Today's news -- July 16, 2013



Bennett promises “truth in advertising” for school grades

Florida education commissioner Tony Bennett says parents should understand how their schools are performing against higher academic standards, even as he recommends shielding schools from major swings in their state-assigned letter grades. "There has to be some truth in advertising," Bennett said. "It will be incumbent in the way we report it. We will develop a system where there is truth in advertising." He did not have specific language in mind. Bennett stressed the importance of continuing to increase expectations for students, teachers and schools as Florida makes its transition to more demanding Common Core State Standards. Leaders cannot take their eyes off the ultimate goals of eliminating the achievement gaps among children while pushing everyone to more competitive performance levels, he said. At the same time, though, Bennett acknowledged that the state has over the past few years implemented so many formula  and related changes at the same time with flat results. He suggested that the superintendents raised a fair criticism of the state's actions, and said his recommendation to limit grade decreases to just one letter grade is "a prudent way to move forward." "Given the volatility, this is a prudent measure to transition us to Common Core," Bennett said. He noted, for example, the questions that could arise if a school rated A one year were given an F the following year despite having the same teachers and administrators, and two-thirds of the same students taking the state tests. That stretches credibility, he said. On the other hand, Bennett also had concerns about the F school that gets a C or D because of protections put in place. He predicted lively conversation on his recommendation during today's State Board meeting. It begins at 10 a.m., and will be webcast on the department website. (Andrew Spar quoted)


Listen to Florida Board school grades debate online


Explaining Florida’s choices for its next standardized test


Teachers or “quantitative learning gains facilitators?”


Miami-Dade Schools budget includes teacher raises, voter-backed tax hike (Fedrick Ingram quoted)


School board to decide today whether Collier teachers get raises (Cal Boggess quoted)


California lawsuit an assault on unions


CREDO’s significantly insignificant findings

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University announced in a June 25 news release that “charter school students now have greater learning gains in reading than their peers in traditional public schools.” This conclusion was repeated in newspapers across the nation. But there is much less to the CREDO study and to its claim than meets the eye, according to a new review. The National Charter School Study 2013 examined charter schools in 27 states and New York City. Andrew Maul and Abby McClelland reviewed the study for the Think Twice think tank review project. The review is published today by the National Education Policy Center. Maul is an assistant professor in the Research and Evaluation Methodology (REM) program at Colorado University. His work focuses on measurement theory, validity, and generalized latent variable modeling. McClelland is a Ph.D. student in the REM program. The CREDO study attempts to identify differences in student performance at charter schools and traditional public schools. Its primary findings were: (a) a small positive effect of being in a charter school on reading scores and no impact on math scores; and (b) a relative improvement in average charter school quality since CREDO’s 2009 study. Maul and McClelland, however, find “significant reasons for caution in interpreting the study’s results.” Some of those reasons concern important choices regarding analytic methods; others concern basic questions of how meaningful the findings really are.


Rapper Pitbull a new school-choice voice and charter school booster (AFT mentioned)


So why do hedge funds so favor charter schools?


A new round of segregation plays out in charter schools


Gates expands influence -- and money -- into higher education

For years, Bill Gates has exercised extraordinary influence in shaping modern K-12 school reform to his liking, leveraging cash from his vast Microsoft fortune to drive the public agenda -- and taxpayer funds -- toward standardized test-based accountability. Now, the Chronicle of Higher Education has exposed how he is doing the same thing in higher education: spending his own money to remake the system. In a package of stories, the Chronicle makes clear how Gates has used his money to change higher education into one that is focused on getting more students degrees faster through technology and what is called “competency-based learning,” which in part rewards students for what they know rather than for how many credits they take in college. His vision includes ways to measure everything, largely through testing. Critics say this vision of higher education is aimed at getting students ready for jobs rather than giving them a broad education; that it, along with other reform efforts he has funded, are not based in research but rather in his corporate-based idea of how schools should run; and that Gates has been so dominant in the reform debate that opponents have had difficulty getting their voices heard. One story titled “The Gates Effect” reports that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent $472 million on higher education since 2006 -- with the vast majority since 2008 -- on this agenda, including money to media organizations “to keep its reform goals on the national agenda.” It notes that the Gates foundation “hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon; it has worked to build that bandwagon, in ways that are not always obvious.”


A college education isn’t just about job prospects


FAU affirms support for academic freedom


With dramatic rise of part-time jobs, an imperiled middle class


Failure to expand Medicaid hits Florida's poor hard


Florida flunks federal standards on jobless claims,0,7933528.story


Millionaires club in Florida House


How the GOP hopes to take away right to collective bargaining

The right to collective bargaining in the workplace is a human right -- just as fundamental as the right to free speech or the right to vote.  It is enshrined in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted in 1948.  Three quarters of a century ago, our country passed labor laws that gave every worker the right to organize a union in their workplace to negotiate wages and working conditions with their employers.  When the largest percentage of private sector workers were in unions in the 1950's, the economy grew and the gap between high and low income Americans dramatically dropped in what economist Paul Krugman calls the "Great Compression." Collective bargaining and growth of the labor movement were the principal engines that led to the creation of the American middle class -- the growth of wages, the 40-hour work week, and the weekend. The reason collective bargaining is so fundamental should be obvious. Markets are good at allocating many resources in an economy. But left to their own devices they do a terrible job distributing the fruits of production among the people who create products and services.  Economic history shows irrefutably that without collective bargaining, the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer. Unless workers have the right to bargain as a group over wages and working conditions, employers have every incentive to hire workers who will work for the lowest possible wage in the worst possible conditions. And in a globalized economy with literally billions of increasingly skilled workers in developing countries, there is always someone who is willing to do the same job for less.  In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 union members had salaries that were -- on the average -- 20 percent higher than their non-union counterparts. The only way to protect middle class incomes in the United States is to protect the precious right of collective bargaining and to extend it to most Americans. In fact, we would all be much better off if every worker in every place of employment could exercise their right to collective bargaining -- the same way we are all better off when everyone has the right to vote. But for more than three decades Wall Street and the largest corporations have waged an incessant war to effectively take away our ability to collectively bargain. The percentage of private sector jobs covered by collective bargaining agreements has shrunk from 35 percent in the 1950's when middle class wages were on the increase, to only 6.6 percent in 2012.  The one bright spot has been public sector workers, where 35 percent had collective bargaining rights in 2012. And everyone has seen the overt assault on public sector collective bargaining that Republican politicians have waged in state after state. The right wing's campaign against collective bargaining is all about one thing -- allowing a tiny segment of our population to siphon off more and more of the country's wealth and leaving less and less for everyone else.  The reason the GOP wants to strip the rights of public sector unions is to cut taxes on the rich. And the reason Wall Street and CEOs want to eliminate collective bargaining and unions is because they want to keep more money for themselves and give less to the workers who actually produce the products and services that are created by the companies they own -- it's that simple.


Vacancies and partisan fighting put labor relations agency in legal limbo


Senate’s leader sets showdown over changes to filibuster


Lobbyists rally to ensure brokers can scam your 401k


Billionaire Koch brothers use Internet to take on media reports they dispute

Teachers unions urge federal action against Zimmerman (Dennis Van Roekel and Randi Weingarten quoted)




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