A Better Future or A Scary Time, Both?

children-402166_1280There is something compelling about the need for our educational system to embrace the future.  Joanne Weiss, Secretary Arne Duncan’s Chief of Staff used to run Race to the Top.  She explains why big money and national educational standards matter.  Her explanation is cogent unless you consider the unintended consequences.  Or, were they intended?  It all depends upon your point of view.

As Congress is closing in on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it is more than a little curious how the political forces are aligned.  There is speculation that President Obama may veto the final legislation.  If he does, more of the same may stir even greater resistance, especially to the testing and accountability systems that are in place now.  If, however, the new legislation makes it into law, have we lost a great opportunity to reach for the moon once again?  As in any serious debate by serious people, there is likely truth on both sides of the issue.


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U.S. Senate to Debate K12 education Bill Today

What could actually change in federal education policy this year?  States will much more authority.   The last legislation was passed in 2007.  It is time for a change, but are these the right ones for children or for politicians?  We can only hope that Congress will strengthen, not weaken our public schools.

Here’s a quick checklist of the Senate bill.

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Florida Leads the Nation in Corrupt Officials

jail-429633__180Some people like rules. They keep life simple. Others think rules just get in the way of getting things done.  Floridians have a reputation for avoiding as many rules as possible except for their traditional public schools.  They are rule bound, and some parents rebel. There is an escape clause called ‘school choice’.  For charters and private schools the rules are bent or removed.

Charters are supposed to save money, and theyprovide a way for private businesses to make money, lots of it.  The money comes from the state or from corporate tax rebates.  It is big money, about half of the State’s general fund.

One wonders if controls on ethics and conflict of interest are sufficiently strong to protect the public interest in education?  The buzz about Florida is that there is more self-interest than public interest than in any other state.  Are such allegations warranted?

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Charter Oversight Needed Now

buck stopsby Carol Clark Hentschel, Palm Beach

Palm Beach has had more than its share of problems with failing charter schools.  Citizens there want better management oversight.  Carol is the Palm Beach League’s education team chair.  She makes a strong argument that the time is now for change.  The buck stops with us.  We have to insist on better accountability and oversight.

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Update on HR 5: Unfinished Business

The report that HR 5 to seriously limit the authority of the U.D. Department of Education, restructure Title I funding for low income area schools, and eliminate the Common Core standards among other measures, has not been pulled as previously announced by Rep. Amash.

Two amendments were offered:

HR 5 (#43) Thompson (MS).  HR 5 will not go into effect until it can be assured there will be no adverse affect on low income, minority, and English learner students.

HR 5 (#44) Scott (Va).  The amendment would replace # 43 and call for robust funding, replace No Child Left Behind, and maintain civil rights and equity.

The committee voted to rise and leave the bill as unfinished business.


Common Core: Are We In or Out?

common coreCOMMON CORE: Are We IN or OUT?

There is much angst about Common Core Standards (CCS). People disagree about what children should know and be able to do. The new standards focus on learning how to evaluate how well students understand what they read and how well they grasp math concepts.  All students are expected to be college and career ready.  The arguments have a familiar ring. Students differ.  The Florida League of Women Voters asks: Is it fair to have the same high expectations for all students?   Is it fair not to?  Is this even the correct question?

Some say that the standards are not the problem, the amount of testing required to measure the standards.  They argue that testing to evaluate teachers and schools is misguided. How is the Florida legislature responding? Is it possible to find some common ground?

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Congress to Vote on H.R. 5 NEXT FRIDAY: Send your opinion

US House SealAn important vote on H.R. 5 is scheduled Friday.  While the League of Women Voters supports national curriculum guidelines and assessment of skills that compares the student achievement across similar districts, it also supports local implementation of the curricula and skills.   The operative definition of the League’s position is that all children should have access to an equitable, quality education.  To what extent does this bill have the desired result?

The bill severely cuts the role of the U.S. Department of Education.  It also freezes funding until 2021.  Finally, it increases support for charter schools and allows Title I funding for low income schools to be moved to other schools.  The bill has generated controversy.  Specific requirements follow.

If you wish to contact your legislators, a contact list is below.

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The Horns of a Dilemma?

bull-155411_640Over and over we hear that testing narrows the curriculum, provokes anxiety rather than enthusiasm for learning, drives teachers out of the classroom, all in the name of improving student achievement.

Why do so many educators and politicians persist in an approach whose effectiveness is yet to be validated?  A clearly articulated rationale for annual testing is needed.  One appeared in the New York Times written by a former advisor to the U.S. Department of Education.  It lays out the administration’s rationale.


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