Today's news -- September 18, 2013



Stewart named state education commissioner

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the state Board of Education named interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to lead the department on a permanent basis. It was a rare moment of harmony in an otherwise acrimonious meeting. Earlier, outgoing board member Kathleen Shanahan blasted department leaders for not giving clear direction on the new Common Core State Standards, and delaying a decision on what exams will replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests. Shanahan also addressed rumors that Gov. Rick Scott was planning to unveil education policy directives of his own, saying it would be "embarrassing" for the governor to circumvent the Board of Education. "We're in crisis time," said Shanahan, a one-time chief of staff to former Gov. Jeb Bush. Stewart tried to assuage the concerns, insisting the department was only in "a time of urgency." "We are on track to get where we need to be," Stewart said. Tuesday's meeting came at a critical moment for state education leaders. For the first time, educators across Florida are teaching the new benchmarks known as the Common Core. But a growing number of conservative lawmakers and organizations have come out against the national standards, and state Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, has filed a bill to pause the rollout. On Tuesday, board member Sally Bradshaw asked her colleagues to reaffirm their support of Common Core. "There is some sense, because the governor's office has not given great direction, that there is uncertainty," said Bradshaw, also a former chief of staff to Bush. "It would help me if we, as a board, could reiterate our support for the Common Core Standards." The board obliged. "The commissioner is fully in support and not wavering at all," added Chairman Gary Chartrand. "I think we move forward." But there was less clarity on which tests will accompany the standards. Florida lawmakers have put pressure on the education department to withdraw from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a multistate consortium drawing up new national exams. They are advocating for a Florida-specific testing plan instead. Former Education Commissioner Tony Bennett had wanted the board to choose a path this summer. But Stewart said she was not likely to make a recommendation until March. The new timeline troubled Shanahan, who pointed out that the education department would have just six months between making the decision and the start of the 2014-15 school year, when the tests would be launched. The debate led to a tense exchange between Shanahan and Chartrand, who defended Stewart. "Do you see the timeline issue?" Shanahan asked. "We can't go back in time," Chartrand replied. "We had a commissioner change, unfortunately." "These are not new issues, Gary. We've been raising this timeline for two years." "And you were chair for part of that time," Chartrand quipped. There was also disagreement as to when the department would review the school grading system and the new model for evaluating teachers, both of which have come under fire. Said Bradshaw: "We're really counting on this department to step it up on these things." The wild card remained what action -- if any -- the governor would take. Chartrand was not surprised by Shanahan's reference to a potential executive order, but did not offer up any details. "I suspect to hear something from him, and he'll do it at the time that's appropriate, that he sees fit," he said. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz acknowledged Scott might take action after holding an education summit in August.


Shanahan criticizes Scott for not attending his ed summit, not following up with recommendations,0,


Common Core trouble may be deepening; Bush allies seek help from media


Miami-Dade's GOP slaps down Common Core, takes stand against Bush


South Florida teachers still waiting for promised pay hikes (Sharon Glickman and Lynn Cavall quoted)


Broward charter school forced to close after two Fs,0,5068236.story


Duval superintendent says he, district ready to pursue charter students


Sarasota school officials scold charter schools


Flawed diagnoses and inappropriate cures in education

I don’t mean to pick on Joel Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor, but he has made himself such a caricature of self-styled school reformers who are undermining American public education that it would be a mistake not to respond to the claims on which he bases his efforts. Klein heads a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, whose purpose is not only to sell internet-connected tablets to schools but to sell an entire tablet-based approach to curriculum and instruction. This week’s New York Times Magazine describes this effort, including extensive quotations from Klein interviews conducted by the author, Carlo Rotella. I have no opinion about the merits of tablet-based instruction, but I’m writing here because Klein’s justification for his product is based on gross misrepresentations of the state of public education in America. Here is how Klein, in his interviews for the magazine article, described why it is necessary to revolutionize American education with tablet-based instruction: “K-12 isn’t working … and we have to change the way we do it. … Between 1970 and 2010 we doubled the amount of money we spent on education and the number of adults in the schools, but the results are just not there. Any system that poured in as much money as we did and made as little progress has a real problem. We keep trying to fix it by doing the same thing, only a little different and better. This [tablet-based instruction] is about a lot different and better. … We’ve spent so much on things that haven’t worked,” [he said, making a list that included underused computers as well as obsolete textbooks, useless layers of bureaucracy and smaller class sizes].” Unfortunately, Rotella did not press Klein for the basis of these assertions, so central to a belief that public education needs to be transformed by the technology he is selling. In truth, the assertions are based on little fact, and turn out only to be the recitation of modern myth. This is what research actually shows:

It is true that money spent on education has doubled since 1970, but only about half of this increase has been devoted to improving the academic education of regular students. The other half has mostly gone to special education for children with disabilities who were not entitled to a free public education in 1970. We now spend a lot of money on a lot of adults -- special education teachers with very low pupil-teacher ratios -- who are dealing not only with learning disabilities but with children who have severe emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. It is foolish, as Klein in effect does, to claim that because we are now spending so much money on children with disabilities, schools must be failing because the spending has not caused the achievement of regular students to improve. Yet the achievement has improved, and dramatically.


Even in birthplace of charter schools, the grand experiment is at risk

Twenty-two years after the first charter was founded in Minnesota, the national movement still grapples with the tension between creativity and conventional measurements of success. Overall, charter performance remains mixed. A recent study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes that looked at charters in 25 states and D.C. found that just a quarter outperformed traditional peers in reading, and just 29 percent in math. The middling quality of charter schools on average has led to calls for increased accountability and tighter regulations. In Minnesota, lawmakers recently tweaked charter rules to clarify that their primary purpose was to increase student achievement. Priorities passed in the early 1990s included fostering innovative teaching practices and devising alternate ways to measure student achievement. Charter leaders say the recent shift in emphasis makes experimentation more difficult. Increased paperwork and reports to authorizers drain time and resources; more time is spent negotiating for exemptions or putting student performance in context. Some are pushing back. In Minnesota, Chicago, and Southern California, educators have drafted alternate accountability systems for charters that include multiple measures of performance, including financial performance and school culture.


Newark charter school contract with K12 Inc. shows influence of for-profit companies


Ravitch counters the testing and privatization of public schools


More reviews of Reign of Error


America’s “education spring” goes mainstream


Chicago teachers see value in new evaluations, but eschew test scores


How physical fitness may promote school success


New university system chancellor could be in place by November


Consider state’s needs before giving away budget surplus


Florida among states undercutting health care enrollment


State health system fails poor, study says


Women voters and business groups urge another look at Medicaid expansion


Sebelius in Miami: Florida lawmakers, Scott have put people "at risk," hide public info


Bondi talks tough (but wrong) about “navigators”


Despite shrinking U.S. deficit, House GOP eyes government shutdown,0,1358967.story


The money behind the shutdown crisis


The myth of the “free market” and how to make the economy work for us


Four million more people would be poor if it weren’t for food stamps


Poverty rate and income stagnate as conservatives attack the safety net


The mismeasure of poverty


OT, minimum wage extended to home health care workers


Percentage of Americans lacking health coverage falls again


Wall Street Journal to Obamacare defunders: Give it up


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