A Twin Study in Broward

by Margery Marcus, LWV of Broward

ft lauderdaleMargery’s compares two schools located across the street from one another, Pinewood traditional elementary and North Broward Academy charter school.  Pinewood used to earn a ‘B’ school grade.  The schools could be fraternal twins, but now one earned a ‘D’ and the other an ‘A’.  I was intrigued.  So, I went back through the data for the last three years to see if there were changes in the schools over time.  There were.

  • For two of the years, Pinewood had twenty percent fewer students proficient on the kindergarten readiness test than North Broward (74%-92%).  In 2012-13, there was a 40% difference. Clearly, North Broward has attracted better prepared students.
  • Broward’s district achievement levels are nearly identical from one year to the next.  However,  Pinewood’s FCAT proficiency levels go down somewhat over time, especially in third grade, and North Broward’s go up.
  • Pinewood’s staff is stable; they had 16% new teachers compared to 43% new teachers at North Broward.  They were not likely to become less effective in three years.  Yet, school grades kept declining.
  • Pinewood lost 100 of its 716 students in three years.  North Broward gained fifty students (683) over the same period.
  • The mix of students also changed.  Pinewood gradually increased its percentage of economically disadvantaged students to 80% in 2014 compared to 75% at North Broward.

Margery states that CSUSA is doing something right.  What do you think it may be?  Numbers do not always tell the whole story.

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Public School Choice: A Revolving Door

door-113355_1280In the last legislative session, there was a proposal to allow students to enroll in any public school that had room.  It would give parents flexibility.

Most districts already allow students to enroll in a district school outside their zoned school to accommodate parents’ work places.  Some states have enacted these open enrollment policies for everyone to go to any school.  I was surprised at what happened.   Maybe this is not good for Florida.

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ALEC Admits Vouchers are for Suburbia

housesVouchers for private school tuition were supposed to be for at risk children in poor neighborhoods.  In Florida, that assumption was dropped when the legislature expanded eligibility for tax credit scholarships to include family incomes up to $62,000.  Now, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is more concerned about the high cost of tuition for middle class families.  They want to help.

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For-Profit Charters: Whose Interest is Being Served?

money-40603_1280Lots of money easily available can lead to abuse, and it did–over and over again in Miami.  It is so much money that it may be time to follow New York’s lead and ban for-profit education management companies.  In this post we look at Academica, Florida’s largest for-profit education management firm.

Its schools are consolidated into at least four non-profit entities that allow Academica to operate legally as a contractor to its own schools. Their 100 schools are organized into the  Mater, Somerset, Pinecrest and Doral networks.  They also manage several Ben Gamla schools as well as others.  Academica operates in five states plus D.C. including Florida, Utah, Texas, Nevada, California.

The Doral and Mater charter governing boards keep appearing in the Miami Dade Inspector General reports.  There is a lot of money involved and continued poor governance citations.  You can follow the money.  Do these schools do more with less?

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Jeb Bush’s Foundation Grades Legislators on Education Reform Policy

FAILED1Education Now reports that the Foundation for Florida’s Future has released its grades for legislators.  They are based on their support for  the Bush/ALEC school privatization agenda.

As you know, Jeb Bush made his mark in Florida with his advocacy for charter schools and vouchers.  When the State Supreme Court declared vouchers unconstitutional, they were turned into corporate tax rebate scholarships.  The Southern Legal Counsel’s lawsuit against school choice Citizens for Strong Schools comes to trial next spring.

Privatizing schools has turned into big business in Florida.  To protect the business interests, legislators are pressured and cajoled.  In this report you can see the grades your individual representatives and senators have received from the foundation Jeb Bush created.  High grades mean that those legislators are failing our public schools and promoting privatization.  Here’s the link to the report.





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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Waste, Fraud and Abuse or Something Better?

choicesThe 2014 report on Charter School Vulnerabilities to Fraud, Waste, and Abuse by the Annenberg Foundation was triggered by the U.S. Inspector General’s warning about mismanagement in charter schools.

I compared the report’s  recommendations to Florida’s laws.  We have laws.  We are short on enforcement.  What can we do to clean up the mess?  It is a mess.  Florida has over 600 charter schools, and its closure rate is nearing 50 percent.  I made some recommendations.

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More Charter Profiteering in Palm Beach

money-40603_1280A charter school founder in Palm Beach said he made ‘mistakes’ in the interest of getting the school open last year.  His financial history was not good; he emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 and was running a small business for acting and modeling classes.

Yet, he could get loans to buy a former Christian school, create three for-profit companies and open Eagle Arts Academy.  How it was done is described as ‘legal’, but is it ethical to blatantly skirt the law?  Should the school district have been able to intervene?  You decide…Here are the facts as reported in the Palm Beach Post.  Clearly, the founder’s financial position has improved.

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Broward County Teacher Evaluations Go Down, Student Learning Goes Up. WHAT??

itchy scalpSubmitted by Jane Koszoru

Broward County Public Schools improved from a ‘C’ to a ‘B’ grade for 2013-14.student achievement. Based on district wide gains in reading and math FCAT scores, students, teachers and schools should be proud.  Oddly enough, there is widespread astonishment that student scores went up, and teacher evaluations went down–way down.

One half of a teacher’s evaluation was based on student achievement gains and the rest was based on instructional practice.   Districts design the instructional practice component.  In Broward, it appears that formal and informal classroom observations are used.  There is a web site that has links to each district’s process.  They are not the same.  Yet, the legislature wants merit pay for the highest performing teachers.

Jane Koszoruc from the Broward County LWV relates the results.  It has me scratching my head!

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