving students that tend to be in affluent communities and/or have self selected populations according to the Tampa Bay Times article.

These schools do not have to meet class size requirements, reading instruction rules, and start and end times. Curious logic in all of this.

PARENTS WIN in ALACHUA!

Just sent this notice out:

CSUSA decided against coming to Alachua County. Your voices were heard. Thank all of your for your helping the PACT get the word out. .They could try again. We will be watching.

There was a front page headline story on the PACT in today’s paper about the PACT. See:
http://www.gainesville.com/news/20171001/local-pac-pushing-against-mega-charter-school

Erik Fresen Goes to Jail

Erik Fresen, whose wife and brother-in-law run Academica, is going to jail. Academica is Florida’s largest for-profit charter school chain.

Fresen failed to file his income tax return from 2007-2016. He will spend the holidays in jail. For the next four months, he must spend fifteen days in jail. The judge allowed him out of jail periodically so that he can earn money to pay his back taxes.

Fresen is not ignorant about either money or budgets. He served eight years in the Florida House and was Chair of the House Subcommittee on Education Appropriations. A little sensitivity about ethics might be in order.

Florida Supreme Court Declines Palm Beach Case Against CSUSA

OK, it is up to us. The Supreme Court declined to hear a case against an unwanted CSUSA charter school in Palm Beach. The school board’s frustration was not with charters. Rather, it was with CSUSA’s proposals to open unneeded charters to openly compete for students. One proposal was to open a CSUSA charter across the street from Royal Palm Beach high school. Then, CSUSA submitted two more proposals, and the district went to court. The Court decided not to decide in spite of widespread opposition in the community.

Clearly, the Florida legislature and the State Board of Education are deaf to the destruction of our communities and the impact of poor fiscal policies on our educational system. Their choice policy simply ensures that no segment, public…charter…or private will have adequate funding. Thirteen districts, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange and Alachua among others have now joined forces to sue the State over the legislature’s seizure of control of local school district authority. More are in the wings. This is not over.

We need a change in approach to choice. We have to examine the policies of who we choose to represent our views in the legislature. If you need more information about CSUSA’s for-profit management style, see the PACT. We have to help others understand that not all choices are good choices.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

There was a big extravaganza on TV just before Irma hit Florida. Supported by Lorraine Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, Project XQ seeks to reinvent American high schools. This is not a ‘school choice’ solution to education reform. Rather, Project XQ explores ways to give students more control over their learning, and it builds on students’ talents and interests rather than sorting them by test scores into winners and losers. I am always excited when examples of what high quality, impactful teaching can be. It’s why I like the film ‘Passion to Teach’.

John Merrow reviewed XQ Super School Live. He is the former long time PBS education correspondent who views the reliance on high stakes testing as the path to increasing mediocre lessons ‘and worse’ for our children. In his book, Addicted to Reform, he argues that test based accountability stifles the creativity economists assert our schools need to promote.

Merrow concludes that Project XQ missed an opportunity to explain how the current reliance on testing and choice policies fail to address the real problems confronting students, teachers and schools. The show simply claimed schools were ‘out of date’.

There is a kernel of understanding that is emerging in the ‘testing or teaching’ debate. Reliance on test scores to drive instruction is not a new problem; it is just the modern day version of a drill and practice methodology that has a place in learning but should not be the most important one. Drill and test using technology do not replace effective teaching; they can, however, be helpful resources. It is time to examine, but not rely on, their appropriate roles.

Efforts like Project XQ are asking the right questions about effective teaching. It is also helpful to see films like ‘Passion to Teach’ that demonstrate teachers in action who develop students’ ability to control and engage in learning meaningful to them.

We are primed to enable our schools to emphasize what works. At least now we have experimented with the testing and grading reforms long enough to recognize they only make bad problems worse. Not only are we sorting kids in schools; we are sorting schools into winners and losers.

At first, we may have to focus on one school and one maverick teacher at a time, but every time we succeed, we should celebrate and replicate the experience. We do not have to accept what is, and we can make a difference by working toward what could be and should be.

Wind and Rain

Gainesville is having some disruption due to Irma’s impact. Lincoln Middle School was flooded. Archer’s power is down. So is mine! Schools here are still closed. The district hopes to open Monday. Transportation around town is still not totally safe.

I know many of you are in the same situation. My thoughts are with you.

Hope to be blogging again soon.

Should We Close Schools?

The latest push to improve test scores is to close low performing schools. This CREDO study from Stanford University was designed to see what happened to the students. They looked at traditional public schools (TPS) and charters whose students scored at or below the 20th percentile on state tests. Some schools in both sectors were closed and others not. Why? What happened to the children?

Some key findings include:

  1. Charters that closed in Florida had significantly lower performing students than students in closed public schools. Why would this be? One possible explanation is that closure corresponded not only to low performance but also to declining enrollment. Parents of charters students tended to leave failing charters before the school actually shut down. As enrollment dropped, charters could not afford to stay open.

  2. Florida closed 24 TPS over 7 years and 34 charters. While the number of closed charters is higher, 85% of the students affected were in TPS. In Florida, 4,337 students in charters were affected vs. 5,410 TPS. Closure disproportionately impacted schools with high rates of minority students over other low performing schools.

  3. Most, 82% of TPS students, stayed in another TPS after closure while only 40% of charter students stayed in charters. In Florida, there were no differences between achievement gains for closed low performing charter students over time and similar students in charters that were not closed. Over time, children from closed charters did much less well than similar children from closed TPS.

  4. Students from closed schools do better if they are transferred to schools with higher performing students. But, there are too many low performing students able to enroll in higher performing schools. Less than half of the students from closed schools landed in a better performing school.

What is the take away from the data? Closing a school hurts kids unless they enroll in a school that has higher performing students. This becomes a socio-economic integration issue. It is a school culture issue. It is an opportunity issue. Suppose there are an insufficient number of schools with higher performing students to place these children? CREDO suggests innovative new schools are needed. If the old charter did not work, what should this new innovative school be? The answer is in the data. Children learn from children who are learning!