Grading formula will lead to more Fs, superintendents warn
This year's school grades aren't out yet, but Florida educators are worried. With changes to the grading formula and higher testing standards kicking in this year, superintendents warned State Board of Education members and Commissioner Tony Bennett on Tuesday that they will likely see a dramatic drop in school grades despite relatively steady student test performance compared with last year. The disconnect, they said, will confuse the public and harm the credibility of education-reform efforts. "We are very supportive of accountability across the board," Hillsborough school superintendent MaryEllen Elia told board members. "We aren't shirking that and we'll take exactly what the data shows. But we have to make sure within the system of assessment that there is an appropriate accountability -- not one that is not understandable." If the state's grading formula stays the same, Hillsborough could have as many as 20 F-rated schools this year among its 142 elementaries, which is about 10 times the normal, Elia said. Miami-Dade school superintendent Alberto Carvalho agreed, telling board members that no one has examined the cumulative impact of all of the impending changes. Last year, the state made 19 changes to the accountability system. Several more changes have been made this year, he said. "If you have increased performance simultaneously with decreased letter grades, the public will not understand," Carvalho said. The board responded by appointing a task force to look at how the state calculates school grades before the release of results, which is expected in July. The task force, to be made up of school superintendents and other education experts, will dig into FCAT 2.0 and end-of-course test results to determine the validity and accuracy of the calculations. With the release of school grades looming, the panel will be assembled within a week.
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More than 300 teachers won't be losing their jobs and parents and students don't have to fear that the day-to-day operations of the city's charter system will be privatized -- at least for another two years. A heated three-hour-long emergency meeting between the Pines charter school teachers and the city led to a deal just one day before the city was expected to vote on privatizing aspects of the charter system. The agreement between the Broward Teachers Union, which represents the Pines teachers, and the city says all teachers will give up last year's raise and will be paid according to the Broward County Public Schools pay scale resulting in a pay cut for two-thirds of the teachers. The city agreed not to contract with a management company to operate the schools for at least two years. "I'm glad that we all came to our senses and found a way to live inside our means," said Vice Mayor Angelo Castillo. "I'm glad that [privatization] is a conversation that we won't have to have." The last-minute agreement came after the city announced plans late last week to partner with a management company to help operate the schools. The city said partnering with Charter Schools USA was the only way it could resolve a $2.1 million budget shortfall and keep the schools open. Under the management contract, all of the teachers would have lost their jobs and would have had to reapply for lower-paying positions. The city commission is expected to approve the new agreement Wednesday afternoon. City Manager Charlie Dodge said that under the new agreement the city will be able to maintain the charter schools — and balance the budget — without partnering with a management company. Despite the pay cut, this news was a relief to most of the teachers. They said taking a pay cut to keep their jobs is a compromise they're willing to make and that it's better than the alternative of being "sold-out" to a for-profit company. "We want the schools to stay with the city because our priority is to teach kids — it's not to have the school make a profit," said third-grade teacher Carrie Velasquez. She and her husband, who is also a charter school teacher, will both take a $5,000 pay cut under the new agreement. "We love the schools and it's better than the alternative where we would lose our Florida retirement benefits and have no job security," she said. Under the agreement, two-thirds of the teachers would take a pay cut and some highly experienced teachers would take as much as a $16,000 to $20,000 pay cut. But the average salary decrease for each teacher is approximately $3,300, said the city.
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Duncan offers more time to reach goals
States can ask for another year before using student test results to decide whether to keep or fire teachers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told school chiefs on Tuesday. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have earned permission from the Education Department to ignore parts of the No Child Left Behind education law in exchange for school improvement plans. As part of those plans, many states have linked student performance on standardized tests with teacher evaluations — a move that teacher unions protested and Republicans criticized as Washington overreach. Those states now can ask for another round of waivers to delay implementing teacher evaluation programs until 2016. "After listening to teachers and education leaders, we are providing additional flexibility to states," Duncan told reporters. Duncan's announcement comes as the House and Senate consider sweeping rewrites of the No Child Left Behind law that would render Duncan's moves moot. The Senate's education committee last week finished work on its proposal and sent it to the full Senate, although no vote has been scheduled. The House, meanwhile, was set to begin work today on its version and planned a vote by the full chamber in the coming weeks. The education measure expired in 2007 and has not been replaced.
http://www.weac.org/news_and_publications/13-06-18/NEA_on_the_department_s_student-centered_flexibility_A_step_in_the_right_direction.aspx (Dennis Van Roekel quoted)
http://leadernet.aft.org/news/article_detail.cfm?ArticleID=3971 (Randi Weingarten quoted)
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