The Florida Current has a poll on the FCAT I know you’ll want to weigh in on.


FCAT failures show test-obsessed teaching falls short

To fully appreciate how deeply flawed Tallahassee's approach to public education is, you must look beyond the recent news of abysmal FCAT scores -- and look at how we got here. You see, FCAT was supposed to be a simple fix for a complicated problem. If we could just get our students to pass this standardized test, supposedly everything would be swell. So we cut back everything from science curriculum to art classes to focus on these tests. And we spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars paying companies to develop and grade them. Teachers were no longer trusted to teach. Everyone was made to bow down at the almighty altar of FCAT. Yet this year -- after more than a decade of FCAT obsession -- more than 70 percent of our fourth-graders flunked the writing test. We saw similarly sorry results in eighth and 10th grades. Third-graders posted the lowest reading scores in years. Math scores dropped as well. This can mean one of only two things: Either the test-centered method of teaching is a failure. Or the test itself is a failure. There really is no option C. Yet all I'm hearing from state officials is excuses — such as maybe the teachers didn't understand what was expected of them. Hogwash. You guys contrived this system. Instead of letting teachers and principals decide how to educate children, you did. (Together with Pearson, whose $254 million contract to develop and grade these tests should be re-examined.) And using your methods, they failed. So how about you guys stop pointing fingers? It's time to demand accountability from the test that claims to demand it from everyone else. And, no, simply lowering the passing grade so that more kids pass isn't a solution. It's a cop-out.


Parents: Florida should limit importance of FCAT

The state needs to limit the importance of the FCAT because the high-stakes exams fail to measure critical thinking skills, are not a good predictor of academic success and are stressing out teachers and students, a group of parents told the state's education commissioner on Friday. Parents said they know the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests are here to stay and even support standardized testing as a way to assess student progress. But they recommended an assortment of tweaks, including sharing information about changes to the grading system, letting parents see their children's exams and decreasing the barrage of other state-required tests, including diagnostic and end-of-course exams. About 50 parents attended a community forum at Boca Raton High School to ask questions of state Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, who started work less than a year ago. The visit came 10 days after the state Board of Education voted to lower the passing mark for the FCAT writing test from 4 out of 6 to 3 after student scores plunged when standards were raised. Only 27 percent of the state's fourth-graders scored a 4 or higher on the exam, an enormous drop from the 81 percent who had passed in 2011. "There are fall diagnostics, winter diagnostics, FCAT, EOC, chapter tests, pop quizzes. There is way too much testing," said Jaime Worrall, a math teacher at Christa McAuliffe Middle School west of Boynton Beach.,0,7854879.story

Florida's Education Commissioner attempted to ease parent and student frustrations over this year'sscores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test during an emergency meeting on Sunday. State Sen. Gary Siplin called the meeting at Evans High School in Orlando. Concerned parents and students were able to express their issues on the standardized test. Florida Education Commissioner Gerald Robinson applauded the increase in writing scores since last year. "The test is strong. It is valid," Robinson said. "It prepares and predicts where we want our students to go. It is not a tool for punishment; it is a tool for assessment." But everyone didn't agree. Sandy Stenoff said she thinks the FCAT is a "broken tool." She said her son failed the FCAT after being enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program. "He had a 3.5 GPA and never gotten below a 4 on the FCAT. But since he didn't pass that one day, he had to take remedial reading for the next year," said Stenoff.


Parents will see “retrofitted” scores on FCAT report card

Parents might get an unpleasant surprise this year when they open their child's FCAT report card. The state is including "retrofitted" 2011 reading and math scores to show how students would have done if they had taken this year's tougher test. The 2012 scores also will be shown. No child will be penalized because of the 2011 scores, state education officials said. But it could be an ego-bruising experience for a lot of parents and students. For instance, fourth-graders who earned the highest of five possible scores on the third-grade reading exam could find themselves downgraded, a year after acing the test. Or worse, they could find out that they would have failed. Reading and math exams are scored from Level 1 to Level 5, with 5 being the top score. Third-graders who fail the reading exam can be held back.  Reading and math tests were tougher this year and the state raised the bar to earn a grade-level score. Statewide, that meant a decline in the number of students who were considered proficient.  That means retrofitted scores likely will be a disappointment for many families. Cheryl Etters, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said the adjusted 2011 scores aren't meant to hurt feelings. It's the only way to give parents a fair year-to-year comparison of student test scores.


FCAT recalculations manipulate results for political reasons, critics say


Give the FCAT an F


“Teaching to the test” does not equate to learning


FCAT scores at Pinellas charter school that used Scientology 'study tech' are among lowest in Tampa Bay


College-readiness test yet another challenge for Florida students

Thousands of high-school students across Florida are having to take a new state-mandated test to gauge how ready they are for college classes regardless of whether they plan to pursue higher education. Because of a new state law, school districts are required for the first time to give nearly all high-school juniors a college-readiness test and schedule college-remediation classes for those who don't do well. The Department of Education says in 2010 it cost the state $156 million to remediate nearly 150,000 students who weren't able to complete college-level work. The department also says that in 2010, about 54 percent of high-schoolers were not prepared in at least one college subject. Florida lawmakers for years have lamented the high costs of college remediation, which is up from $129 million in 2006. In the past, the college-readiness test was given by community colleges to high-school students who were interested in college. But this year the new law makes districts responsible for giving the test, known as the PERT or Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, and requires low-performing students to take remedial classes before they graduate.


Bay school district debates bus privatization (Pat Martina quoted)


Union, Hernando school district to meet (Joe Vitalo quoted)


Deserved, but unaffordable in Palm Beach (CTA mentioned)

More job cuts, furloughs on table for Pasco schools


FSBA advises school boards to forget about school prayer law


Chicago teachers rally for fair contract


Agreement reached on collaborative reform in Cleveland (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Conference highlights the power of collaboration (Randi Weingarten quoted)


First Book and AFT distribute books to needy students


Dark clouds loom over higher ed


UF administrators' salaries criticized, defended (John Biro quoted)


UF- Time to spend down those reserves (by Kim Emery)


Plans to create 12th state university could be in trouble


Hail to our newest campus: Useless State


State reviewing FSCJ enrollment numbers after audit found problem twice in a row


College students may bear the price of politics with higher loans


College loans are next debt crisis

Michigan community college faculty vote for the union


Controversy brewing over Scott's push to purge state's voter rolls


Congressional Black Caucus rallies preachers to tackle voter-ID laws


One woman's experience in Florida's targeting of noncitizen voters


…and another


Earmarked funds amount to abuse of public trust


Judge to hear arguments on prison health care privatization

In the coming weeks, Tallahassee judges will hear arguments in two court cases that will test the limits of lawmakers' power to order outsourcing in the state budget. The first of those, which challenges the Department of Corrections's effort to privatize health care in the state's prison system, will come before Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll on Tuesday. In a case that could affect the future of thousands of state worker jobs and almost $300 million in contracts, the Florida Nurses Association is arguing the Legislature did not have the authority to order the department to privatize inmate health care without passing a standalone bill. The lawsuit builds in part on Judge Jackie Fulford's ruling this fall, which blocked the privatization of state prisons in 18 South Florida counties because lawmakers ordered the move in budget language, and Fulford found the procedure conflicted with existing state law. That case will be heard in late June by the 1st District Court of Appeal. The state and the two companies in line to receive health care contracts are arguing the department has the authority to issue the contracts. Court papers filed by Wexford Health Sources say the nurses association is building its arguments on an "erroneous conclusion based on a superficial reading of Judge Fulford's ruling."  State law requires prison officials to develop a "business case" that shows the outsourcing will save at least 7 percent, and for the Legislature to provide a specific item in the budget for the private prisons. Those requirements apply specifically to contracts for the "operation and maintenance" of prison facilities and the "supervision of inmates," though, and Wexford says the department has wider latitude when it comes to health care. The state argues in its brief that the department has the authority to sign the health care contracts whether lawmakers order it in budget proviso language or not, and says that unlike the case dealing with South Florida prisons, the department had already developed a thorough business case for health care privatization before the 2011 legislative session.  In a brief supporting the nurses association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees argues the state is only authorized to contract specialized services that the department cannot provide on its own, such as substance abuse treatment -- meaning the state would need to change the law to issue contracts for "comprehensive" health care services.


Florida grabs a chunk of foreclosure settlement money for state budget


Wetlands expert suspended by DEP after she refuses to approve permit


Imagine, if you can, a state that actually protected the environment


Scott ignores value of proper planning


What's Spanish for 'Gov. Goofball'?


Scott needs a better product to sell


Typical CEO made $9.6 million in 2011


Hey, do corporations need any more tax cuts?


Big fiscal phonies


Public pensions faulted for bets on rosy returns


State employees' unions eye ballot

Labor unions in Wisconsin are facing a historic test next week in the recall election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. But the Wisconsin showdown, pitting unions and their Democratic supporters against Walker and his conservative backers, also sets the stage for the November elections in Florida and across the country. In Florida, unions representing a broad swath of workers have united for the first time in decades, fired up over what they see as an unprecedented attack by state legislators over the past two years. New to the table are law enforcement groups, including unions representing firefighters and police officers, who have traditionally backed GOP candidates and enjoyed a comfortable relationship with the Republican-dominated Legislature. The law enforcement unions are now holding hands with historically left-leaning labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO and the Florida Education Association. The Florida coalition is an unintended consequence of union attacks since the 2010 elections swept tea party candidates like Walker and Gov. Rick Scott into office, union leaders said. "What we weren't able to do among ourselves for many years was facilitated by the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate attacking public employees, which gave us all a common enemy," said Gary Rainey, president of the Florida Professional Firefighters. Over the past two years, Florida legislators have made dramatic changes to the state pension system affecting all public employees, revamped how teachers are paid and passed a first-in-the-nation law requiring all state workers to submit to random drug tests. That law is on hold pending a court challenge. The Legislature, with Scott's support, also tried to privatize nearly one-fourth of all prison operations and came close to passing a proposal allowing parents to have an unprecedented role in taking over failing schools. But the turning point for the unions' cohesion was a so-called "paycheck protection" proposal last year that would have barred government unions from collecting dues through automated payroll deductions. The police and firefighters were especially incensed by the proposal because they had helped elect many of the Republican legislators who supported the measure. That effort pitted the firefighters and cops against the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business-backed organizations and played out in an expensive ad war. And it built solidarity of law enforcement unions that had, with the exception of the pension overhaul, been spared from other anti-union legislation. The law enforcement unions this year rejected an attempt to reverse the previous year's pension changes that raised the retirement age of government workers from age 62 to age 65 and special risk workers (including firefighters and police officers) from age 55 to age 60. Firefighters' and police officers' declining the special treatment further cemented the cohesion of the labor union coalition, union leaders said. "It really enraged the police and the firefighters, because they'd never been treated like this," said Doug Martin, spokesman for the Florida council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.


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