Today's news -- June 17, 2013


New law: Teachers can’t be evaluated on students they don’t have

In the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category: Florida just passed a law making it illegal to evaluate teachers on standardized test scores of students they never taught. If you are wondering why such a law would be necessary, here’s why: For two years, many teachers were actually being evaluated by the test scores of students they had never even seen much less taught, under a school reform law that included a requirement that Florida teachers be evaluated on student test scores. In April, seven teachers, along with the National Education Association and the Florida Education Association, filed a lawsuit challenging the system, arguing that it was unfair and violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clause of the Constitution. One of the teachers is Kim Cook, a teacher in Alachua who, as this post explains, was evaluated at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school where she works and was named Teacher of the Year last December. Forty percent of her evaluation was based on test scores of students at Alachua Elementary, a school into which Irby feeds, whom she never taught. After a public outcry over the issue, the Legislature passed a new law and Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed it, though it only partial remedies the problems with the original school reform law. Still unclear, though, is how teachers whose students do not take state standardized tests will be evaluated as well as other issues. The lawsuit will not be withdrawn in part because the new law does nothing to alter the flawed evaluations of the past two years. Florida, it should be noted, is not the only place where teachers have been evaluated on test scores of students they didn’t have, or on test scores in subjects they don’t teach -- Tennessee and the District created similar situations. This happened after the Obama administration, in its Race to the Top education initiative, required states to link teacher evaluation to “student growth” -- as measured in test scores -- in order to receive federal funds in the competition. States, devising complicated ways to measure student growth, found themselves confronted with the problem that most teachers taught subjects for which there were no standardized tests. That led to a rush of field testing for assessments in all subjects (including yearbook) in many places, and systems that evaluated teachers on subjects and students they didn’t teach. It never made sense, but that didn’t seem to matter. This may sound like fiction, but it’s what actually happened. So goes the path of “school reform.”

The measure, SB 1664, was already in the works during the legislative session when the Florida Education Association joined its national counterpart in a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s evaluation system created under the Student Success Act of 2011. The unions issued a statement Friday calling the law a “partial fix.” They said the lawsuit will continue until their other objections to Florida’s evaluation system -- including the impact of evaluations given to teachers before the changes -- are resolved.

"While we’re happy this measure passed the Legislature, there is much work to be done to fix the mess created by SB 736 (the 2011 law)," FEA President Andy Ford said in a release.

The FEA continues to question how teachers will be measured if their students do not take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and is concerned that not all teachers will be evaluated based on the subjects they teach.


Gates discovers money cannot buy teachers

The Seattle Times tells us of a strange problem encountered by the richest man in the world. He has discovered that his money is not working its magic in education -- teachers are not for sale. The Gates Foundation has spent the past decade promoting hard hitting education reforms. Organizations they fund have conducted research, lobbied politicians, and advanced policies that have brought us Value Added teacher and principal evaluations, charter school expansion, Teach For America corps members, and merit pay. They have poured millions into efforts to shape public opinion, sponsoring Education Nation and the propaganda documentary Waiting for Superman, and its star, Michelle Rhee. They have told us how important teachers are, but in spite of all this attention, teachers seem positively ungrateful. So now the Gates Foundation is on what has been called a "charm offensive." According to Seattle Times reporter Linda Shaw, the Gates Foundation last year brought 250 teachers to a hotel in Arizona to share their new vision. The Gates Foundation's Irvin Scott said, "We're trying to start a movement. A movement started by you. A movement you're leading." Money tends to distort reality. Those that have it think that they can use it to get what they want. And those that have a lot, think they can get a lot. But when what you want to control is something as big as the way children are educated, and the conditions under which an entire profession is trained, supervised and paid, you are going to run into some bumps along the way. Ultimately, there are three ways to get people to do something you want them to do. One is to force them, by making the consequences for not complying onerous or unacceptable. The second is to lure them, by offering some sort of bribe or incentive. The third is to get them excited about your ideas, whereupon they may engage with enthusiasm. In my experience, real change in education only comes with the third of these methods, because the first two inspire more resistance than cooperation. You may get people to buckle under and teach to the test because they fear being fired if their scores don't rise. You may get them to have PLC meetings focused on test data that supposedly allows them to "personalize" their instruction. But this sort of change does not go very deep, or inspire much enthusiasm, because it is not rooted in our deepest aspirations for our students. And people sense when they are being manipulated and coerced - they resent it, and they resist. That is what the Gates Foundation is getting now -- resentment and resistance.


Gulf layoffs less than feared (Sandra Butler quoted)


Franklin School Board reflects on test scores (Cathy Wood quoted)


Baker district facing budget deficit


Duncan slams NCLB


Common Core: What it is, what it isn’t


AFT to focus on mobilizing members and developing leaders


AFT helps form Newtown “ribbon of remembrance”


Huge New York rally calls for the state to “get it right” (Randi Weingarten quoted)


How test scores can be deceiving


Ohio teachers graded by controversial “value-added” measure


Budget cuts reach bone for Philadelphia schools


Pennsylvania: Now we know the truth about cyber charters


Schooling ourselves in an unequal America


Can school reform hurt communities?


The unfairness of the “parent trigger”


Study gauges value of technology in schools


The faulty logic of the “math wars”


PBSC cuts staff and faculty hours to avoid paying for health coverage (Rob Krull quoted)


Frustrated faculty at UF (UFF mentioned)


Scott not changing mind on tuition


With student loan rates about to double, lawmakers squabble


School director admits to tampering with student records to receive federal funds,0,807190.story


Attacks on state pension plan not over

As Will Weatherford tells it, his plan to shut down the state’s pension fund to new hires won’t affect people already in it. “We want to leave you alone; we want to protect that pension for you,” the House speaker said in a recent Florida Channel interview. But the people who represent many of the 900,000 current employees and retirees in the Florida Retirement System aren’t so sure. State workers comprise about a quarter of pension plan members; the rest are teachers and local government workers, including police and fire. By cutting the pension plan off from new members, they say, it starves the fund of that revenue stream of contributions from new employees and employers. “If you want to make a numbers argument, you’re not going to win,” said Will Newton, who represents Pinellas and Pasco counties for the Florida Professional Firefighters union. “That’s how they’re looking at this, and it’s not reasonable.” This isn’t just an academic exercise for Newton and others: Weatherford’s pension overhaul bill didn’t pass this legislative session, but he promises to bring it back next year. And that adds to the worry of current employees that the golden promise of public employment – a guaranteed pension – may not be there for them when they need it. Many of those are lower-paid secretaries, data entry clerks and groundskeepers who want to rely on a guaranteed pension and not some form of welfare in their retirement, said Jeanette D. Wynn, president of AFSCME Florida Council 79, which represents 60,000 state workers. A pension “was the promise for their future,” Wynn said.


Scott blocks paid sick-time vote in Orange, statewide,0,6200216.story,0,


Florida receives final permission to privatize Medicaid,0,


With Obamacare deadlines near, Florida Democrats prod public and Legislature to sign on


It's Scott against the consumer


The Downfall of Digital Domain: How public’s millions vanished


Scott, others were told about insurance deal


Appeals court affirms Florida election law


Election fraud: From the streets to cyberspace


Austerity chieftains want to give “corporate pirates” a big tax break while chopping safety net


Fortress unionism


America's private prison system is a national disgrace


Intricate family connections bind several of America's worst charities


Choice of health plans to vary sharply from state to state




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