Today's news -- February 10, 2012


“But instead of offering states the right to opt out of the 2014 goal, the administration said they would grant waivers only to those states that did what they wanted in terms of school reform. And the Education Department’s reforms have done nothing to limit damaging high-stakes standardized testing, but instead exacerbated the problem by encouraging states to evaluate teachers in part by student test scores, a scheme assessment experts say is invalid. The National School Board Association and the American Association of School Administrators said it well in a joint letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan last fall: ‘State and local education agencies are not at all responsible for reauthorizing the federal statute, and as such should not have to jump through hoops to get relief from specific provisions widely recognized as broken and in need of improvement.’ And hoops are what states had to jump through.”
-- Washington Post education columnist Valerie Strauss.

“Too much of the public is missing from public education. As a people, we recognize the economic value of education, but we under-invest in our schools, both financially and in terms of civic capital. With America's students and schools facing unprecedented needs, and education budgets under enormous pressure, it is time to drastically ramp up civic investment in public education. Our public school system -- one of the great achievements of American democracy -- is not just a service for the public to consume. It is a lifelong compact among Americans to continually renew our nation's future, to be actively supported by all citizens, whether or not they have children of school age. It is vital to ensure a populace with the knowledge and skills to succeed in, and create, good jobs. Indeed, Americans view education as a core value as well as a key service, according to research by pollster Celinda Lake. So, what does civic investment mean, and why is it so important today? ‘Take an informed interest, put in time, and get political,’ the National Commission on Civic Investment in Public Education declared this year. It is essential for the American people to better understand the economic and civic costs of educational failure. While there are multiple challenges to creating an equitable system of quality public education, it will not be realized without the vigilant, knowledgeable and active support of the American people. They must demand and expect three things: educational excellence; accountability of elected officials and school leaders for quality education; and adequate financial resources for public schools.”

-- Wendy Puriefoy, an expert on school reform and civil society, is the founder and president of the Public Education Network (PEN), the nation's largest network of community-based school reform organizations.,0,5253307.story



Education gap grows between rich and poor, studies say

Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects. It is a well-known fact that children from affluent families tend to do better in school. Yet the income divide has received far less attention from policymakers and government officials than gaps in student accomplishment by race. Now, in analyses of long-term data published in recent months, researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period. “We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race,” said Sean Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. Reardon is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites. In another study, by researchers from the University of Michigan, the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion -- the single most important predictor of success in the work force -- has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s. The changes are tectonic, a result of social and economic processes unfolding over many decades. The data from most of these studies end in 2007 and 2008, before the recession’s full impact was felt. Researchers said that based on experiences during past recessions, the recent downturn was likely to have aggravated the trend. “With income declines more severe in the lower brackets, there’s a good chance the recession may have widened the gap,” Reardon said. In the study he led, researchers analyzed 12 sets of standardized test scores starting in 1960 and ending in 2007. He compared children from families in the 90th percentile of income -- the equivalent of around $160,000 in 2008, when the study was conducted -- and children from the 10th percentile, $17,500 in 2008. By the end of that period, the achievement gap by income had grown by 40 percent, he said, while the gap between white and black students, regardless of income, had shrunk substantially. Both studies were first published last fall in a book of research, “Whither Opportunity?” compiled by the Russell Sage Foundation, a research center for social sciences, and the Spencer Foundation, which focuses on education. Their conclusions, while familiar to a small core of social sciences scholars, are now catching the attention of a broader audience, in part because income inequality has been a central theme this election season.


Federal waiver for Florida schools could shake up tutoring industry

Thousands of low-income Florida students who have received hundreds of millions of dollars in free, private tutoring may no longer have that option in the fall. The reason: the Obama administration's decision on Thursday to free Florida and nine other states from strict requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. The 2002 law was championed by President George W. Bush and uses standardized testing to judge schools on the progress they make with each student. President Barack Obama said Thursday that he was acting because Congress had failed to update the law despite widespread agreement it needed to be fixed. "If you're willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by NCLB, then we're going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards," he said. With its waiver, Florida no longer has to have all students be proficient in reading and math by 2013-14 -- a requirement considered impossible by many -- and the state only has to follow its own accountability model based on school grades. Many questioned the dual systems in which a Florida school that received an A grade from the state for its academic performance also faced sanctions for failing to meet federal progress standards. NCLB also requires tutoring and school choice options for students in high-poverty schools that fall short of federal standards. Districts have to set aside 20 percent of their federal Title I dollars every year -- money they get to help high-poverty schools -- to pay for private tutors for low-income families who want them and to bus students who choose to attend higher-performing schools. Jeff Eakins, federal programs director for Hillsborough schools, said the district could benefit from having more access to the $10 million it annually sets aside for tutoring and school choice.  "Especially in this era of school reform, districts need to have more flexibility," Eakins said. It might be able to offer support to more schools. Or it could change the type of services it provides to schools that need extra help.,0,1653305.story


Administration grants NCLB waivers to 10 states (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Little seen changing (Joe Vitalo quoted)


The problem with school accountability systems


Bill would have students get career counseling beginning in sixth grade


Is trauma the root cause of major misbehavior?


The voices of young black males

Brodeur and Dorworth feel heat over schools, file bill – and expose their own hypocrisy


Two schools will close during GOP convention because of worries about gridlock, protests


State colleges fear they're becoming unaffordable,0,3252787.story


Reaction mixed on bill to make Florida Polytechnic state's 12th university


Senate should stand up to bullying on USF Poly


Student BOG member bill moves ahead in the Senate


Senate will take another stab at prison privatization next week

After delaying a vote on prison privatization for more than a week because of a split vote, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said the Senate would take up the measure next week. Haridopolos and budget chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, have been pushing a plan for two years to privatize more than two dozen correctional facilities in an 18-county region of South Florida. The Legislature approved a similar plan in its budget last year, but a court struck it down, saying that the plan could not be included in the budget and must be passed through a separate piece of legislation. Alexander revamped the measure in accordance with the court ruling, but when it initially came before the entire Senate, it quickly became apparent that resistance was rising. Haridopolos said earlier this week that the vote was "20-20." Haridopolos said they are taking the bill up because they are focused on finding savings in the budget, which they believe can be achieved through privatization, and Alexander has to begin putting the final touches on the budget. The House passed its budget out today, but tabled its discussion on prison privatization when problems arose in the Senate. On Monday, it will go through the amendment process, and then come to a full vote Tuesday, Haridopolos said. "The goal would be pretty simple. If we can't find the savings here, we're obviously going to have to lean on Sen. Alexander and the other budget chairs to find those savings necessary to keep that budget balanced," he said.  Haridopolos was coy though when asked if that meant he had the votes to pass the bill. "We'll see," he said.


What's driving Fasano's stance?


Legislature's redistricting work shifts to the courts

Florida lawmakers ended months of debate Thursday by passing new boundaries for congressional and legislative districts -- the first step in a legal shootout that could determine congressional and state government control for the next decade. Moments after the Senate voted 32-5 to pass the re-drawn political maps, the Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court, alleging the congressional plan violated the state's constitutional prohibition against drawing lines that intentionally favor political parties or incumbents. Separately, a coalition of groups that backed the 2010 Fair Districts reforms, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the National Council of La Raza and others, announced they planned to file their own challenge as soon as Gov. Rick Scott signs the maps into law. Both groups also plan to challenge the maps for new House and Senate seats once they are approved by Attorney General Pam Bondi and sent to the Florida Supreme Court for review. The coalition's complaint claims the congressional map was "intentionally enhanced" and accuses Republican U.S. Reps. Dan Webster of Winter Garden and Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami of taking "affirmative steps to influence members of the Legislature and its staff to 'improve' the composition of their new districts to make them more favorable." It also castigates lawmakers for "packing artificially high numbers of minorities into certain districts" – singling out the Jacksonville-to-Orlando district of Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown – to "diminish the influence" of minorities in surrounding districts by rendering them more white and more likely to vote Republican. The Democratic Party lawsuit doesn't get quite as specific, but alleges the same basic gerrymandering took place. "The Senate passed maps that fail to meet the plain meaning of Fair Districts," said Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith. Review the new maps for yourself on our interactive redistricting site.

Here's the Fair Districts petition: State_Law_Complaint_Congressional_Map

And here's the FDP petition: Draft_Complaint_Challenging_Congressional_Plan


Willing to testify about voting law slop (by Paula Dockery)


House passes budget on party lines

The Florida House voted on party lines to approve its $69.2 spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year on Thursday. The 79-38 vote sets the stage for negotiations with the Senate, which is on track to approve its budget in the next two weeks. "This is a budget that funds the state's needs, and only takes reductions where reductions can be withstood," said House Appropriations Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring. Democrats opposed the plan, which reduces Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes, cuts thousands jobs and raises college tuition to free up more than $1 billion for education. Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, was among those who argued that lawmakers should have increased revenue by taxing online sales and revamping corporate tax laws to avoid spending cuts. The Senate is set to release its budget and conforming bills today, and is scheduled take up its budget in committee Wednesday. Alexander said the chamber would likely approve its budget on the floor the week after the committee vote.


Florida homeowners to receive $8.4 billion in mortgage relief in landmark settlement


Floridians find little to love in foreclosure settlement


Foreclosure settlement offers struggling families relief (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Proposed cuts in health care for Florida's poor draw fire in hearings


Lawmakers trying to tame Amazon in sales tax fight


Negron gets support for plan to abolish constitutional commissions


Chief justices will be able to serve eight years,0,1312021.story


Pessimism high, Republicans warn of possible expiration of payroll tax cuts


House passes bill banning insider trading by members of Congress


Money and morals


Occupy Wall Street: the future and history, so far



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