Rifts deepen over direction of U.S. education policy

In statehouses and cities across the country, battles are raging over the direction of education policy—from the standards that will shape what students learn to how test results will be used to judge a teacher's performance. Students and teachers, in passive resistance, are refusing to take and give standardized tests. Protesters have marched to the White House over what they see as the privatization of the nation's schools. Professional and citizen lobbyists are packing hearings in state capitols to argue that the federal government is trying to dictate curricula through the use of common standards. New advocacy groups, meanwhile, are taking their fight city to city by pouring record sums of money into school board races. Not since the battles over school desegregation has the debate about public education been so intense and polarized, observers say, for rarely before has an institution that historically is slow to change been forced to deal with so much change at once. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia are implementing the Common Core State Standards, and nearly as many are developing common tests that are expected to debut in 2014-15. More than three dozen states are working on incorporating student test scores into evaluations of teachers and principals. And a majority of states are creating new accountability systems as part of the flexibility federal officials are offering through No Child Left Behind Act waivers. All this change -- and more -- in education is happening against a backdrop of rapidly shifting demographics, technology that is changing lives at blazing speeds, and an economy still recovering from the Great Recession. At the same time, education is caught in a push for state and federal budget austerity and faces a Congress so gripped by gridlock that some educators are wondering if the withering Elementary and Secondary Education Act will ever get rewritten. "As the country has become more polarized and the inability to compromise has become seen as a badge of honor, it shouldn't be a surprise that we'd see a more polemical debate in education, because it reflects the rest of the country," said Joshua Starr, the superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Md. Though he supports the "right" standardized tests, Starr has become something of a hero to the anti-testing movement after calling in December for a three-year moratorium on standardized testing until the common core is fully in place. "I've got a big mouth, and I'm not afraid to open it. One of the things that concerns me is not enough practitioners speak up publicly," he said. As policymakers, "we are not focused on the actual problems," he said. "We still fall into this quick-fix, silver-bullet mentality."
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/05/08/30debate_ep.h32.html?intc=mvs (Randi Weingarten quoted)

Marion School Board: No pay boost for teachers, paraprofessionals (Chris Altobello and Craig Ham quoted)


Lake may close elementary center, cut teachers to close $16 million budget gap



Feds will look into Brevard school-bias claims



ALEC's report card receives failing marks

Ranking states is a popular tool for education advocacy groups, with the goal of advancing a policy agenda based on ideologically driven pre-packaged reforms. These report cards receive considerable media attention, although few reflect research-based evidence on the efficacy of particular polices.  The 18th edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform is no different according to an academic review. Christopher Lubienski, associate professor of education policy and Director of the Forum on the Future of Public Education at the University of Illinois, and T. Jameson Brewer, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, reviewed ALEC's Report Card for the Think Twice think tank review project. Lubienski and Brewer find that ALEC draws its grades exclusively not from research organizations, but from like-minded market-orientated advocacy organizations. "Furthermore, when studies are highlighted in this report, they do not represent the peer-reviewed research on a given issue, are often of extremely poor quality, and generally unsuited for supporting their claim."



Eighth grader: What bothered me most about new Common Core test



The dark side of home schooling



Louisiana vouchers unconstitutional, court says (Randi Weingarten quoted)


A future without tenure

Florida Polytechnic University’s re-envisioning of a public research institution is making some radical departures from the norm, including scrapping the idea of tenure. The state’s union leaders, however, say that decision should be reversed if administrators are serious about their aspirations for the university. Instead of tenure, faculty members “will be offered fixed term, multi-year contracts that will be renewed based on performance,” the university-to-be announced on Tuesday. “We want to be a leading university, and we wanted to attract faculty who think out of the box, and who are ambitious and creative,” said Ghazi Darkazalli, vice president of academic affairs. “We don’t want them to be worrying within the first five or six years whether they’re going to be tenured or not.” The faculty contracts will last for one, three or five years, and will be renewed based on merit “rather than on a set rule within the boundaries of tenure,” Darkazalli said. He said that abandoning the tenure model means that faculty members will be less inclined to pursue the kind of “trivial publication and research” professors on the tenure track sometimes feel is required of them to succeed, and instead focus on teaching and research beneficial to their students. The institution, formerly known as the University of South Florida Polytechnic, gained independence in 2012 after Governor Rick Scott signed into law legislation that simultaneously closed the USF satellite campus. The new university aims to become fully accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools by 2016. Classes are on track to start in August 2014, when the university will offer five bachelor's and master’s degree programs. For now, the university does not know who will teach its courses -- or what students will learn in them. The university’s Lakeland, Fla., campus is currently in the middle of construction, and over the next year, its employees will do some construction of their own. Darkazalli said the first faculty members should be announced next month, and that core group of professors will then spend the next academic year building curriculums, planning classes and discussing the process by which they will be evaluated. To faculty leaders in the state, the idea of such a university presupposes that professors are guaranteed academic freedom and independence in significant part through tenure. “Academic freedom and independence is necessary for high-achieving faculty to function, which is why top scholars typically refuse to go to institutions that cannot make these guarantees,” Paul M. Terry, president of the University of South Florida System chapter of the United Faculty of Florida. “Since top institutions do make such guarantees, any institution lacking them will fail to attract faculty in what is now an international marketplace.” The union, an affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, represents professors at all of Florida’s 12 public universities, all but one of which have tenure. Florida Polytechnic could become the lone exception to being unionized -- unless the future faculty body at the university decides otherwise. According to Thomas Auxter, statewide president of the United Faculty of Florida, the Board of Trustee’s decision does not prevent future collective action. “Nobody wants to be part of an institution where you’re just hiring and rehiring people at the lowest price you can get away with,” said Auxter, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Florida. Although Darkazalli said the university’s bylaws will provide the same job security and academic freedom offered by a tenure model, Auxter said the two models cannot be considered equal as long as contract renewals are subject to performance reviews“I don’t think there’s any way in which you can honestly do performance evaluations that would be successful in getting results, without having some system of reversing ... arbitrary and capricious administrative actions,” Auxter said.



Study: Many don’t need remedial classes



Amid huge profits, activists slam Disney fight against paid sick time


Budget packs millions in legislative leaders' districts



Low-wage jobs bulk of gains, report says





When storms hit, sequester cuts will hurt Florida, Scott says






State Supreme Court is asked to end political brawl over redistricting




2013 session summary: Ethics and elections http://www.thefloridacurrent.com/article.cfm?id=32744320


Florida parties move presidential primary



Hispanics voted at a high rate in Florida



Florida delegation proves real immigration fight looms in House



Environmental representatives lament budget for land-buying, question outcome of land sales



The right path for Florida's water future



Feds accuse Gaetz's former company of Medicare fraud, including during his tenure



Online sales tax: A matter of fairness (AFT article)



Chaos governing



For first time on record, black voting rate outpaced rate for whites in 2012



Rubio blasts Labor nominee as “liberal activist”




An effort to thwart sale of newspapers to the Kochs





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