Today's news -- July 15, 2013






Bennett favors “safety net” to keep school grades from tanking

At the urging of superintendents, Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett recommended late last week that the state continue to cushion schools against dramatic drops in their grades, even when test scores merit a lower mark. His proposal comes at the 11th hour -- school grades are expected to be released later this month -- and despite his statement earlier this month that the practice could be misleading to the public. The "safety net" went into effect last year to stem the fallout from a fast push to tougher standards, some of which weren't fully explained to school districts. It is set to expire this year, unless the State Board of Education agrees with Bennett that it should be extended. The board will consider Bennett's proposal Tuesday. Board members also will consider a second recommendation from the commissioner not to use the test scores of students at special education centers when calculating the grades of their "home" schools. In a letter to the board, Bennett said his new support for the safety net provision wasn't intended to "soften the blow of higher standards or to reduce the number of failing schools." Instead he was trying to minimize changes as Florida moves away from the FCAT to the more rigorous and complex Common Core standards by the 2014-15 school year. Bennett called the transition the "biggest issue confronting our schools." It isn't clear yet what effect the safety net would have on this year's school grades. Last year, 388 schools — 15 percent of schools graded — benefited. Last year, rapid changes forced the state Department of Education to wage a public relations battle after dramatic drops in test scores, particularly on the FCAT writing test, raised questions. A last-minute move by the state board to change the passing score on the exam was strongly criticized as a way to pad school grades. Although Bennett's proposal gives superintendents much of what they asked for last week, some of them said Friday that it won't cure deeper problems with Florida's grading system. Mike Grego, superintendent of Pinellas County Schools, said he feared credibility in the system already had been lessened because of a combination of rapid changes -- more than 30 in two years -- and the increasing complexity of the grading formula. "If we don't have a belief in our school grading system then we've lost a great deal of our accountability system," he said.,0,84938.story


Other states eye Florida’s school grading woes


Video interview with Bennett


New Common Core State Standards coming for students, schools

Teachers like Rebecca Kircharr are already preparing for the immense changes that are coming to Florida public schools this year. Kircharr is an English teacher and reading coach at Leon High School, which means she will be working with her colleagues as they retool their reading and writing instruction. As the Leon County teacher of the year, she noted in her submission for the state competition that teachers have been working during the school year and over the summer, looking for ways to push students “further and deeper into complex text, discourse, and questioning than ever before.” They are preparing for the Common Core State Standards, which will require students to think deeply and learn differently. In previous years, teachers started learning the standards and incorporating them into their lessons, and this year, they will be taught at every grade level in English and math. “It’s such a big shift, and you can’t do it all at once,” Kircharr said. New standards will measure students -- as well as teachers and schools -- by a new yardstick. In language arts and math, they will replace the Sunshine State Standards at the center of the accountability system that is currently tied to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. They will place fewer specific requirements on the material teachers must cover each year, and are designed to immerse students in the kinds of reading, writing and thinking they will have to perform as adults. Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett said the 2013-14 school year will be “the year of Common Core” in Florida public schools, as the new standards make their way into classrooms at every grade level. If the experience in other states holds true here, some students may see their test scores drop initially. Bennett said he believes that in the years that follow, they will become better prepared for college and the workforce, and teachers will revitalize both the “art” and the “science” of their instruction. As he told a room full of 41 top teachers recently in Tallahassee, that does not mean getting there will be easy. (Andy Ford and David Worrell quoted and AFT mentioned)


Common Core prompts political discourse


The trouble with testing mania

Congress made a sensible decision a decade ago when it required the states to administer yearly tests to public school students in exchange for federal education aid. The theory behind the No Child Left Behind Act was that holding schools accountable for test scores would force them to improve instruction for groups of children whom they had historically shortchanged. Testing did spur some progress in student performance. But it has become clear to us over time that testing was being overemphasized -- and misused -- in schools that were substituting test preparation for instruction. Even though test-driven reforms were helpful in the beginning, it is now clear that they will never bring this country’s schools up to par with those of the high-performing nations that have left us far behind in math, science and even literacy instruction. Congress required the states to give annual math and reading tests in grades three through eight (and once in high school) as a way of ensuring that students were making progress and that minority children were being fairly educated. Schools that did not meet performance targets for two years were labeled as needing improvement and subjected to sanctions. Fearing that they would be labeled poor performers, schools and districts — especially in low-income areas — rolled out a relentless series of “diagnostic” tests that were actually practice rounds for the high-stakes exams to come. That the real tests were weak, and did not gauge the skills students needed to succeed, made matters worse. Unfortunately, most states did not invest in rigorous, high-quality exams with open-ended essay questions that test reasoning skill. Rather, they opted for cheap, multiple-choice tests of marginal value. While practically making exams the center of the educational mission, the country underinvested in curriculum development and teacher training, overlooking the approaches that other nations use to help teachers get constantly better.  The government went further in the testing direction through its competitive grant program, known as Race to the Top, and a waiver program related to No Child Left Behind, both of which pushed the states to create teacher evaluation systems that take student test data into account. Test scores should figure in evaluations, but the measures have to be fair, properly calibrated and statistically valid -- all of which means that these evaluation systems cannot be rushed into service before they are ready.


Payment schedule change for Polk school employees put on hold (Marianne Capoziello quoted)


Keys schools superintendent gets generally good marks (UTM mentioned)


Miami-Dade schools probes cheating allegations at district-run charter


Orange educator chosen Florida's Teacher of the Year


Orange restrains fewer disabled students,0,2362790.story


Despite rezoning, some Seminole schools overcrowded,0,4432201.story


Broward schools fall behind in digital education,0,7009080.story


Coping with school bullies tough for schools, kids, parents


Enough with the teacher bashing: It's not helping students or anyone else


House ESEA legislation is a bad deal for students (from AFT)


Meet the Teach for America resistance movement that's growing from within


No, iPads do not make teachers obsolete


A “no excuse” approach to education everyone can support


How many “nightmare” teachers are really out there?


Teachers respond to Tennessee pay plan


New York charter sues to block state audit, oversight


Why Los Angeles is now ground zero for corporate reform -- and pushback


Charter schools: “It’s the money, stupid”


UCF trustees look at altering Hitt's severance contract (Jim Gilkeson quoted),0,1719056.story


Low-paid adjunct faculty, who are mostly female, have started unionizing for better pay


Florida Supreme Court rules against Legislature in redistricting case


Florida likely to resume voter purge after U.S. Supreme Court decision


Capitol rally decries U.S. Supreme Court voting ruling


Florida Supreme Court: Law protecting builder went too far


Verdict in Martin shooting has troubling implications (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Air Force considers privatizing Cape operations


Florida Republican divide over Medicaid expansion creates awkward gaps


Publix, Disney lobby to cut the size of lawsuit awards,0,


As IRS cracks down on The Villages, Disney World watches,0,1327901.story


Agencies clash with DCF chief


Citizens chasing big rate increase


Federal government reports rare $116.5 billion surplus in June


GOP misfires on food stamps


Democrats poised to limit filibusters, angering GOP


In the House, a refusal to govern


Poll: Most blame GOP obstruction for gridlock, not Obama


How intellectual property reinforces inequality


Democrats offer new evidence that IRS targeted progressive groups


Private prisons expect to profit from immigration reform


How climate change makes it harder to keep the lights on


Recession influences youths

 0 user(s) rated this page
Login to leave a comment
No Comments yet