Today's news -- August 8, 2013



Hernando teachers, others pull together to help an ailing school

New assistant principal Lisa Piesik walked across the campus of Eastside Elementary School on Wednesday morning, overwhelmed by what she saw all around her. Inside a portable classroom, volunteers sorted boxes of books that needed to be shipped away. In the cafeteria, a team placed thousands of bar codes on new instructional materials. In the media center, a crew organized a room that had seen better days. "It's been incredible," Piesik said, pausing. "Goose bumps." The volunteers were all there for a single purpose: to show that Hernando County's most troubled school -- the first in Hernando to get an F grade from the state -- was not alone. This week, dozens of volunteers -- mostly educators and former educators from across the school district -- have traveled to the remote school in eastern Hernando to lend a hand. "It sent a message clearly to the staff," said principal Mary LeDoux, who was appointed last week after the school received its failing grade. "We're not forgotten. We're not forgotten by other staff -- not by other teachers. "It's been a really great, motivational week for my teachers," she added. The volunteers first showed up on Monday after Jo Ann Hartge, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, sent an email. Nearly 20 responded. Without a media specialist at the school for the past two years, the media center was in bad shape. Books were shelved incorrectly, and some were in piles on the floor. "Everything needed to be put back in its right place," she said. "We needed it to look like a media center." The group cleaned all day. On Tuesday, a group of custodians came to lend their services. On Wednesday, media specialists showed up to help with the barcodes. Volunteers have unboxed textbooks, cleaned out storage rooms, moved furniture. They've packed up items needing to be sent away for public sale. And they are not finished. "Everybody is calling and saying, 'What do you need?' " said LeDoux. "My teachers and staff needed to hear that." She said Eastside teachers have been busy setting up for the 2013-14 school year, even though they're not required to report to work until next week. Hartge said she wanted the Eastside teachers to know that the district is behind them -- that Hernando is a family. "When you knock one of us down," she said, "we're all going to fight back."


Pasco teachers union makes pay raise proposal (Lynne Webb quoted in the first story, Jim Ciadella in the second)

Schools transition to Common Core (Karen McCann quoted and FEA mentioned)


School grades a failure


Florida Virtual School lays off hundreds as enrollment plummets


Local education leaders want input in state grading system


School districts, colleges adapt to new dual enrollment policy


“What Kind of Fool Am I?”
It was the other Tony Bennett who sang that song, of course. But former Indiana and Florida state superintendent Tony Bennett probably ought to be asking himself that question.  As Tom LoBianco of the Associated Press reported, Bennett manipulated his own school grading system so that a favorite charter school – run by a major financial supporter of his – got a grade of A instead of the C that it deserved. “They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett emailed his chief of staff (who now is Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist).  All this went down less than a year ago, just before Bennett was voted out of office.  He was immediately hired to head Florida’s public schools, a position he just vacated after LoBianco reported his secret manipulations. Bennett is the driving force behind Chiefs for Change, the right-leaning group of state superintendents of education.  That group’s name has morphed into “Cheats for Change,” “Chiefs for (Grade) Change,” “Cheating Chiefs for Change,” and on and on.  They see this as another skirmish in the ongoing battle being waged over/against public education and are hoping that this fiasco will help more people see the folly of demonizing teachers and traditional public schools.  That’s their “big picture,” and they may be seeing things correctly, but let’s look more closely at what happened in Indiana. Bennett screwed up on several fronts.  He changed the rules for a charter school but did not act to help some traditional public schools in essentially the same situation.  He did everything in secret, apparently forgetting that, as an elected public servant, his official business was neither secret nor private.  And, judging from his language, he was motivated by ego (he had promised the school’s founder, Christel DeHaan, an A!) and his fervently held privatization ideology. It’s not a stretch to call this behavior hypocritical.  Bennett was happy to be known as Mr. Accountability – until his own accountability system turned around and bit him in the butt. Then, rather than eating a helping of crow and facing up to possibility that he might have created a lousy system, Mr. Accountability cheated.  Pride goeth before a fall. But what about Bennett’s “accountability work”?  How trustworthy was it?  Matt DiCarlo of the Shanker Institute examined Bennett’s school grading system and found out that poverty, not quality, was the chief determinant of a school’s grade.  “Almost 85 percent of the schools with the lowest poverty rates receive an A or B, and virtually none gets a D or F,” he wrote.  More than half of the schools with the highest percentages of kids living in poverty received “an F or D, compared with about 22 percent across all schools.” I am reminded of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” particularly its Seventh Commandment. That final commandment originally read ‘All Animals Are Equal.” However, by the end of the allegory it has morphed into “All Animals Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others.” Rules are for other people, Mr. Bennett?


Indiana officials find school grading 'manipulation'


New York test results should serve as national wake-up call

AFT President Randi Weingarten released the following statement on the New York test results and their implications nationally: "After months of inoculating warnings that the first results of the Common Core testing would be disappointing, no one should be surprised. These results are the consequence of years of intense fixation on test prep and rote memorization instead of developing the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills our kids need. They are the consequence of simply telling teachers, "here are new standards -- just do it," without providing the adequate supports and preparation. They are the consequence of putting testing before teaching and learning, and rolling out tests before teachers and students even have the tools, curriculum and material to bring the Common Core into the classroom. The low scores will be used by some as an excuse to throw out the Common Core or denigrate public education; those are the wrong lessons. But it does show the impact of having an accountability system based on teaching to the test instead of developing the skills kids need. Teachers and students in New York and elsewhere worked incredibly hard this year. But their work was still based on a system that valued test prep and scoring well on old tests that were premised on rote memorization rather than on a system that provides the resources and supports -- the curriculum, the professional development, the time, and the extra help kids need to achieve the deeper knowledge and understanding embedded in the Common Core. Even today, there are reports that teachers and students in New York City may not receive Common Core-aligned curriculum materials before school starts. And a new report from the Center on Education Policy indicates that many states do not have the necessary financial resources, staffing or high-quality materials to adequately prepare teachers to teach to the Common Core. These results should serve as a warning siren for states and districts across the country rushing to make the Common Core about tests and not about ensuring that the necessary shifts in instruction have occurred—especially to state education chiefs in states like New Mexico and Rhode Island who are being offered additional time to get this transition right but are refusing to take it. If we believe—which we do—that the Common Core State Standards are essential to teaching students the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills they need and to ensuring they are college- and career-ready, then we need to prepare the people who will be helping students master these skills. That is the call we made in April, and these results underscore that urgent need."


Five absurdities about high-stakes standardized tests


Jeb Bush's narrow understanding of “choice”


NAEP and public investment in knowledge


Brogan leaving for Pennsylvania

Frank Brogan knew he was going to be changing jobs. His contract as Florida chancellor of the State University System runs through September 2014 and enrollment in the DROP program requires him to retire from the state in August 2015. So when the firm assisting in the search for a new chancellor of the Pennsylvania system of higher education called, Brogan listened. He said the conversation presented him with “an attractive idea.” “I have no designs on retirement in the traditional sense,” Brogan, 59, said. “I’ve known for years that I was going to have to fish or cut bait and decide what I was going to have to do ... the opportunity presented itself earlier than I expected.” Brogan will succeed John Cavanaugh, a former president of the University of West Florida who resigned as Pennsylvania's chancellor in February to lead a consortium of public and private universities. Brogan said Cavanaugh told him he would love the people and job in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education voted 15-0 Wednesday to hire Brogan as its CEO starting Oct. 1. The Cincinnati native built a 35-year career in Florida as an elementary school teacher and SUS chancellor and a few things in between including a term as lieutenant governor and as an elected education commissioner. “My heart will always lie in the Sunshine State,” Brogan said.,0,2071764.story


Vacuum at the top in Florida education


Former FSCJ president says he didn't break law


Ruling revives Florida review of voting rolls

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, newly empowered by the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in June that struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, has ordered state officials to resume a fiercely contested effort to remove noncitizens from voting rolls. The program, which was put in place before the 2012 election, became mired in lawsuits and relentless criticism from opponents who viewed it as harassment and worse -- a partisan attack by a Republican governor on Hispanic and Democratic voters. In a federal lawsuit filed last year in Tampa, an immigrants’ voting-rights group charged that the attempt to scrub the voter rolls disproportionately affected minority voters and that the state had failed to get Justice Department clearance as required under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Early this year, in a move to tamp down the uproar over missteps on Election Day, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill undoing some of the measures it approved in 2011 that led to fewer early-voting days, problems with absentee ballots and long lines at the polls. But Scott, in pushing to resume the voting-roll review, contends that the state has an obligation to protect the integrity of the vote. “The Supreme Court has allowed our secretary of state to start working with our supervisor of elections to make sure our sacred right to vote is not diluted,” he said Tuesday, after a Cabinet meeting. His decision adds Florida to a growing list of states, including Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Alabama, that have seized on the Supreme Court ruling to advance legislation calling for tougher voting rules or oversight. Texas, Mississippi and Alabama all announced they would move ahead with strict voter identification card requirements. But the decision puts Florida back in the cross hairs of a divisive partisan battle over voting rights. “Governor Scott seemingly is bent on suppressing the vote in Florida, with his latest move coming as an unfortunate result of the recent Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act,” said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, who was highly critical of the voter review last year. Scott risks angering voters with perhaps little payoff, political strategists said. While securing the integrity of the vote is admirable, they say, there is no evidence that noncitizens in Florida are systematically voting. Last year’s attempt at unearthing noncitizens initially began with a pool of 182,000 names of potential noncitizens, and that was winnowed to a list of 2,600. Those named were sent to election supervisors, who found that many were in fact citizens. Ultimately, the list of possible noncitizen voters shrank to 198. Of those, fewer than 40 had voted illegally. “It’s a solution in search of a problem,” said Steve Schale, who directed President Obama’s campaign in Florida in 2008 and was a senior adviser in 2012.


ADP report: Florida's job growth slowed in July


Enterprise Florida's plan for $630,000 in staff bonuses catches flak


Who will last longer, Scott or Capitol protesters?


Senate president won't convene a select committee on Stand Your Ground,0,6165997.story


Florida’s disgraceful distinction: corruption


Deaths of manatees, dolphins and pelicans point to estuary at risk


Gaetz (the elder): I’m not going anywhere


Scott will keynote Koch brothers-founded group's Orlando summit,0,


Government shutdown? Odds are uncomfortably high

The moral case for a higher minimum wage


For Obamacare, some hurdles still ahead


ALEC convention met with protests in Chicago


AFL-CIO leader seeks to expand membership beyond unions (Richard Trumka quoted)


Conservative activists file lawsuit to cripple public sector unions


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