Today's news -- September 30, 2013



Schools aren't really failing

Here is something you don't hear often about the nation's public schools: They are not failing. In fact, schools today are doing a better job educating the nation's youth than they did decades ago. I know it's hard to believe considering the steady stream of hysteria churned out by so-called school reformers over bad teachers, dropout rates and how American kids rank below so many other countries on standardized tests. But that's all part of an insidious propaganda campaign to discredit public education for private profit and political gain, says Diane Ravitch, a former proponent of the school reform movement who is now among its most thoughtful and active critics. In her breath-of-fresh-air new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools, the research professor of education at New York University and former assistant secretary of education in the elder Bush administration sifts reality from myth in the education debate. She says the reason schools are in crisis is because of "persistent, orchestrated attacks on them and their teachers and principals, and attacks on the very principle of public responsibility for public education." Anyone living in a state with a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled Legislature has seen this firsthand. Plenty of liberals misguidedly go along, too. School privatization is an attempt to replace the current system of neighborhood public schools with a market-based system where parents choose their child's school, public or private, paid for with tax dollars. The political advantages for conservatives are obvious. Privatizing education directs huge sums to profit-making entrepreneurs who become campaign donors. It sends money and students to church-run schools, something religious conservatives relish. And it cripples the progressive activism of teachers unions who are the chief lobbyists for public education. After years of experiments in vouchers and for-profit charter schools, including in Florida, Ravitch dives into the evidence and finds that they don't provide a significant boost in learning for low-income students. Harm, though, comes to public schools, our nation's great democratizing institution. They lose vital funding and community support.


“It’s not a school problem”


Why teachers should write the tests, not corporations


Mixed messages with public education (Andy Ford quoted)


Young poet brilliantly slams ed-cruelty


Pinellas schools fumbled $7.2 million federal grant (Bruce Proud quoted)


Teachers get supply help (Donna Mutzenard quoted)


Alachua superintendent caps successful career (Karen McCann quoted)


Florida “safety net” saves 76 Central Florida schools from plunging grades


Changes in state assessments leave one constant: lots of tests


Schools play key role in telling about texting-while-driving ban


A new push for financial literacy courses


Gates: “It would be great if our education stuff worked but …”

“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” That’s what Bill Gates said on Sept. 21 about the billions of dollars his foundation has plowed into education reform during an interview he gave at Harvard University. He repeated the “we don’t know if it will work” refrain about his reform efforts a few days later during a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative. Hmmm. Teachers around the country are saddled every single year with teacher evaluation systems that his foundation has funded, based on no record of success and highly questionable “research.” And now Gates says he won’t know if the reforms he is funding will work for another decade. But teachers can lose their jobs now because of reforms he is funding. In the past he sounded pretty sure of what he was doing. In this 2011 oped in The Washington Post, he wrote: “What should policymakers do? One approach is to get more students in front of top teachers by identifying the top 25 percent of teachers and asking them to take on four or five more students.” Actually, that’s not an approach any educator I know would think is a good idea, but Gates had decided that class size doesn’t really matter. Earlier, he had put some $2 billion into forming small schools out of large high schools, on the theory that small schools would better serve students. When the initiative didn’t work out as he hoped, he moved on by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on teacher evaluation systems that in part linked teacher assessments to student standardized test scores, an approach that many assessment experts have warned against. Now he says that the success of his experiments on public education won’t be known for a decade, but we already know that evaluating teachers by student test scores is a bad idea.


Will technology save public education?


From China to Chicago, K12 Inc. markets more than virtual schools


Hage builds his charter-school empire,0,4693441.story


Four decades of failed school reform


Creationists on Texas panel for biology textbooks


UWF raises should include faculty, staff (by Jonathan Fink)


UF online institute launches in January with seven degree options,0,6140150.story


Financial aid freebies for the rich


Students take on Teach for America -- and its political allies


Projected premiums in Florida rebut critics of the Affordable Care Act


Insurance exchange for those in gap struggles to get going


Health insurance for all? In Florida, 1 million will be left out


Scott should let elections supervisors do their jobs


Florida secretary of state promises smooth voter verification


Politifact: As Crist notes, some teachers’ pay reflects grades of students they don’t teach (FEA mentioned)


Senate action on health law moves to brink of shutdown


On cusp of shutdown, House conservatives excited, say they are doing the right thing


Federal agencies lay out contingency plans for possible shutdown


Rebels without a clue


Last shutdown a lesson lost on Capitol Hill


Those Obamacare myths that just won't die


Huge spike in poverty among elderly women catches analysts by surprise


Promise breakers: How Pew Trusts is helping to gut public employee pensions


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