Today's news -- February 21, 2017





Most teachers continue to get strong evaluation ratings *

Nearly all of Florida's evaluated public school teachers continued to receive strong reviews in 2015-16, according to newly released data from the state Department of Education. As in previous years, about 98 percent of teachers statewide rated either "highly effective" (42.9%) or "effective" (52.0%), with a tiny 0.2 percent receiving "unsatisfactory" marks, 0.7 percent as "developing" in their first three years, and 1.2 percent "needs improvement." Another 28,683 teachers were not evaluated. For the past five years, these results have been used to guide district decisions on raises and contract renewals, among other key actions. The state also has taken the information into account when determining eligibility for its controversial Best and Brightest bonus. District leaders, meanwhile, have suggested they would like to see a more meaningful evaluation model that places a heavier emphasis on criteria other than test scores, with an eye toward helping teachers identify areas of excellence and deficits needing more training. Superintendents recently called upon lawmakers to eliminate the value-added model, that incorporates testing results, and allow for more locally driven decisions. State Sens. Bill Montford, Rene Garcia and Larry Lee have filed a bill (SB 964) that would take that step, among other changes to the system. Download the full data set for more details, including results for administrators and other instructional personnel, as well as school by school information.


Faulty logic and incomplete analyses limit report

In December 2016, Bellwether Education Partners released a report that advocated for the maintenance of key elements of high-stakes teacher evaluation, with a focus on accountability and the use of student outcomes to evaluate teachers. The report sought to influence states' decisions about possible revisions to teacher evaluation policies under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). An academic review of the report finds that its conclusions are underdeveloped and unsubstantiated. Amy Farley, University of Cincinnati, reviewed For Good Measure? Teacher Evaluation Policy in the ESSA Era for the Think Twice think tank review project. Since 2009, the federal government has spurred states make wide reaching changes to teacher evaluation laws. This report sought to review recent teacher evaluation policy movement and identify positive outcomes of the new systems and negative consequences. It urged policymakers to move slowly in revising their systems. Farley says, "While the report raises several good questions with regard to the future of teacher evaluation, it overstates the likelihood that ESSA will result in widespread changes to evaluations." According to Farley, the report ignores the extant literature regarding substantial technical challenges and unintended consequences of growth measures. Also, the report dismissed the ideological and political debates surrounding teacher accountability. In conclusion, Farley finds "The unsubstantiated claims and dogged defense of student growth metrics provide little fresh or worthwhile new directions to policymakers seeking a nuanced and research-based discussion of teacher evaluation reform in the ESSA era."


School boards should encourage public comments (Anna Fusco quoted)


Legislature's own research reveals disparities in school recess


Schools’ struggles erode Jefferson's economy


Have we lost sight of the promise of public schools? *

In the days leading up to and after Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as secretary of education, a hashtag spread across Twitter: #publicschoolproud. Parents and teachers tweeted photos of their kids studying, performing, eating lunch together. People of all races tweeted about how public schools changed them, saved them, helped them succeed. The hashtag and storytelling was a rebuttal to DeVos, who called traditional public schools a “dead end” and who bankrolled efforts to pass reforms in Michigan, her home state, that would funnel public funds in the form of vouchers into religious and privately operated schools and encouraged the proliferation of for-profit charter schools. The tweets railed against DeVos’ labeling of public schools as an industry that needed to adopt the free-market principles of competition and choice. #Publicschoolproud was seen as an effort to show that public schools still mattered. But the enthusiastic defense obscured a larger truth: We began moving away from the “public” in public education a long time ago. In fact, treating public schools like a business these days is largely a matter of fact in many places. Parents have pushed for school-choice policies that encourage shopping for public schools that they hope will give their children an advantage and for the expansion of charter schools that are run by private organizations with public funds. Large numbers of public schools have selective admissions policies that keep most kids out. And parents pay top dollar to buy into neighborhoods zoned to “good” public schools that can be as exclusive as private ones. The glaring reality is, whether we are talking about schools or other institutions, it seems as if we have forgotten what “public” really means. The word derives from the Latin word publicus, meaning “of the people.” This concept — that the government belongs to the people and the government should provide for the good of the people — was foundational to the world’s nascent democracies. Where once citizens paid taxes to the monarchy in the hope that it would serve the public too, in democracies they paid taxes directly for infrastructure and institutions that benefited society as a whole. The tax dollars of ancient Athenians and Romans built roads and aqueducts, but they also provided free meals to widows whose husbands died in war. “Public” stood not just for how something was financed — with the tax dollars of citizens — but for a communal ownership of institutions and for a society that privileged the common good over individual advancement. Early on, it was this investment in public institutions that set America apart from other countries. Public hospitals ensured that even the indigent received good medical care — health problems for some could turn into epidemics for us all. Public parks gave access to the great outdoors not just to the wealthy who could retreat to their country estates but to the masses in the nation’s cities. Every state invested in public universities. Public schools became widespread in the 1800s, not to provide an advantage for particular individuals but with the understanding that shuffling the wealthy and working class together (though not black Americans and other racial minorities) would create a common sense of citizenship and national identity, that it would tie together the fates of the haves and the have-nots and that doing so benefited the nation. A sense of the public good was a unifying force because it meant that the rich and the poor, the powerful and the meek, shared the spoils — as well as the burdens — of this messy democracy. Achieving this has never been an easy feat. The tension between individual striving and the common good, between the beliefs that strong government protects and provides for its citizens and that big government leads to tyranny, has always existed in this country. As a result, support for public institutions and expansive government has ebbed and flowed. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in response to the Great Depression, ushered through the biggest expansion of federal programs in our nation’s history, he did so because he thought that government regulation was necessary to empower common people against corporations and banks but also that government should provide certain protections for its citizens. Under the New Deal, we got Social Security and unemployment insurance. Federal housing projects — public housing — meant quality dwellings for the nation’s working people. Federal works projects employed millions of out-of-work Americans and brought infrastructure to communities that had not been able to pay for it on their own. At the same time, the New Deal stoked the ire of a small-government, antiregulation minority, who began to push back, though it would take some decades before their views became mainstream. They promoted free-market principles, deregulation and the privatization of functions normally handled by the government and sought to define all things — like the benefits of education — strictly in terms of their economic value. Nonetheless, Roosevelt’s government expansion was widely supported, and Americans elected him to an unprecedented four terms as president. But the broad support of public programs and institutions hinged on a narrow definition of who that public was: white Americans. To get his New Deal passed, Roosevelt compromised with white Southerners in Congress, and much of the legislation either explicitly or implicitly discriminated against black citizens, denying them many of its benefits. As the civil rights movement gained ground in the 1950s and 1960s, however, a series of court rulings and new laws ensured that black Americans now had the same legal rights to public schools, libraries, parks and swimming pools as white Americans. But as black Americans became part of the public, white Americans began to pull away. Instead of sharing their public pools with black residents — whose tax dollars had also paid for them — white Americans founded private clubs (often with public funds) or withdrew behind their fences where they dug their own pools. Public housing was once seen as a community good that drew presidents for photo ops. But after federal housing policies helped white Americans buy their own homes in the suburbs, black Americans, who could not get government-subsidized mortgages, languished in public housing, which became stigmatized. Where once public transportation showed a city’s forward progress, white communities began to fight its expansion, fearing it would give unwanted people access to their enclaves. And white Americans began to withdraw from public schools or move away from school districts with large numbers of black children once the courts started mandating desegregation. Some communities shuttered public schools altogether rather than allow black children to share publicly funded schools with white children. The very voucher movement that is at the heart of DeVos’ educational ideas was born of white opposition to school desegregation as state and local governments offered white children vouchers to pay for private schools — known as segregation academies — that sprouted across the South after the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in 1954.


Worldwide, school choice hasn’t improved performance


NEA president sends letter to DeVos (by Lily Eskelsen García)


DeVos’ accusation about department’s IDEA website (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Georgia won’t improve its schools until it stops teacher blame game


A cautionary tale about the fight over a charter school


For-profit schools see new day under Trump

Since Election Day, for-profit college companies have been on a hot streak. DeVry Education Group’s stock has leapt more than 40 percent. Strayer’s jumped 35 percent and Grand Canyon Education’s more than 28 percent. You do not need an M.B.A. to figure out why. Top officials in Washington who spearheaded a relentless crackdown on the multibillion-dollar industry have been replaced by others who have profited from it. President Trump ran the now-defunct Trump University, which wound up besieged by lawsuits from former students and New York’s attorney general, who called the operation a fraud. Within days of the election, Trump, without admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to a $25 million settlement. Betsy DeVos, the newly installed secretary of education, is an ardent campaigner for privately run schools and has investments in for-profit educational ventures. While DeVos’ nomination attracted a flood of attention, most was focused on the K-through-12 system and the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers for private, online and religious schools. Higher education was barely mentioned during her confirmation hearings. Yet colleges and universities are the institutions most directly influenced by the federal government, while public schools remain largely in the hands of states and localities. So it is in higher education that the new administration’s power is likely to be felt most keenly and quickly. Under the Obama administration, the Education Department discouraged students from attending for-profit colleges, arguing recently that the data showed “community colleges offer a better deal than comparable programs at for-profit colleges with higher price tags.”


St. Petersburg College seeks public input in its search for a new president


House offers Visit Florida some money, but still huge cut


As Scott and House wage war, Senate steps back


Scott still swinging against GOP opposition to incentives


Gruters pitches reforms for embattled agencies


Don’t close the blinds on Sunshine Law — we have a right to know


End Legislature's lawmaker-lobbyists


D'Alemberte: Preparing for an effective Constitution Revision Commission


Trump spends 25 percent of first month in Sunshine State


Protesters rally against Trump in Palm Beach for third straight week


Will Trump return to Palm Beach for gala Saturday?


Trump's Winter White House takes over Palm Beach


Feds: 12 planes violated Trump air space over weekend


Trump visit in April would cancel Boca airport event for disabled kids


Trump's aides don't want to admit the president is golfing


Trump used to have a slightly different opinion of presidents playing golf


In Trump's future looms a familiar shutdown threat


The Trump White House is already cooking the books


Trump to roll back Obama’s climate, water rules through executive action


Obamacare’s enduring victory


In Ohio’s Trump country, a House conservative gets an earful


Strikes were a part of Women's Day before. With Trump, they will be again


Employees across U.S. fired after joining “day without immigrants” protest


Bloomberg-backed group launches new immigration push under Trump


FSU student organizations, community groups rally for undocumented students


Lake lawmaker files bill to ban sanctuary cities in Florida


Anti-Muslim groups have tripled. But this isn’t just a U.S. problem


Lewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire


Texan fights harsh voter fraud sentence: “I just wanted them to hear my voice”


Jewish cemetery vandalized; centers threatened and calls on Trump to act


Ivanka Trump calls for tolerance after threats on Jewish centers


Who are the richest of the rich?


Trump’s actions speak louder than his words (by Randi Weingarten)


We don’t have a president. We have a high priest of the American id


Gorsuch, like previous Supreme Court nominees, keeps views hidden


Court fight follows Democrats home


On free press, Supreme Court pick at odds with Trump


The real enemy of the people is a president who opposes the free press


How Trump’s obsession with the media endangers his presidency -- and all of us


Why nobody cares the president is lying


Trump’s nominees gripe the White House isn’t protecting them


Ross’ first task should be saving the 2020 Census


White House counsel is “going to be an enabler”


For a Trump adviser, an odyssey from the fringes of D.C. to the center of power


Men outnumber women more than 2-1 among top White House aides


From an anchor’s lips to Trump’s ears to Sweden’s disbelief


Trump tries to shift the conversation on Sweden


Fox News is now forging U.S. foreign policy


Trump chooses McMaster as national security adviser


Trump's new warrior-scholar


Contradicting Trump on Russia: Russian Officials


Trump’s Russia motives




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