Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Opting Out Of Testing Would Come At A Cost For Florida School Districts

Some Florida school boards are considering opting the entire district out of state testing to send a message.

sboneham / Flickr

Some Florida school boards are considering opting the entire district out of state testing to send a message.

A handful of Florida districts are talking about skipping state-required tests this year, including the new Florida Standards Assessment replacing most of the FCAT.

Last week, Palm Beach County school board members said they wanted to send a message to state leaders by skipping the new exam. Earlier this month, Lee County school board members said they wanted to study the idea.

But the district better be prepared to pay the price of skipping the new exam — quite literally. Skip the exam and the state is likely to withhold money.

“The ramifications could be pretty dramatic for a district that wanted to do this,” says Florida Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick. “This is uncharted waters. No districts have done this.”

Follick added the state could withhold state funds, grants and lottery money. Lawmakers could decide on additional sanctions, he said. Most K-12 public school operations are funded through the state.

School board members say opting out an entire school district is unlikely.

“I believe in assessment,” Palm Beach school board member Karen Brill said last week. “I believe in testing that’s used for measurement, not punishment. I believe that we as a district need to research opting out from the new Florida Standard Assessments.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward.”

Brill and other school leaders, teachers, parents and students have complained Florida has attached too many consequences to the results of state tests.

Results from Florida’s statewide test form the basis for the A-through-F grades issued to most public schools each year. Teachers are rated — and paid — based on the test results of their students. And some students are not allowed to advance a grade or graduate from high school unless they pass state tests.

Florida parents have organized and taught other parents how to opt their children out of testing, denying the use of those test results.

But Follick says many educators find the statewide test results valuable. He noted school districts trumpet positive results on the test.

“Students who are not having the opportunity to show what they have gained in a year of school are going to be at a disadvantage,” Follick says. “It’s going to be difficult for parents to know how well their student has done that year.

“I think when they weigh the pros and the cons I think they will understand this is definitely to the benefit of the students.”

Gov. Scott Wants To Review Florida Standards And Local Testing

Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush tour a Homestead manufacturing facility earlier this month. Scott want to review Florida's academic standards and local testing.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush tour a Homestead manufacturing facility earlier this month. Scott want to review Florida's academic standards and local testing.

Gov. Rick Scott says he wants to review testing in Florida schools and the state’s new Common Core-based standards. It’s part of Scott’s latest campaign trail education proposal, released Monday.

Education has been a top issue during the campaign, as Scott and other candidates have used the issue to draw contrasts between themselves and their opponents.

Scott’s proposal would also increase the bonuses paid to teachers who win state and district teacher of the year awards. He also wants to double state funding for school technology to $80 million.

Here’s more details on what Scott is proposing:

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Essay: What A Teacher Score Doesn’t Tell Us

Teachers get a number score with the state's value-added model.

vd1966 / Flickr

Teachers get a number score with the state's value-added model.

I finally know my worth as a teacher—and now that the “value-added model” scores mandated by our state legislature are public, everyone else knows, too.

I’m a 37.5.

But, I have no idea what that number means.

Along with my 37.5, I was told I’m “highly effective” and given a $230 bonus. In case you’re wondering, that’s about half what the average teacher spends of his or her own money on school supplies per year.

Even though I don’t understand my 37.5, I do know a lot more about than I did last year about value-added formulas. I left the classroom and I’m currently in a doctoral program in education.

I have access to many of the statisticians who create these kinds of models for their research. The funny thing is, many of these experts say that the formulas shouldn’t be used to make decisions about teacher performance—the very thing we’re using them for.

That’s right: Many researchers think value-added models can’t accurately measure a teacher’s performance in one year. And studies have shown that the same teacher may get a high score one year and a low score the next, and that neither number may actually tell us much about their teaching.

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Gov. Rick Scott Wants More Money For Schools Next Year

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s top talking point is that per-student funding was higher when he was governor. Now, Republican Gov. Rick Scott wants to one-up Crist. He’s proposing raising per-student funding by $232 next year.


“My mom taught me that a good education was the way out of poverty and I want all Floridians to have the opportunity to receive a great education and have their shot at the American Dream,” he said. “By increasing per pupil spending to historic levels next year, school districts will have more resources to provide Florida children the best education possible.”

His proposal would equate to a total of over $19.6 billion, which means $7,176 per student – a $232 per student increase over this school year and a $50 increase over the 2007-08 per student funding level of $7,126.

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

School Choice PAC Gets Involved In Volusia County School Board Race

A political action group which shares leadership with the state’s largest tax credit scholarship organization is running television ads in a Volusia County school board race, supporting the opponent of the incoming president of the Florida School Boards Association. Diane Smith said she thinks she’s being targeted because the FSBA plans to challenge the tax credit scholarship program in court.


Johnson wrote in an email she’s been transparent about her beliefs and nobody asked her to advocate for any position if elected to the School Board.

“I support giving parents and kids as many high-quality learning options as possible,” she wrote. “That includes public schools where my three children attend, virtual learning, home education, magnet schools, dual enrollment, and private choice programs for poor and disabled children.”

The committee declined to disclose how much money it has spent in the Volusia race, and public records for the loosely regulated political committees don’t make it clear.

Read more at: www.news-journalonline.com

Report: Miami-Dade’s Poorest Schools Have District’s Least Experienced Teachers

Pablo Ortiz with the Miami-Dade education transformation office says district schools are improving and they are working to make sure the least-experienced teachers aren't concentrated in the district's high-poverty schools.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Pablo Ortiz with the Miami-Dade education transformation office says district schools are improving and they are working to make sure the least-experienced teachers aren't concentrated in the district's high-poverty schools.

Students in some of Miami-Dade’s lowest-income schools are more likely to have teachers who are new to the profession, who miss more school time and who receive lower evaluation scores, according to a new analysis by the National Council for Teacher Quality.

Washington, D.C.-based NCTQ looked at student and school data by school board district at the request of the Urban League of Miami. The group focused on district 1, an area along the county’s northern border which includes Miami Gardens and Opa-locka, and district 2, an area north of downtown including Little Haiti and Liberty City.

Those school board districts have the highest percentage of black students and the highest poverty, as measured by percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, in the school district.

Of the 60 schools which received a D or F on the state’s grading system for public schools, 70 percent were located in school board district 1 or 2. And poor students were less likely to pass the state’s standardized tests.

At a town hall meeting at the Urban League of Miami, NCTQ researcher Nancy Waymack said districts across the country struggle to place top teachers in high poverty schools.

“This is not a secret,” she said, “but, when we see data like this it’s time to redouble our efforts.”

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Poll: Support For Common Core Falls As Awareness Rises

The annual PDK/Gallup poll shows Americans are less likely to support Common Core standards.

mikecogh / Flickr

The annual PDK/Gallup poll shows Americans are less likely to support Common Core standards.

The more Americans learn about Common Core, the less likely they are to support the math and language arts standards for K-12 public schools.

That’s one conclusion to draw from the annual poll from Phi Delta Kappa, a professional group for educators, and polling firm Gallup.

Last year, two-thirds of Americans said they had not heard of the standards. This year, more than 80 percent said they know at least a little about Common Core.

And they don’t like what they hear — 60 percent of those surveyed said they oppose Common Core. The most common reason given was concern Common Core would limit teachers’ classroom decisions.

“Given the increased media coverage this year, we were not surprised that an overwhelming majority of Americans have heard about the Common Core State Standards, but we were surprised by the level of opposition,” PDK CEO William Bushaw said in a statement. “Supporters of the standards, and educators in particular, face a growing challenge in explaining why they believe the standards are in the best interest of students in the United States.”

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Florida And Federal Education Department Disagree About Testing English Learners

Florida lawmakers have challenged federal government requirements that students learning English be tested after one year in school. The U.S. Department of Education could revoke flexibility Florida was granted from No Child Left Behind rules.


Florida Department of Education leaders agreed to the requirement when originally seeking an NCLB waiver, which then-Commissioner Gerard Robinson argued was critical so Florida could end the “duplication and confusion” of following two accountability systems. The waiver allowed Florida to use its own system for setting school grades and intervening at troubled schools, without worrying about whether a school had made “adequate yearly progress” as defined by the feds.

At the time, some groups criticized the requirement, saying it was unfair to English-language learners and schools, even though it was an effort to look after students’ interests.

Several states have asked that the requirement be relaxed, but the U.S. Education Department has declined. In her letter to Stewart, Delisle said Florida risks having its waiver revoked if it does not comply with federal law.

Read more at: www.tampabay.com

State Board Closes Three Charter Schools On First Day Of Classes

The State Board of Education denied requests from three charter schools that they remain open despite earning failing grades in consecutive years. The board shut down schools in Broward, Columbia and Miami-Dade counties on the first day of classes.


Because Florida didn’t close the schools over the summer, roughly 600 families will now have to scramble to find a replacement school for their children. And because it might take weeks or months for the schools to finally shut down, both will likely get additional taxpayer money just before they go out of business.

“That is a case of very bad timing,” said Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. “What’s up with that? Is the state like, on vacation for the summer?”

Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick said the state had moved as quickly as possible to hold a hearing after school grades were released on July 11.

Read more at: www.miamiherald.com

Poll Finds Support For Common Core Declining Among Republicans And Teachers

The annual Education Next poll finds support for Common Core is declining among Republicans and teachers. But the poll found people generally support the idea of common education standards.

TheTruthAbout / Flickr

The annual Education Next poll finds support for Common Core is declining among Republicans and teachers. But the poll found people generally support the idea of common education standards.

Public support for Common Core math and language arts standards dropped in the past year, and less than half of teachers now say they support the standards, according to an annual back-to-school poll Education Next.

Just over half of the general public — 53 percent — said they support Common Core. That’s down from 65 percent in 2013. And just 46 percent of teachers said they support the standards. Last year, more than three-quarters of teachers said they supported Common Core.

Florida is one of dozens of states which have adopted the math and language arts standards. The state amended and renamed the standards last year, but kept nearly all of Common Core.

The standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade but have been facing rising political opposition for more than a year. A handful of states — Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina — have repealed the standards and other states are studying whether to rewrite or repeal Common Core.

“Opinion with respect to the Common Core has yet to coalesce,” poll authors Michael B. Henderson, Paul E. Peterson and Martin West wrote. “The idea of a common set of standards across the country has wide appeal, and the Common Core itself still commands the support of a majority of the public. But proponents probably need to clarify their intentions to the public if they are to keep support from slipping within both the nation’s teaching force and the public at large.”

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