Today's news -- August 9, 2017



In texts, Stewart mocked Chartrand's test score claim *

State education Commissioner Pam Stewart, in a sardonic text exchange with a colleague, accused a prominent GOP donor who chairs a Jacksonville charter school chain of using misleading data to boast about students’ test scores, according to public records obtained by Politico Florida. Stewart said in a text message to a top staff member that the leaders of KIPP Jacksonville overstated the percentage of third graders who passed state reading exams.  In the May 19 conversation, Stewart was critical of Gary Chartrand, a member and former chair of the state Board of Education who also heads the governing panel for KIPP's three Florida charter schools. Chartrand, executive chairman of Acosta Inc., a Jacksonville sales and marketing firm, is a reliable campaign donor to Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott.  In the texts, Stewart suggested Chartrand and the network’s executive director, Tom Majdanics, had been bragging that 41 percent of third graders at KIPP VOICE Elementary School passed this year’s reading tests, when the figure was actually 35 percent. The details of when and how Chartrand made this claim to Stewart are unclear. Chartrand declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education would not provide additional information. On that Friday in May, the education department released third graders’ scores on English language arts exams to schools, which use the information to determine whether to promote the students to fourth grade. A state law requires schools to hold back third graders who fail the reading tests, with some exceptions. Juan Copa, a deputy commissioner who oversees testing, wrote to his boss at 2:45 p.m.: “Have you received any messages from supers regarding grade 3?” (His abbreviation “supers” refers to school district superintendents.) “Just mi amigo,” Stewart responded, not naming the superintendent she was referring to. A department spokeswoman would not elaborate. Stewart added that Hershel Lyons, chancellor of K-12 public schools, placed calls to six or seven leaders. Then she wrote: “Gary trying to claim kipp went to 41%.” Citing the actual data, Copa replied, “Kipp Voice Elem went from 28% to 35%.” “I know,” Stewart wrote. “I think he/[they] take out retained 3rd graders when they calculate.” “Why?” Copa asked. “They are included in school grades.” “No kidding,” Stewart responded. She added: “Tim’s creative way of selling his board on what they are doing.” Then she corrected herself: “Tom. Not Tim.” Chartrand got the 41 percent figure from an email Majdanics had sent to the full board explaining the results. As Stewart guessed in her texts, the executive director had provided a pass rate that excluded students who were repeating third grade after failing the test the year before.


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Cuts to drug treatment, mental health show state's true colors


State water regulators approve big permits for pulp mills


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Democrats demand federal agencies tell how much they spend at Trump businesses


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Trump gets a folder full of positive news about himself twice a day


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Has James O’Keefe accidentally stung himself again?

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