Today's news -- April 21, 2017





House moves closer to Senate on changes to testing

The Florida House took steps Thursday to bring its proposal for testing reform closer to the measure moving through the Senate. Rep. Manny Diaz, sponsor of the "Fewer Better Tests Act," tied several of the ideas from that bill into a separate effort to allow parents and others to see certain state tests after students take them. The Diaz amendment would, among other things:

  • Eliminate the state Algebra II end-of-course exam.
  • Require paper-based state language arts and math tests for third- through sixth-grade.
  • Move the state testing window to later in the spring, and shrink it to a shorter time frame.
  • Change the value-added model of evaluating teachers.

Diaz also moved to relabel a Level 3 score on the Florida Standards Assessments as "grade level" instead of the current "satisfactory." That provision was removed at the request of Rep. Shevrin Jones, the committee's ranking Democrat. It also did not make it through the Senate Rules Committee when proposed Wednesday as an add-on to SB 926, the Senate's testing bill. With the changes, the House bill gets closer to SB 926, which would eliminate more end-of-course exams, extend paper testing to more grades and detach VAM from teacher evaluations. Speakers from the public largely praised the committee for taking the steps. Vern Crawford, lobbyist for several districts, noted "politics is the art of compromise" and took heart that some testing changes might emerge from a session where it appeared the discussion might not yield much. One speaker criticized the committee for creating a "train" that was little more than "a wide-ranging patchwork of poorly articulated ideas." Chairman Michael Bileca observed that SB 926, which the speaker supported, had become "the ultimate train bill going on in the Senate."


Our obsession with standardized testing is inhumane


Living in Miami on a teacher’s salary? Good luck.
Miami is one of the toughest places in the country for teachers to find housing they can afford. That’s according to a new report from Apartment List, an online apartment marketplace that compared median rent prices on its site to teacher salaries in cities across the United States. Miami ranked near the bottom — 47 out of 50, below other pricey places like Washington D.C., Boston and Los Angeles. For Miami-Dade teachers, the finding hardly comes as a surprise. Take Kelly Hobby and her husband Jeffrey, former Miami-Dade teachers who moved to Marietta, Ga., last summer after struggling for years as their salaries failed to keep pace with skyrocketing rent prices. Kelly, 34, has a master’s degree and more than ten years of teaching experience, but only made around $45,000 a year as a Miami-Dade public school teacher. Her husband, 36, taught math at a charter school where he earned even less. Although they didn’t have car payments, student loans or credit card debt, Kelly and Jeffrey both had to get a second job after they had a child. The final straw was a letter from their West Kendall apartment building hiking the rent from $1,200 to $1,400 a month.  “It’s ridiculous. If you’re a teacher you cannot survive in Miami,” Kelly said. “It broke our hearts to move. It was devastating leaving. And it was something we thought about for a really long time. We were happy in our careers, but it literally just became quality of life.” The Hobbys left their families behind when they moved to Georgia, but with the lower cost of living they were able to buy their own home. Kelly also got a $20,000 salary bump when she took a teaching job in Marietta because of her master’s degree. When she learned that she was going to make more than $64,000 a year, Kelly said, she burst into tears.  The Hobbys’ experience is just one example of the struggle teachers face in expensive coastal cities. In close to a third of the largest U.S. cities, the Apartment List analysis found, teachers have to spend more than a third of their income on rent. San Francisco is the least affordable place for teachers, followed by New York, Seattle and Miami. And the more years a teacher spends on the job, the worse the problem becomes. One of the reasons is that while teachers in other cities get higher raises as they accrue experience, a teacher’s base salary in Miami stays relatively flat, the report found. A New York City teacher could go from making around $52,000 a year to $77,000 after ten years, according to the analysts, who looked at baseline salaries and factored in some additional salary bumps for master’s degrees and other certifications. In Miami, the analysts assumed teachers were making $40,800 as a starting salary and just over $46,000 after ten years. The United Teachers of Dade, which began its annual contract negotiations with the school district on Wednesday, cited insufficient state funding for education to explain teacher salary woes. Florida ranks near the bottom of the country when it comes to the amount of state funding allocated per student. “Unfortunately we have a leadership in the state Legislature that continues to underfund education thereby impacting teacher salaries,” said UTD President Karla Hernandez-Mats. “Instead of giving teachers really quantifiable salary raises they put up little gimmicks like Best and Brightest we have repeatedly said we don’t want,” she said, referring to the controversial teacher bonus program that rewards educators based in part on their own SAT scores. Some Miami-Dade teachers even apply for food stamps to supplement their salaries, Hernandez-Mats said. And a bill under consideration in the Legislature (SB 856/HB 373) that would impact how easily teachers on annual contracts are rehired could exacerbate the problem, giving teachers less job security and therefore making it harder for them to invest in homes, Hernandez-Mats said.


Charter giveaway at odds with public schools


Florida may make it easier to get rid of school textbooks


Obama's former Education secretary tells how Trump is changing the department


Ohio town’s schools hope to be “more than a line item” in the federal budget (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Public education is foundation of our democracy (by Randi Weingarten)


Group ranks UF third nationally in moving ideas from lab to real world


Could a union be in the cards for USF's part-time teachers?


Appropriations chiefs sound hopeful as clock ticks on budget negotiations


Controversy over Artiles’ racial slur engulfs Legislature


Bondi: Artiles should consider resigning over racial slur


Lawyer: Florida senator's slurs are protected free speech


Artiles asks Negron and Senate's counsel to recuse themselves from investigation


Kendall protesters call for “bully” Artiles to resign


Florida’s NAACP joins those calling for Artiles’ resignation


Tallahassee pastors lambaste Artiles


Legislative Jewish Caucus urges Senate to expel Artiles


What damage could follow as Artiles’ rant reverberates


What you’re seeing is the good ol’ Republican Cuban Boys Club in action


Supreme Court OKs gambling control, felon voting rights amendments


Florida residents pay sixth lowest state taxes


Legislature thwarts people's will and Constitution in refusing to fund Florida Forever


Average millennial makes less than average baby boomer did in 1975


Justice official leading Trump-Russia probe to step down


Justice Department weighs charges against Assange


Sessions wants to put people “in jail” for leaks


GOP makes new bid on Obamacare repeal


White House plans Obamacare showdown next week


Trumpcare 2.0 would make premiums spike for people with pre-existing conditions


GOP’s biggest health care achievement has been making Obamacare more popular


The GOP’s latest health-care plan is comically bad


The GOP’s attacks on the poor are about to get stealthier


Sessions dismisses Hawaii as “an island in the Pacific”


Hawaiians to Sessions: “We’re not just some island”


Torn from their families for no good reason


The Trump administration may be deporting “the good ones”


Judge attacked by Trump to oversee “Dreamer” deportation lawsuit


Fearmongering at Homeland Security


White House could provoke a showdown over funding for border wall


Trump’s “extreme” budget is just Ryan’s old bad plan with a comb-over


Trump unleashes the generals. They don’t always see the big picture.


Bold, unpredictable foreign policy lifts Trump, but has risks


Americans prefer how Obama handled foreign policy to how Trump does


Trump’s pick for rules czar would hand more power to Trump


PolitiFact's guide to fake news websites and what they peddle


Why scientists are marching on Washington and more than 400 other cities


The March for Science could break stubborn stereotypes about scientists


Floridians ready to march for science


Will the March for Science backfire by politicizing science?




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