What will our children be taught?

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2018/12/under_flas_new_governor_science_curriculum_challenges.html

Education Week posted an article describing the implications for changes in the Florida science curriculum based on at least two of the education taskforce members views…Keith Flaugh and Erika Donalds from Collier County, Florida.  Jeff Sawchuk, he author of the article:  Coming Soon to Florida: More Challenges to District’s Science Curricula bases his concern on a law based in 2017 to allow independent challenges to district text book selection by not only parents but any citizen.

As a member of Citizens Alliance, Flaugh submitted dozens of challenges to text books last year.  He was quoted as saying ‘”Books that treat evolution as a proven science are discriminating and bully children and their families against their religious beliefs”.

Citizens Alliance trains local protestors to challenge textbooks.  Last year challenges were submitted in Collier, Martin and Nassau counties.  The local school boards voted 3/2 to retain the books.  (This split vote is one example why these Christian advocacy groups are targeting school board elections.)  Moreover, Governor DeSantis has already announced that the task force will conduct a curriculum review of the Florida State Curriculum Standards.  

Public Outcry About Corcoran Nomination

Governor DeStantis’ proposal to appoint former House Speaker Richard Corcoran as Commissioner of Education is a last straw.  With the announcement of Jennifer Sullivan, a home schooled college dropout as House education chair, concern about her qualifications arose.  It seems her role as the curriculum developer for TeenPact, an organization dedicated to educate conservative youth on the proper role of government, was her only experience in education.  TeenPact is supported by Americans for Prosperity.

Then, Manny Diaz, a former House member was appointed Senate education committee chair.  He is an employee of the for-profit Academica charter management firm that launched a private non-accredited college with no students or faculty to award dual enrollment credit to their charter high schoolers that was not transferable.  

The Tallahassee Democrat summarizes the concerns from public school advocates across the state.  You can read their article here. WordPress won’t embed the url today, so you can google the Tallahassee Democrat article:  Public School Allies Sound the Alarm over Corcoran to read quotes from public school advocates across Florida (including mine!).

https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2018/12/08/public-school-allies-sound-alarm-over-corcoran-recommendation-and/2241797002/

League says “Just Say No”

Patti Brigham, President of the Florida League of Women Voters has issued a letter to the Florida State Board of Education urging them to conduct a national search for the Commissioner of Education.  Governor DeSantis wants to name Richard Corcoran, the former House Speaker to the job of running the Florida Department of Education.  His main claim to fame is his personal agenda to dismantle public schools and support privatization.  Read the letter below.

State Board of Education to Vote December 17

There may be no search, no discussion, not even a meeting. The State Board of Education is having a conference call to vote on Richard Corcoran as State Superintendent of Schools. The conference call number is: 1-888-339-2688 Passcode 817-040-81.

Want to know who is on the SBE? They are all leaders in their fields. Click on the links to see the bios.

Marva.Johnson, Chair
Andy.Tuck, Vice Chair
Gary.Chartrand
Ben.Gibson
Tom.Grady
Michael.OlenickJoe.York

DeSantis Appoints Education Transition Team

Read the goals and see the list of advisors in the article here.

I looked at the list of appointees for the governor’s new education transition team. It is pretty obvious to whom he intends to listen. He won’t have to hear much about public schools, only three districts are represented. Higher education does better, and prochoice advocates do best of all. Missing is a voice for teaching and learning.

Politicians: Bob Cortes, Don Gaetz, Governor Scott Chief of Staff
Ed Related Companies: New Teacher Center
Higher Ed Representatives: FIU, Higher Learning Advocates, Polk State College, Broward College, Pensacola College, University of Florida Trustees, Tallahassee CC Board of Trustees, Independent Colleges and Universities,
FSU, State Board of Education,
K12 Groups: Walton County Superintendent, Hillsborough schools govt relations, Miami-Dade school board,
Political Commentator: Annenberg School lecturer Felzenburg
Pro Choice Advocacy Groups: Home Education Foundation, Erika Donalds alternative school board group, Florida Citizens Alliance (2), Florida Consortium of Charter Schools, CSUSA, Lake Highland Prep, Teach Florida, Step Up for Students, lift Academy, Charter School Alliance, Academica
Business: First Coast Energy, Career Source, Physicians Dialysis, Bags, inc., Vestcor, Apple.
Community Group: Urban League

Will Florida’s Education Leadership Be A ‘One Trick Pony’?

Pam Stewart has resigned as of the date Governor DeSantis is inaugurated. Rumors abound that DeSantis has fingered former House Speaker and school privatization advocate Richard Corcoran for the job. Do you hire someone to run Florida’s public schools who wants to end public schools? Corcoran’s bio tells a lot about him. He graduated from St. Leo and earned his law degree from Regents University (RU). RU was founded by Pat Robertson as the Christian Broadcasting Network University whose goal is to foster Christian leaders. While Corcoran was a bankruptcy attorney, he soon became career politician. He first ran for office in 2008. He has now term limited out of the House and is job hunting.

The law states that the State Board of Education (SBE) appoints the State Superintendent, not the Governor The SBE typically does national searches. Florida needs qualified education leaders who have training and experience. Who we have so far is Rep. Jennifer Sullivan as House Education Chair.  Sullivan wrote the curriculum for TeenPact on the proper role of government.  TeenPact is sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.  She was home schooled and a college drop out from a private Christian college. She says her ignorance could be an asset.

Senate Education Committee Chair, Manny Diaz, graduated from St. Thomas and earned a masters degree from Nova which may account for his support for online education. He does have experience in public schools. He also has joined the for-profit Academica charter management firm as Chief Operating Officer of Doral College, an online non accreditated school created to offer dual enrollment to high school students taught by their teachers. The credit does not transfer to any other college, but it does provide a six figure salary to Diaz.

Now are Floridians to be offered Richard Corcoran, career politician and school privatization advocate to implement legislative policy? Granted the Governomr appoints members to the State Board of Education, but are they simply to rubber stamp the Governor’s agenda? Is there any room in the policy leadership for the interests of the 80% of children who attend Florida’s traditional public schools? Will anyone have an interest in curbing the abuses of the unregulated charter and private tax credit scholarship schools? See the Tampa Bay Times’ take on the issue.

Charter School Teacher Unions Strike

Some charter school teachers in Chicago have gone on strike. Part of the allure for management companies to open charter schools is that they are not part of the teacher unions…or are they? In Louisiana, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that charters are not a subdivision of the state. Therefore, they are subject to the National Labor Relations Act. The court declared that even though New Orleans was a charter dominated system, it was the public school system. It was not, however, a politically accountable entity. Basically, the court argued that since the state could not control the charter board membership, the charter was independent. Independently run charters must allow employees to unionize. Teachers can then bargain to be covered in health insurance and retirement programs or increase salaries.

In Chicago, the teachers, both public and charter, are fighting for their profession. Some charter teachers have organized their own union, and/or join the public school system unions. It gets complicated! Nevertheless, in 2016, the union bargained with the mayor to put a moratorium on charter school expansion. Teaching conditions have not improved. Now, 500 charter school teachers who did unionize, have gone out on strike.

The issues for Chicago charter school teachers are real. They work longer days and have a longer school year…about 20% longer. Their class sizes are larger and their salaries are smaller than for public school teachers.

Florida has a strong teacher’s union, but it is hampered by an agreement to ban strikes. Back in 1968, Florida teachers launched the nation’s first statewide teacher strike. The settlement included a ban on future strikes. So, teachers like parents must choose to accept what is offered or leave. Many are. It is one way to raise awareness that when some groups are treated unfairly, everyone suffers. Surely, there must be a better way!

An interesting question comes to mind. Are Florida charter teachers public employees? They are hired by private companies, not school districts. Can they organize and strike?

What is amiss with VPK?

As always, when a state test indicates kids are failing, parents have to wonder whether the problem is the test or the program. Now the focus is on the Voluntary Prekindergarten program. (VPK). Over forty percent of children who were enrolled in VPK do not meet the new STAR readiness standards for kindergarten. Once again, the stakes are high. Early learning providers can be placed on probation if fewer than 60% of children enrolled do not meet the state standard established for the new STAR kindergarten readiness test.

The new readiness test has higher standards than the previous one, so a drop in kindergarten readiness rates is no surprise. Back in 2012, Florida OPPAGA reported that 72.9% of VPK children were ready for kindergarten and now only 40%??.

There is a lot we do not know about the quality of VPK programs. The VPK program only provides funding for 540 hours of instruction for children…about 1/2 time during the school year and 300 hours in the summer. So, programs may offer VPK in the morning and just daycare in the afternoon. Lead teachers must be at least 18 years old have post secondary course work in early childhood education. Is this adequate to meet state standards?

We do know that the kindergarten standards have gone up, and in usual Florida style, the funding has gone down. We also know that about 25% of eligible children, mostly from low-income families, do not attend a VPK program at all.

At issue is more than the results of a test. Test scores go up if teachers teach to the test. Children can spout facts and reproduce simply defined skills if enough time is spent on drill and practice. As many of us know, however, memorizing words and facts does not an essay make. Spouting facts and skills does not produce critical thinking and problem solving. Naming tools does not equate to the ability to make things or do things. Fixing that problem with a test and high stakes consequences for failure makes a bad problem worse. Knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge and think critically about the result is what is required for a strong educational system. The legislature needs to put this into practice. Test and punish philosophies just do not work.

Will Richard Corcoran Replace Pam Stewart?

Politico reports that the new Florida Commissioner of Education is rumored to be former House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Stewart had announced her plans to retire at the end of Governor Scott’s term, but the State Board of Education asked her to remain to ‘groom her successor’. Corcoran pushed for Schools of Hope to replace struggling public schools with charters. He also supported the Hope Scholarships to give students who were bullied Florida tax credit scholarships to private schools. The State Board of Education is already solidly in the pro choice camp, so they likely will rubber stamp this nomination.

A preview of the conservative agenda for education is available from the Florida Citizens Alliance advocacy group. They anticipate that Governor-elect DeSantis will expand choice programs to include vocational programs that focus on apprenticeships, ending proprietary testing, and ending Common Core Standards. (I do not see where DeSantis makes any statement about K12 testing policies.)

Amendment 8 proposals to expand civics education, term limits and centralized charter systems are likely to resurface. DeSantis has made civics education a priority. This is a national priority of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative coalition of legislators. The idea is to focus on concepts that, according to Betsy DeVos, lead young people to support socialism rather than a conservative ideology that is anti-government.

If this agenda succeeds, Florida’s educational system will once again be in turmoil.