Today's news -- October 6, 2017





Why accountability based on standardized tests is “a charade” *

There is a new book out with a title that in eight words explains a good part of the mess that school reform based on standardized tests has been in recent years. The title is “The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better,” and the author is Daniel Koretz, a professor of education at Harvard University. Koretz is an expert on educational assessment and testing policy, and he has focused his work on the consequences of high-stakes testing. Before going into academia, he taught emotionally disturbed students in public elementary and junior high schools. The school “accountability movement” has relied in large part on standardized test scores to evaluate students, schools, teachers, principals and districts. It started under the No Child Left Behind Act, which went into effect in 2002 under President George W. Bush, grew during the Obama administration and is continuing with somewhat less fervor today. The movement led to classrooms dominated by test prep and a severe narrowing of the curriculum to a primary focus on subjects being testing: reading and math. More and more tests were piled on during the school year, eventually sparking a grass-roots resistance nationwide in which parents opted their children out of tests. Even some supporters of using high-stakes tests as a key assessment tool came to realize that the movement had gone too far. There are big questions that remain about the test-based accountability movement, including who allowed it to happen.


20,000 students from Puerto Rico can use Florida Virtual School


School districts hit by Hurricane Irma ask Florida to postpone testing


State teachers who want a bonus will sit with students and retake the SATs (Justin Katz quoted)


Bay teachers, district start salary talks (Cindy Fowler quoted)


Sarasota school district PR firm linked to online comments (Barry Dubin quoted)


Hernando schools reduce testing


Marion charter school vote set for Tuesday


Participant in pro-public school documentary lashes out at filmmakers (Randi Weingarten mentioned)


For-profit schools reward students for referrals and Facebook endorsements


Sesame Street launches tools to teach coping skills to children who experience trauma


New federal grant feeds charter school gravy train in New Mexico


FSU introduces dual-degree major for education majors to address teacher shortage


White supremacist to speak at UF on October 19


University suggests international students could be reported to ICE if they unionized


Reduced state pension rate creates $50 million budget hole

Revenue analysts agreed Thursday to lower the assumed rate of return on a pension plan serving 900,000 people across the state, leaving a potential $50 million hole in next year’s state budget. The consortium of analysts from the state House, Senate and Governor’s Office decided to decrease the rate of return on the $144 billion Florida Retirement System pension fund from 7.6 percent to 7.5 percent. The lower expected return on investment means the Legislature will need to set aside an additional $60 million next year. “I could live with 7.5 percent this year as what we have with a very strong caveat,” said Amy Baker, the state’s chief economist, adding another drop was likely. “I think the drum beat is definitely building over time to show that continuing downward adjustments will be necessary.” The small amount of extra cash the state could have had on hand has already been gobbled up by recovery costs from Hurricane Irma. An annual report written before the storm howled over the state last month offered $52 million extra money, an amount dwarfed by this year's $83 billion budget. “Now, as of today, they’re looking at $50 million they’ll need to make up,” Baker said. “But we’re thinking there will be more costs from the storm, too.” Pension plan includes 519,000 current employees from school districts, state agencies, universities and local governments. Another 395,000 retirees receive payments from the plan.  State Board of Administration Director Ash Williams said the plan, which serves 519,000 current employees from school districts, state agencies, universities and local governments, is revered as one of the strongest in the country. However, the 7.6 percent assumed rate was too optimistic. “We’re being a bit ambitious,” Williams said, adding his agency oversees the state’s investments. “We’ll give you whatever the market can give you but we can’t pull it out of a hat. It’s worth staying on top of this.” The pension plan carries $24.9 billion debt, and lawmakers pay to reduce that amount after considering the assumed return rate established by analysts. But a study they reviewed showed that hole would grow under the previous rate. The rate could drop to 6.8 percent in coming years. "You're taking reasonable, meaningful bites here, which is the way to go," House Finance and Tax Committee Staff Director Don Langston said. Those manageable bites will give lawmakers some breathing room as they negotiate a projected $1.64 billion budget gap by 2021 created by rising costs in Medicaid and school enrollment. Medicaid is expected to cost roughly $300 million more than this year's $26.2 billion due to an additional 58,000 recipients. School enrollment also will go up by 27,000 students. Legislative leaders have pledged to rein in spending. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said the roughly $600 million in special projects added by members to this year's budget would be scrutinized. Projects added next year will hopefully be created to help the state recover from the September storm, Corcoran had said.


Leaders consider proposed Florida Constitution amendment to let more felons vote


CRC consider amending closed primaries law


Congressional Republican leader stakes opposition to hurricane relief without offsets


After hurricane, state doesn’t waive fees for KidCare insurance


Lake Okeechobee hits highest level since 2005, raising concerns its dike could fail


Puerto Rico health system on life support two weeks after Hurricane Maria


FEMA removes website statistics about drinking water access and electricity in Puerto Rico


Trump’s handling of Hurricane Maria is getting really bad marks


Vulture Capitalists Circle Above Puerto Rican Prey


Medical debt biggest cause of South Florida homelessness, survey says


Scott's terrible choice for Public Service Commission


U.S. lost 33,000 jobs in September


Trump voter fraud commissioner is continuing voter purge crusade


Supreme Court should end partisan gerrymandering


Russian propaganda may have been shared hundreds of millions of times, research says


How Russia’s fake social media accounts undercut Clinton’s campaign


Mueller's team met with Russia dossier author


House Democrat leader demands Ivanka Trump and Kushner explain email switcheroo


House passes budget blueprint, taking step toward tax overhaul


The GOP's tax reform push is already a huge mess


More Americans favor raising tax rates on corporations, high household incomes


How biggest bank paid its fine for the 2008 mortgage crisis -- with phony mortgages


As ACA enrollment nears, administration keeps cutting federal support of the law


Trump told HHS to deny request to fix Iowa ObamaCare market


Trump administration to narrow Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate


White House plans to demand immigration cuts in exchange for DACA fix


Flake tries to strike DACA compromise


Disabled and scraping by in the underground economy


Sessions rescinds workplace protections for transgender people


Interior Department worked behind the scenes with energy industry to reverse royalties rule


Deep in 316-page EPA document, an unexpected turn in history


Trump nominates a coal lobbyist to be No. 2 at EPA


Mnuchin’s military flights totaling $811,000 were legal but poorly justified, watchdog says


Trump administration will propose repealing Obama’s key effort to combat climate change


Courts thwart administration’s effort to rescind Obama-era environmental regulations


Trump gathers with military leaders, says “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm”


Tillerson summoned to White House amid presidential fury


Trump and the (hopefully) temporary evisceration of political norms


“Toxic on a day-to-day level”: How Trump is mismanaging the White House


Loyalty to Trump isn’t enough


Trump is worse than everything he was critical about during campaign


Government won't produce Mar-a-Lago records, group says


Sounding authoritarian note, Trump calls on Congress to investigate American media






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