Testing. State education officials investigate a denial-of-service attack on the state’s computerized testing system, which may have contributed to delays. Times/Herald. Tampa Tribune. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Fort Myers News-Press. Associated Press. Naples Daily News. Daytona Beach News-Journal. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan talks testing in South Florida and says the state needs to “get its act together.” Sun-Sentinel. The Florida House advances its testing overhaul. Miami Herald. Scripps/Tribune. The Daytona Beach News-Journal covers students opting out of state assessments.
Rural schools. Residents in Alachua County’s Waldo community say they are prepared to fight to keep their elementary school open. Gainesville Sun.
Labor negotiations. Meetings, paperwork and parent communication may be casualties as Volusia teachers forgo out-of-school work to put pressure on the school district amid negotiations for pay raises and better working conditions. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Budgets. Alachua schools may cut back on elementary school resource specialists amid a budget crunch. Gainesville Sun.
Education reform. Education historian and ex-Floridian Sherman Dorn discusses former Gov. Jeb Bush’s policy agenda and its implications.
Teaching to the test. The FEA is rallying members to a petition started by UFS Professor/blogger Sherman Dorn. Gradebook.
Charter schools. In a vote along party lines, the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee approves a bill that would allow charter schools to move into unused district buildings. redefinED. Coverage also from the Palm Beach Post, Tallahassee Democrat, Gradebook, StateImpact Florida.
Poverty. South Florida Sun Sentinel: “More than half a million kids under 18 in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties live in low-income households that earn up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University reports. For a single mom and child, that translates into an income of $30,260 a year or less.”
School security. A jury orders the Palm Beach County School Board to pay $1.7 million in a case involving a mentally challenged, 3-year-old girl who was sexually attacked by a 15-year-old ninth grader on a school bus in 2007, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel. More from the Palm Beach Post. A Hernando County middle school teacher on paid administrative leave since last April is on a keep-off-campus list generated by district officials after the Newtown tragedy, reports Hernando Today. Osceola will beef up police presence at elementary schools, reports SchoolZone. The video of a girl beating another girl on a Pasco school bus gets posted on Facebook; arrests ensue, reports the Tampa Bay Times. An 11-year-old, special needs student in Duval either falls or jumps out of a school bus and sustains life threatening injuries, reports the Florida Times Union.
Teacher evaluations. The Florida Times-Union files suit against the Department of Education to force the release of teacher evaluation data.
Teacher pay. Gov. Rick Scott says he wants to set aside enough money in this year’s budget to give every district teacher a $2,500 raise. Coverage from Tampa Bay Times, South Florida Sun Sentinel, Naples Daily News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Associated Press, Tallahassee Democrat, Pensacola News Journal. Politics and poll numbers are at play, the HT also writes. Teachers “suspicious,” writes the Lakeland Ledger. Teachers “skeptical,” writes the Tampa Tribune. Teachers unions “cautiously optimistic,” writes the Florida Times Union.
Marco Rubio. The senator tells an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that he’ll be pushing education reform, even if it’s not the sexiest issue: “The good news is it’s not partisan, the good news is it’s something that there’s broad support for,” he said. “The bad news is because it’s not partisan. Because it’s not controversial, it’s not getting nearly enough attention as it needs to be getting.” The Hill.
Tony Bennett and the Legislature. Gov. Scott cancels his appearance before the Senate Education Committee, but Tony Bennett talks to senators about voucher accountability, Common Core, SB 736, etc. Coverage from redefinED, SchoolZone (two posts here and here) Gradebook (two posts here and here), StateImpact Florida and the Associated Press.
Slow down. Florida superintendents want a longer timeline to implement a suite of changes, including new tests and teacher evaluations, reports the Fort Myers News Press.
Charter schools. A new study based on Florida data suggests charter schools might not be any better than district schools at showing low-performing teachers the door. Shanker Blog.
Tony Bennett. On his first day on the job, he meets with superintendents and the Florida Association of District Administrators and says he is an “unapologetic advocate for school choice,” reports the Tallahassee Democrat. More from The Buzz. His first comments on the “Commissioner’s Blog” here. Interview with StateImpact Florida.
Charter school funding. More than 1,000 people turn out for a meeting called by Pembroke Pines charter parents to demand equal funding for charter schools, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
School spending. If the Broward school district wants to get the money to repair old schools, it will have to restore trust with voters and overcome a “long and lousy history of stunningly bad behavior,” editorializes the Miami Herald: “The district has been plagued by cronyism, mismanagement and a culture of dishonesty. In a scathing grand jury report released almost two years ago, jurors said they found the district so thoroughly corrupt, so reckless in its spending of taxpayers’ money, they would have recommended abolishing the school board completely if the state Constitution didn’t require its existence.” In Manatee, a forensic audit finds “incompetency — not criminal or illegal activity — caused a $3.4 million budget deficit that rocked the public trust,” reports the Bradenton Herald. More from the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
School prayer law. “For the Satanists, it was a godsend,” writes Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino.
Cold water on the party. Former state Sen. Dan Gelber says there isn’t much for Florida to celebrate in the latest Education Week rankings. Florida Voices.
Murmurs. School administrators wanted to hear more from Gov. Rick Scott, writes Tampa Bay Times columnist Steve Bousquet.
Merit pay challenge. A hearing on the FEA’s challenge of SB 736 is set for Wednesday in Leon County Court. SchoolZone.
In a recent post, I argued that because customized teaching and learning have so blurred the lines between public, private and homeschooling, it is now most practical to define public education as education which satisfies each state’s mandatory school attendance law. We require students to be educated to achieve a public purpose; education that satisfies this purpose should be considered public education, regardless of how that education is funded, delivered or governed.
I was careful in my post not to assume public education and public schools are synonymous. Most states define public schools as those schools owned and managed by school districts; they also define charter schools as public even though charters are privately owned and managed. Public schools are a subset of public education, but not all of public education.
The accomplished University of South Florida professor, Dr. Sherman Dorn, disagreed with my position in an excellent response to my post, and I’d like to address some of his counterarguments.
Professor Dorn argued that public education refers to education that is “publicly-funded, publicly-controlled, publicly accountable, publicly-accessible, and for public purposes,” but these criteria are so broad and ambiguous they will lead to endless and unproductive debates about what constitutes public education in today’s context of customization. For example, home-schooling at times does and does not fit Dr. Dorn’s criteria. My younger son spent a semester as a homeschooled student taking a full course load at St. Petersburg College. According to Dr. Dorn’s criteria, he was in public education while being homeschooled. But what if he’d only taken two St. Petersburg College courses that term, a third course from the privately-owned Connections Academy through the Florida Virtual School, and two free online course from Stanford University? I guess he would have been 60 percent of a public education student, but that percentage would have fluctuated throughout the day as he worked on various courses.
We run into this same complexity when applying Dr. Dorn’s framework to students enrolled in private schools. Many private school students receive public funding to pay for part or all of their daily instruction. Those portions of their day paid for by public funds seem to fit Dr. Dorn’s criteria, while those portions that are privately funded do not. Again, using Dr. Dorn’s framework, we have students moving in and out of public education on a minute-by-minute basis, and that strikes me as impractical.
Complexities also arise when we drill down into each of Dr. Dorn’s standards.
Sad but true: The other day, one of Louisiana’s statewide teachers unions tweeted that the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the stand-up school choice group, supports “KKK vouchers.” It subsequently tweeted, “Tell everyone you know.” (Details here.)
Even sadder but true: This wasn’t an isolated event. In recent months, critics of school choice and education reform have time and again made similar statements and claims – trying to tie Florida’s school accountability system to young black men who murder in Miami, for instance, and in Alabama, trying to link charter schools to gays and Muslims.
But this is also sad but true: Reform supporters sometimes go way too far, too.
Late last week, the Sunshine State News published a story about two Haitian-American Democratic lawmakers in South Florida, both strong backers of school choice, who narrowly lost primary races to anti-choice Democrats. The story quoted, at length, an unnamed political consultant who sounded sympathetic to the arguments raised by school choice supporters. He made fair points about the influence of the teachers union in the Democratic Party; about racial tensions that rise with Democrats and school choice; about a double standard with party leaders when Dems accuse other Dems of voter fraud. But then he said this:
“It’s a kind of ethnic cleansing of the Democratic Party,” he said, according to the report, “centered on the interests of the teachers’ unions.”
School choice critics may often be wrong; their arguments may at times be distorted and inconsistent. But to brand their motivations with a term that evokes Rwanda and Bosnia is more than off-key. It’s repulsive. It’s also a distraction and counterproductive.
I’m floored by extreme statements from ed reform critics. In the past couple of months alone, a leading Florida parents group accused state education officials of using the school accountability system to purposely “hurt children”; a left-wing blogger described John E. Coons, a Berkeley law professor and redefinED co-host, as a “John Birch Society type” because of his support for parental school choice; and other critics used fringe blogs and mainstream newspapers alike to shamelessly tar Northwestern University economist David Figlio, a meticulous education researcher who is not only widely respected by fellow researchers on all sides of the school choice debate but is so highly regarded beyond the world of wonkery that he was cited as a prime example of this state’s “brain drain” when he left the University of Florida. I’m further stumped by how such statements are rarely challenged by mainstream media, and by how more thoughtful critics simply shrug and look the other way.
Attacks like these make me want to say, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” But then, at less regular intervals, statements like the ethnic cleansing quote come up and knock reformers off the high road. I’m left with a less satisfying response: “Can’t we all just get along?”