Today's news -- March 17, 2017





Lawmakers push tougher scoring for high-stakes tests *

Florida’s key standardized tests, which already trip up more than 40 percent of those who take them, should be even tougher for students to pass in coming years, some House lawmakers say. Reviving a debate from last year, they want to require students to show “proficiency” in order to pass Florida’s language arts and math exams, a move that could have far-reaching implications. The percentage of 10th graders who, on their first try, would pass the test needed to earn a diploma, for example, could fall from 51 percent to 36 percent, state data shows. That drop assumes “proficiency” on Florida’s tests would be pegged to that standard on the tougher National Assessment for Educational Progress, or NAEP, exams. Some state leaders tried unsuccessfully to make that connection early last year when Florida completed a scoring system for its new Florida Standards Assessments. But others opposed the move say proficiency on NAEP is meant to be a challenging benchmark while passing state tests should require “satisfactory” but not-quite-so stellar performances. The State Board of Education set the FSA passing scores in January 2016 so that a 3 on the five-level exams was passing and a 4 was considered “proficient.” The testing bill being pushed in the House (HB 773) would require a scoring system in which a 3 was proficient and, presumably, harder to attain than it is now. The proposal is an effort to have an “honest conversation” about whether the current scoring system ensures students graduate from high school prepared for what’s next, said Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, a bill sponsor, during a House education panel meeting earlier this week. “We should be striving to make our students proficient,” Diaz said. “We should not be graduating students that are not at grade level.” But Beth Overholt, a Tallahassee mother active in parent groups’ opposed to high-stakes testing, told the House panel it should not support a measure that runs counter to the state board’s vote, which was based on input from teachers and administrators. “This will result in many more students being retained as well as high school students not receiving their diplomas — all based on an arbitrary decision,” she said. “We’ll have a lot more kids that fail the test,” Overholt said, and then lots more who then need remedial classes. “This is going to explode costs for the districts.” The bill is backed by the Foundation for Florida’s Future, one of former Gov. Jeb Bush’s influential education advocacy groups.


Senate plans to dive into assessment, accountability *

For all the talk that Florida's 2017 legislative session would focus on higher education, giving K-12 a breather, the climate is shaping up for potentially major changes to the state's Jeb Bush-era test-based accountability system. The latest signal: The Senate Education Committee has scheduled a workshop for Monday, where it will tackle ideas in seven bills that could alter the landscape for students. The concepts on the agenda include the bill apparently favored in the House, aimed at pushing testing back to the final three weeks of school, and the Senate preferred version that would eliminate several tests and end value-added measures in teacher evaluations. Also in the mix are bills that would create more pathways to a standard high school diploma, change testing reporting rules and perhaps most notably, end the state's mandate schools retain third graders who do not pass a reading test, unless they get a good cause exemption. That latter idea has long been promoted by Democrats in the Legislature, with little to no support from the Republican majority. That it lands on the agenda for discussion alongside some of these other proposals marks a big shift at the capitol, where the appetite to scale back the model has to this point been muted. Even past efforts that did make changes did so only at the edges, with moves such as limiting state mandated testing to 45 hours, a level almost no school ever met.  Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, the Miami-Dade Democrat sponsoring the third-grade bill, recently said that he considered the legislation critical given a recent court ruling that upheld the requirement in the face of parent challenges. "When you talk to parents, students and educators about the worst parts of our over testing regime, the situation of third graders having to repeat a grade because of one standardized test just highlights how bad the overtesting has gotten," he said. "The court ruling simply reminds us that we need a statutory change." Just how much change is in the air remains to be hashed out. The Senate Education Committee will take its first go-round Monday, with no votes scheduled. Anything it comes up with would have to be approved in the House as well. Just about all the measures the Senate will discuss have House companions.


Putnam schools bracing for “catastrophic” statewide budget cuts


Public school class sizes again eyed in the Legislature


Mandatory recess bill heads to Senate floor


Corcoran plans to bring more charter schools to Florida


Trump seeks to slash U.S. DOE but make big push for school choice


NEA president: Trump budget deprives students of opportunity (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


AFT president: “This budget takes a meat cleaver to public education” (Randi Weingarten quoted)

Why strong afterschool programs matter


Teachers, pastors hit Texas’ school voucher bill as “sinful” privatization


House GOP moves plan that would deny food stamps to 229,000 Floridians 


Five bills that would erode Florida's public records law


Scott launches TV ad in war with House of tourism spending


Scott encourages support for Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida


Cutting Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida puts state at risk


Constitution Revision Commission to hold first meeting


Prison chief: State losing corrections staff to Wal-Mart, creating insecurity in system


Scott removes prosecutor over refusal to seek death penalty


Lawmakers must change their shameful attitude toward funding mental health care


Trump returns to Florida today, defying critics and costs


West Palm’s perfect traffic storm — Trump, boat show, bridge construction


Pence scheduled to visit Jacksonville on Saturday


Rubio takes money from telecoms, cosponsors bill to let them sell your web history


Trump budget is “heavy lift,” even for GOP Congress


Capitol Hill Republicans not on board with Trump budget


Trump’s budget cuts some agencies to their lowest levels in decades


Trump budget plan declares war on “war on poverty” programs


Entire homelessness agency could be eliminated by Trump's budget cuts


Mulvaney deems climate research and poverty programs wasteful or ineffective


Trump’s budget director understands that the poor prefer jet fighters to Big Bird


Trump administration picks strange fight with Meals On Wheels


Trump’s “forgotten men and women”? Budget forgets about them. Again.


Legal services in unprecedented danger under Trump's budget proposal


Trump's budget calls for higher passenger fees and a privatized air traffic control


Scientists bristle at Trump budget’s cuts to research


Trump’s tear-down budget


From Florida, bipartisan bashing of Trump's budget plan


Key senators say they have no evidence that Trump Tower was wiretapped


Trump digs in on wiretap, no matter who says differently


GOP senators are fed up with DOJ’s silence about Trump’s wiretapping accusation


Trump adviser Flynn paid by multiple Russia-related entities, records show


British intelligence agency calls claim it helped wiretap Trump “utterly ridiculous”


Rand Paul calls McCain “unhinged” after McCain says Paul is working for Putin


Trump and GOP work to win repeal of Obama’s health act


Key House panel calls for work requirements, additional cuts in Medicaid


If they can’t do it now, Republicans can probably kiss health care reform goodbye


The lessons of Obamacare: What Republicans should have learned, but haven't


The GOP health care plan’s fatal flaw


The Republican bill to repeal Obamacare has made Obamacare repeal less likely


Trumpcare’s lonely, and seedy, supporter


Diaz-Balart, Gaetz help advance GOP health care bill


AARP: Florida slammed worst by Trumpcare


Florida House Democrats demand Scott speak up on CBO scoring of health plan


As Trump boasts about Muslim ban, courts use his own words against him


Two federal judges find new Trump travel ban discriminatory


Trump is not above the courts


Appellate judges rebuke Trump for “personal attacks” on judiciary, “intimidation”


How Trump’s travel ban uses Muslim women as pawns


Undocumenteds fade from the city they helped build


Fired Coptic Christian state employee incorrectly reported as “Muslim terrorist”


Amid “Trump effect” fear, colleges see dip in foreign applicants


Irish premier uses St. Patrick’s Day ritual to lecture Trump on immigration


Soros: When hate surges


Getting a visa to visit the U.S. is a long and extensive process for most


Ex-workers at SEC nominee’s firm urge him to denounce travel ban


Trump and his advisers can’t keep quiet — and it’s becoming a real problem


Rulings offer glimpse into what kind of justice Gorsuch would be


Giffords: “Stopping gun violence takes courage”


Trump’s budget will drive up his own voters’ energy bills


Trump fuel economy rollback will kill jobs and cost each car buyer $1,650


“I’d be hurt and upset”: Cities fear Trump’s cuts to urban programs


Trump’s budget would hammer climate programs at EPA, NASA, NOAA, and Energy


Trump budget cuts put Florida coast at risk


Canadians fear Trump’s budget will devastate Great Lakes


Trump's proposal to end arts endowment is latest chapter in a fraught history


The people from “Government Sachs”


Edge or Liability? White House ties may cut two ways for Goldman


Wells Fargo leaders reaped lavish pay even as account scandal unfolded


Fact check: Trump’s day of falsehoods and misleading claims


Reporter accuses White House of “totally unethical” behavior


That moment when Trump faced the farce of his media critiques


Trump doesn’t really care what you think of his Twitter obsession


Public broadcasters fear “collapse” if government drops support


If Trump really wants to unify American culture, he should fund public broadcasting




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