Today's news -- February 14, 2017




Orange: Merit-pay law hasn't boosted student learning *
Six years after Florida adopted a teacher merit-pay law, there is little evidence the sweeping measure has met its key goal of boosting student achievement, the Orange County school district has concluded. In Orange, and across the state, students performance on standardized tests has not shown “significant or stable improvements” since the Legislature adopted the law in 2011, according to a new report by the district. The controversial law overhauled how teachers were evaluated, paid and promoted, tying their pay in part to their students’ performance on standardized tests. The goal was to improve instruction and then student learning. But national research and Orange’s data show it did not work, according to the report shared Monday with the Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition. “Performance pay systems are not an effective way to increase student achievement,” the report concluded. If they were, there would be consistent improvements since the law went into effect. Instead, Orange’s fourth graders have shown declining performance in language arts while its sixth graders have gotten better in that subject. And its third graders have posted flat scores in math, year after year. On national tests, Florida’s eighth graders have done worse, in both math and reading, since the law’s passage. Orange County School Board members plan to share the report with leaders in the Florida Legislature. The merit-pay law has hurt teacher morale but failed to improve student learning, so it needs to be revamped, said board member Daryl Flynn. “Student outcomes, for us, is what drives this district,” she said. Many teachers have complained there is not a fair way to tie their evaluations to student performance on tests, especially when about 70 percent of them don’t teach a subject covered by a state exam. Walt Griffin, Seminole County’s superintendent, said he has already urged state lawmakers to scrap the state law and let districts evaluate their teachers, as they did before the merit-pay law passed. “Teaching is a difficult enough job, and this has just layered more and more on them,” he said.


State abuses teachers, can’t see why there’s a shortage *

At the rate Florida is hemorrhaging classroom teachers, it soon won’t matter that we can’t hire school bus drivers for $11.88 an hour, because there won’t be any classrooms worth taking the kids to. Every week brings fresh reporting about Florida’s teacher shortage; none of it is a surprise to parents or policymakers who have been paying even the slightest bit of attention. The teaching talent pool began to shrink in the mid-20th century as women’s professional options expanded into better-paying places. Still, girls and an increasing number of boys raised to revere teachers continued to pursue careers in the classroom. Teaching reading to fidgety first-graders and science to 17-year-olds suffering from senioritis is hard duty under the best of circumstances. In recent years, it’s become close-to-impossible. Technology and testing mandates change at warp speed, to the delight of stockholders in companies that sell technology and tests. There’s no money left for toilet paper and Kleenex, so teachers’ pay for those “amenities” personally. Technology has also made it possible for helicopter parents to harass teachers at any hour of the day or night. Email is great for monster moms and douchey dads who wanted to bully teachers while wearing pajamas and drinking heavily. But it sucks down a lot of time that teachers need to grade papers and attend “trainings” on their uncompensated time. It’s hard to maintain teacher morale when the wage gap in the public-school system is closing in on the wage gap in the private sector. In Miami, for example, Superintendent and Fashion Plate Alberto Carvalho can afford to dress like Rico Suave on his $345,000 salary. Teachers making $40,000 are lucky if they can keep up with their student loans. Then there’s the daily dose of defamation heaped upon teachers by folks looking to dismember the public-school system for the benefit of people whose salaries in privatized “education” make Carvalho’s pay look paltry. There are limits to people’s willingness to be a piñata for paltry pay and no respect. Teachers could be forgiven if they decide to homeschool their own kids and leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves.


Orange County working to recruit more teachers (Mark Mitchell quoted)


Teacher’s lawyer sues Duval Schools for public records (Chris Guerrieri mentioned)


Santa Rosa teachers union going to magistrate for contract


House Democrats “encouraged” by Corcoran's pledge to increase education funding


Three global indexes show U.S. public schools are doing something right *


The winning Democratic alternative to privatization in education


Canadian province leads push to eliminate letter grades from school report cards


Detroit parents steered to “better” schools -- that don’t actually take Detroit kids


Feds cite D.C. charters for high suspension rates, particularly for black students


State college system faces rebranding

Florida's first community college, known as a junior college, opened in Palm Beach County in 1933. Junior colleges no longer exist in Florida, with the system and the names of the institutions evolving over time into what were once known as community colleges. But that too has changed, with only four schools in Florida's 28-member state college system identified as community colleges. As the Legislature prepares to consider major legislation impacting the state colleges this spring, a new focus has emerged over the college names. The debate will not be as intense as in 2015, when now-Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, pushed legislation that would have required 17 of the schools to change their names, dropping the use of the word “state” in their titles. New Senate legislation (SB 374) only aims to change the name of the “Florida College System” to the “Florida Community College system.” It would also create a “State Board of Community Colleges” to oversee the 28 schools. Yet the issue of the name change remains a sensitive one for many of the college presidents and trustees, who are seeking acknowledgment of the system's increasing role in higher education, including granting four-year degrees.


Polk State appoints presidential-search board


FGCU leaders: No guns on campus


Scott playing budget hardball over repeal of economic entities


Governor makes defense of economic incentives, tourism programs


Corcoran weighs potential suit against Scott administration over Lottery contract


Corcoran's lobbying reforms miss a link


Scott begins the search for a new CFO


Atwater extols Florida’s economic performance, talks “legacy”


Lawmakers blurring separation of powers


Elected secretary of state sought


Bill would let House impeach prosecutors, public defenders


Report says incarcerating non-violent youth is costly and often ineffective


Senate bill would shake up state worker health insurance plans


Administration’s lies about voter fraud will lead to voter suppression


Voter fraud in New Hampshire? Trump has no proof and many skeptics


Trump wrongly says 14 percent of noncitizens are registered to vote


Angry town hall meetings on health care law, and few answers


Will Obamacare really go under the knife?


Conservatives balking at GOP leadership's Obamacare plans


Upheaval is now standard operating procedure inside the White House


Seattle judge lets Trump travel ban suit roll on


Judge grants injunction against Trump travel ban in Virginia


What’s next for Trump’s travel ban? Justice Department and states weigh options


New immigration measures prompts surge in residents seeking U.S. citizenship


Colleges file brief joining challenge to Trump’s order on immigration


Trump travel ban ruling raises the stakes in the Supreme Court battle


Democrats’ quandary on Gorsuch: Appease the base or honor the process


How Trump could pressure the Supreme Court


Republicans to predatory companies: Grab as much as you can


Trump's aid rule endangers millions of women and children, Gates warns


Flynn resigns as national security adviser


Justice Department warned that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail


Republicans respond to Flynn resignation with silence, dodged questions


At least four GOP senators are on the fence about Puzder


Warren, other Democrats train attacks on Labor nominee Puzder


Oprah gives tape with Puzder abuse allegations to Senate


Activists protest Trump’s labor secretary nominee in Orlando


Union vote at boeing plant tests labor’s sway under Trump


Despite lying to the Senate, Trump’s Treasury pick is confirmed


Trump administration may eliminate the EPA’s enforcement office


Trump’s war on science could make it very hard to protect the environment


Trump handled North Korea crisis in full view of diners and waiters


Jewish fears of Trump White House mount on eve of Netanyahu visit


Trump’s team of weaklings


A Trump news conference filters out the tough questions


Journalist says Trump aide bullied her and mentioned a “dossier” on her


The Trump administration’s other war on the media


Corporations like Exxon are using spurious free speech claims to fend off regulation




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